Why We Need More Entrepreneurial Church Leaders, Not More Shepherds

I realize I might be opening up a controversial conversation. But I think it has to be said.

And I hope you’ll hear me out.

If the church is going to reverse some trends and maximize potential, we need more entrepreneurial pastors, not more shepherds.

There’s too much at stake to ignore this conversation.

We’re (Quite Literally) Missing the Boat

If you’re a Christian, for certain the reason you have the faith you have is because Jesus died and rose again. That’s the absolute foundation of our faith.

But would you ever have heard about Jesus if a rabbi named Saul hadn’t sailed all over the known world telling every Jewish and non-Jewish person he could find about Jesus, planting churches almost everywhere he went?

The Apostle Paul, as he became known, left a huge impact not just on the church, but on millions of lives (and on human history) because he possessed the spiritual gift of apostleship.

What’s an apostle? To put it into today’s idiom, an apostle is a spiritual entrepreneur. (Here’s a great article from Leadership Journal about apostleship in the church today.)

A shepherd cares for a (usually) small group. An apostle launches dozens, hundreds or thousands of new communities of Christ-followers.

The church today is flooded with leaders who fit the shepherd model, caring for people who are already assembled, managing what’s been built and helping to meet people’s needs. (This is also a spiritual gift.)

But we have far too few leaders who have the spiritual gift of apostleship.

I believe this helps explain the malaise in much of the Western church in which the vast majority of churches are plateaued or declining.

We quite literally need people to get in a boat (or a car or a plane) and start new things, shake up the old and lead into a better tomorrow.


Is This Just Another Slam of Small Churches….?

Is this another slam against small churches?

Well…yes and no.

I love what Karl Vaters has said about small churches.  Karl pastors in Orange County California, where everyone has a megachurch it seems. He leads a smaller church.

According to Karl,

90% of the churches in the world have less than 200 people.

80% have less than 100 people.

And he asks a great question. What if [having a lot of small churches] is not a problem; what if that’s a strategy God wants to use?”

Interesting. You could hear this as a justification for keeping churches small (a justification I’ve heard far too many times).

But hear him out. He adds a crucial caveat:

I’m not interested in someone who says “We have these few. That’s all we ever want. That’s all we ever need.” If that’s your attitude, God bless you (I don’t think he will.)

I want people who want to innovate…who realize that maybe because of their gifting it works better in a small setting. But it’s not about settling. Never settle. Never settle.

Couldn’t agree more. Thank you Karl! (Here’s his whole interview.)

I just wonder if part of that innovation is going to come from people (even in small churches) with the gift of apostleship. If the church as a whole is going to grow, this has to become an all-skate.


5 Things Entrepreneurial Leaders Bring

There are at least gifts crucial skills (gifts) entrepreneurial leaders bring to the table:

1. The willingness to risk

The early church took incredible risks. People risked their health, safety, financial security and their very lives for the sake of the Gospel.

In a time when too many churches are trying to figure out how to survive, we need leaders who will change the question to how the church is going to thrive.

You can’t do that without risk. Being willing to risk what you have today is the best way to get to a different tomorrow.


2. Experimentation

Have you ever asked yourself what it would have been like to be in the New Testament church?

It was an audacious experiment that God was completely behind. Everything changed in a generation; the place of worship, who worshipped, where people worshipped, how they worshipped, how they connected to each other, how they gave and how they forgave.

There isn’t a single element of everyday life that looked the same after a decade of life in the church.

If the church is going to grow, it’s going to have to change. (I wrote about 11 characteristics of future churches here.)


3. A restless discontent with the status quo

Entrepreneurs and apostles are never satisfied. While it can be frustrating to work with someone who is never satisfied, it’s an essential gift in birthing what’s new and expanding a current mission.

Entrepreneurs are not only discontent with what others have created; they’re soon discontent with what they’ve helped create.

Paul died in prison longing to do more. Why do we make fun of church leaders today who have the same sense of urgency?


4. Boldness

If you search the New Testament, you’ll see boldness as a hallmark of early church leaders.

You can hardly describe the church culture of many churches today as bold. Anemic, maybe. Bold, no.

And when people become bold, people criticize them for being arrogant or in it for themselves. Well, sometimes yes. But often no. They’re just exercising a God-given gift. Paul, after all, was no stranger to that criticism.

After all, boldness moved the cause of Christ forward in a remarkable way, changing millions of lives.


5. A bias for action

We have plenty of thinkers in the church and not nearly enough doers.

Entrepreneurs bring a bias for action that is often astonishing. Spiritual entrepreneurs accomplish things nobody else accomplishes because they do things nobody else is willing to do.

If you think about the (much criticized) innovations in today’s church (video venues, multisite churches, online campuses etc.) you realize that you open yourself to a world of criticism when you start bold new things. So what?


Not the Only Thing, But a Missing Thing

I’m not saying the gift of apostleship is the only thing, but it is a missing thing.

Conventional seminaries are mostly addicted to producing shepherds. If all we get have is shepherds stepping into leadership, then what you get is people who will (mostly) care for small groups of people.

Organizationally, it makes some sense to hire leaders and have shepherd volunteer. That’s what we’ve done at Connexus. You can care for hundreds, or thousands, of people through volunteer shepherd (we call them small group leaders) and let the leaders lead.

Do we need the gift of shepherding? Absolutely.

But we’re desperately missing the gift of spiritual entrepreneurship in the church today.


Don’t Just Leave a Comment, Tap Someone on the Shoulder

Feel free to leave a comment, but please don’t stop there.

The church has plenty of opinions but not nearly enough capable leaders.

So here’s my challenge…why don’t you tap an entrepreneur you know on the shoulder today and ask him or her, ‘have you ever considered ministry’?

Think about it.

Who do you know who might be in business today who could be in ministry tomorrow? My guess is that there are people who are running businesses and leading in organizations who have the gifts for ministry but have never thought about ministry.

And maybe they’ve never thought about ministry because they’ve never seen anyone with their gift set use it for ministry. (You know that’s one way calls often happen, right? God uses human conversations to stir massive redirections of people’s lives.)

So while I am very interested in what you think (please comment), seriously, don’t just leave a comment, tap someone on the shoulder.

  • http://www.careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

    Kelly…first, let me just say I’m sorry I missed your comment. I apologize.

    Secondly, that’s a real shame. We are always looking for leaders where I serve, and it’s too bad that hasn’t been your experience.

    I’m going to be dead level honest here. First, I really have no idea why. It could be that you have just targeted some bad churches or that your offers have been lost in the shuffle.

    What I look for is people who are willing to serve wherever – setting up gear, handing out programs etc. Our teams often sense quickly if someone has greater gifting, and then we tap them on the shoulder and get to know them and ask them if they’d like more. To me and to our team, a leader’s willingness to serve in a ‘lower’ place of leadership is an indication they’re ready for a higher level of service. You and your husband may have been doing this and never gotten the tap on the shoulder, but if not, I suggest it. So I would say jump in and see what happens.

    Now, for the last part of the dead level honest part. Sometimes people think they are a gift to leadership but they aren’t. Either the fit isn’t right, or they might be mistaken in their self assessment. There is NOTHING in your comment that would lead me to believe this, but quite honestly, this has happened more than once in the environments in which I’ve served. The best way to tell if that’s the case is to get some people around you who will tell you the truth and see if that’s an accurate assessment of your situation. Again, I have ZERO reason to believe it is in your case, but it happens.

    Hope that helps. My best advice knowing what I know about your situation is to jump in somewhere at an ‘entry-level’ post and see what happens.

    Hope this helps! Thanks for asking Kelly.

  • Douglas Crumbly

    Kelly, thanks fir your comments. I also believe many gifted leaders go unused because of the same reason. Would love to see more entrepreneurs in the church I lead. Blessings!

  • Kelly

    Carey, I am hoping you can help with this, since you started this discussion a few months ago. I posted this question back in March, but never got a response, so I’ll try again:

    Does you have an advice for a ministry-minded entrepreneur who is NOT called to be a senior pastor? Several times, we went to small churches, hoping to help, with the idea that even small churches deserve good pastors and good leadership. But we ran into roadblocks when the leaders were either: completely unmotivated, wasteful, and/or primarily concerned about job security and keeping themselves (and their family on payroll).
    Entrepreneurs on the other hand, get things done (and often expose waste in the process), try to define the mission (or get the mission defined by the one in charge), set goals and work toward those goals. That doesn’t go over well with many churches.

    So how can we get involved in an entrepreneurial-minded ministry? Where can I find one? I’ve tried contacting one of those para-church organizations, where they help connect high capacity ministry leaders. But they only allow people to join who are already serving at a church of 3000 people. And my emails to them go unanswered.

    I really feel like there is no place for my spouse and I in most churches. We are experienced, successful and driven. We have tried getting “plugged in” at a big church and waiting for an opportunity to arise, but unless someone is specifically hired to be a change agent and lead on a higher level, it always ends badly. So what next? Where can a entrepreneurial non senior pastor go to serve and use his giftings? Our passion in life is ministry, and it breaks my heart to see my husband’s abilities, talents, and many years of experience going unused because he doesn’t fit into the typical pastor mold.

    Can you help?

  • Carey Nieuwhof

    Eugene…great question. I think we have in the church today in some circles, but it needn’t be that way…nor should it be that way. When the shepherding gift gets outside the walls, it too becomes outward focused and part of the church’s mandate for evangelism. Outsiders need shepherding too.

  • Carey Nieuwhof

    Hey Douglas, thanks!

  • Carey Nieuwhof

    Thanks for this point Scott. Have you read E-Myth Revisited? Great book on this point. And I agree, some people are starters. But when the body of Christ moves in and all the gifts are at work, others can help manage and finish was entrepreneurs start. It’s the entreprenuer gift set that’s missing in many circles these days.

  • Scott Pollard

    The problem is a lot of entrepreneurs are really good when things are exciting and new but they get bored and don’t know how to maintain the health of what they have started.

  • http://www.douglascrumbly.com Douglas Crumbly

    Thank you Carey! I read your blog often. This is a great article.

  • Eugene

    Thank you very much for your sharing! just a thought: Have we confined the receipient of shepherding to be Christians within the church? how does a shepherd that sheperd the community beyond the four walls of a church looks like?

  • BH

    Fantastic! Love, love, love it. The challenge is that even if/when entrepreneurial leaders are found, are churches willing & able to invest in outrageous visions, new manifestations of church, before they reach a crisis point (or even after they reach a crisis point). I’d love a follow-up article on how to help churches move to a place where they want to invest in the vision.

  • http://prophetsandpopstars.com prophetsandpopstars

    It’s awesome to see my staff interacting here. Thanks Jason!

    I wonder if it’s an issue of development as I spend a lot of time thinking about this. Sheep farms need shepherds to care for them, but they need entreprenuers to continue and grow. Perhaps this is where we jump into the five fold ministry conversation.

    I’ll stop before I write a post. Peace out! Thanks, Carey.

  • http://www.careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

    Love the sense of urgency Jason.—

  • http://twitter.com/jasonheppner Jason Heppner

    awesome work here carey! thank you for sharing. great thoughts to chew on and implement sooner rather than later. actually, screw later. now is the time!

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  • http://www.careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

    Absolutely Vincenta. Couldn’t agree more. —
    Sent from Mailbox

  • vincenta123

    Shepherds are God’s gifts all right, but they’re not His ONLY gift. They’re certainly not called to express their ministry in exclusivity but in a complimentary context.

  • http://www.careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

    I don’t want to get into an argument about what I believe or don’t believe, but I think I know what I think. It’s not that we don’t need shepherds. We do. It’s a legitimate spiritual gift. But so is apostleship (spiritual entrepreneurship). Shepherding is, in my view, plentiful in the church. Apostleship not nearly so. That’s why I wrote this piece.

  • Pastor E A Green

    CN’s statement that we don’t need more shepherds speaks for itself. It is an erroneous and unbiblical foundation for his argument. Therefore, everything he (and you) build on it is also unbiblical and erroneous.

    True shepherds are God’s gift to the Body, not entrepreneurs. Btw, it’s ok to admit you’re wrong.

  • vincenta123

    I don’t think CN disdains pastors/shepherds in general at all. He’s just shone some light on how, by not fully embracing Apostolic gifting (and therefore Apostolic thinking etc), shepherds can become insular, risk averse and maintenance focused.
    That’s not denigration of the pastoral gifting, it’s a call to healthier more biblical church planting and pastoring. ALL the Eph 4:11 gifts should be released throughout the body of Christ in a healthy balance for a healthy church.

  • Pastor E A Green

    Your position and position on how you see church are understandable. However, your disdain for pastors is obvious and regrettable. Best wishes back to you.

  • http://www.careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

    I love your emphasis on God’s grace. Thank you. You are so right, that’s the foundation of everything the authentic church, and authentic leadership, is built on.

    But I also think that true spiritual entrepreneurs are not dictators. Not at all. They reflect the same heart you share. It’s just expressed differently through their work in terms of building the church. But they have the same heart.

  • http://www.careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

    “You start from a fallacy that the Church is broken, and you know how to fix it. That, quite frankly, is the kind of arrogance that nullifies everything you say.”

    E.A….so glad you’ve got this all figured out. Best wishes.

  • I Love Shepherds

    Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you. — Luke 10:20
    As Christian workers, worldliness is not our snare, sin is not our snare, but spiritual wantoning is, viz.: taking the pattern and print of the religious age we live in, making eyes at spiritual success. Never court anything other than the approval of God, go “without the camp, bearing His reproach.” Jesus told the disciples not to rejoice in successful service, and yet this seems to be the one thing in which most of us do rejoice. We have the commercial view – so many souls saved and sanctified, thank God, now it is all right. Our work begins where God’s grace has laid the foundation; we are not to save souls, but to disciple them. Salvation and sanctification are the work of God’s sovereign grace; our work as His disciples is to disciple lives until they are wholly yielded to God. One life wholly devoted to God is of more value to God than one hundred lives simply awakened by His Spirit. As workers for God we must reproduce our own kind spiritually, and that will be God’s witness to us as workers. God brings us to a standard of life by His grace, and we are responsible for reproducing that standard in others.

    Unless the worker lives a life hidden with Christ in God, he is apt to become an irritating dictator instead of an indwelling disciple. Many of us are dictators, we dictate to people and to meetings. Jesus never dictates to us in that way. Whenever Our Lord talked about discipleship, He always prefaced it with an “IF,” never with an emphatic assertion – “You must.” Discipleship carries an option with it.

  • Pastor E A Green

    Thank you for your response. I did not “stumble” over language. I fully understand what “entrepreneur” means – and its meaning has nothing to do with apostles. CN’s assretion that the church does not need more shepherds is small-minded at best, seeing The Lord give pastors to the church to equip, lead, teach, mature, and serve His purposes for His beloved children. Do we truly need less of these servants.

    Perhaps we are guilty of casting aspersions on pastors because of our own personal experiences, which can lead to the kind of anti-pastor bitterness I detect in CN’s article. Pastors have been the most positve spiritual influences in my life, in spite of their humanity – and they are an essential part of God’s plan to purifu His bride and prepare her for His return. Let’s stop trying to re-shape the church in our image. Experts, paradigms, entrepreneurialism, etc. will never accomplish what Holy Spirit filled Christians wiil, when they have been well pastored.

  • vincenta123

    Pastor Green
    I agree with much of your sentiment, mainly on the need to keep things biblically centred.
    Where I really disagree with you is that in your apparent haste to ‘correct’ the above article, you’ve not distilled the essence of what’s really been said. For example you seem to have stumbled, like others, over the use of the word ‘entrepreneur’…rather than appreciate the spiritual concepts CN was trying to capture by using that specific word. I suggest you read through the comments and some of CN’s clarifications for a better understanding.
    Also, to me it did not seem that CN is trying to ‘fix’ a broken church. There are MANY issues with the Lord’s bride, insular shepherds and lack of recognising the gift of apostleship are only two of them and the above article says as much.
    I’m sure CN could have written the above article using ‘safer’ more ‘Christian’ language…yet he chose not to and he got my attention and that of others who may/may not have looked in (for better or worse) on that discussion!

    Sometimes we stumble more over language than actual content.

    The modern church certainly has to be VERY careful with worldliness (as had every church in every age) but that does not mean using secular paradigms to illustrate spiritual truths is a no-no. Our Lord used this framework repeatedly in His parables to help people understand the Kingdom of God better.

  • Pastor E A Green

    Wow! What an interesting take on the apostleship. You seem to have missed a few things. You present it as shining example of marvelous entrepreneurial success. Somehow, you skipped all that went along with that “successful” ministry you reference – like persecution, beatings, shipwrecks, riots, death threats, stoning, hunger, thirst, cold, abandonment, all hell breaking loose everywhere he went – oh yeah, and the chopping block. Is this the “entrepreneur/apostle” your telling us we need? I don’t think so.

    The point, is this. God’s ways are not ours. Take Gideon, for example. 28,000 down to 300 – what an entrepreneur this guy was! But God doesn’t get glory from our expertise on church planting and growth, gaudy numbers, and the church we thought up in our heads. More time in the Word, prayer, and service in the House of God is what the Bible teaches. We need apostles and shepherds who look and talk like Jesus, not like us. That’s what the Word teaches, and that’s what matters.

  • Pastor E A Green

    Your take on the church is interesting, and sadly unbiblical. You have taken your definitions and defined the Body of Christ, instead of actually letting the Bible speak for itself. God never describes Himself as an “entrepeneur,” and He is never concerned about meeting your standards for success. It seems you have a clear idea of what the ideal church is, yet The Lord is not the least bit interested in what you (or I) think is ideal.

    You start from a fallacy that the Church is broken, and you know how to fix it. That, quite frankly, is the kind of arrogance that nullifies everything you say. The last time I checked, God is still on the throne, and He doesn’t need us to tell Him how the Church should really work. If you can get pass the church as you see it, and truly see the Body of Christ, you’ll realize it is not up to us to figure anything out – but to obey the and Word of The Lord, walk in the light, and share the Good News of the Christ wherever and whenever The Lord leads.

    Childlike faith says The Lord knows who are His, and He will not lose even one. Entrepreneurship says, “It won’t happen unless we figure it out and make it so.” Good luck with that!

  • http://www.thechristianonfire.com rcortezsd

    Great post though! Thanks for sharing. God Bless!

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  • http://www.careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

    Ruben…seems like you have quite a stated opinion about megachurches. Thanks for the humour at the end. :) I don’t think the spiritual gift of apostleship was designed to create Walmarts, but it has been used in every generation to lead thousands of people into a growing relationship with Jesus.

  • http://www.thechristianonfire.com rcortezsd

    I am going to have to disagree with this post.

    We are not all called to build a Walmart but we are all called to build.

    Although I do believe that all those quality’s are useful for any type of business however, I think we have lost the whole purpose of the church.

    I think this is because of our western mentality. We measure success by how much we have. But according to the Bible you can have a allot and still be a failure. Yes even have a mega church and still fail.

    Jesus was not attracted to mega churches. He had a church of more than 5,000 at one time but at the end of his ministry he ended up with 120. Now to us we would label that failure. But Jesus was not after quantity but quality.

    If you read the rebukes of the 6 churches in the book of Revelations, non of them had anything to do with numbers. It had to do with worldliness and falling away. And the dangers with mega churches is that they can get so caught up with numbers and use that as a validation for there success when in reality the church is just growing fat and not up.

    We should all try to strive to grow and make no excuse for it but don’t forget that shepherd is a biblical term and not Entrepreneur. So if you have a small church or large church, don’t forget the main thing. Getting your people to heaven not getting people to your church.

    (angry preacher! LOL) – Ruben Cortez

  • http://www.careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

    I think one of the confusion points might be the assumption that entrepreneurs aren’t nice people. They often are. Shepherding isn’t be kind…it’s caring for people. Entrepreneurship or apostleship is the gift of growing things. Both demand a measure of kindness and grace.

  • Lachie Walker

    I agree with your take Karl relating to entrepreneurial
    shepherds. How can you lead people without a shepherd heart, whatever the scale or risk? I think of Jesus who is described as the Good Shepherd who definitely didn’t just maintain status quo. He rocked just about everyone’s boat who came in contact with him. And that wasn’t even about growing a church, it was a personal response to each individual.

    Maybe the entrepreneurial spirit is actually just being obedient to the Holy Spirit’s leading and being about our Father’s business.