So you’re building your team—you’re even assessing your personal gifting for everything that lies ahead in ministry.
What’s the gift set you’re looking for that in a leader (or in yourself) that will really help move your mission forward, reach new people and prepare for everything ahead?
At some point at the senior leadership level of your church, you’re going to need a handful of what I call spiritual entrepreneurs.
Often these people are misunderstood in the church.
For the most part, shepherds and chaplains have run the church. I’m not saying we don’t need shepherds or that we don’t need chaplains in the right place. Not at all. We do.
But what happens when all you have are shepherds and chaplains?
Here’s what happens: the kind of radical change that both the church and the world need doesn’t happen. Instead, leaders hold the hand of a sick church and comfort it while it dies.
I know that sounds harsh, but look around you. Isn’t that mostly what’s happening? I also know enough good shepherds and chaplains to know that they find the hand holding of a dying church deeply frustrating and frightening. They don’t want their church to die, but there aren’t enough leaders around them with the gift set or mindset necessary to turn it around.
The missing gift set in the church is spiritual entrepreneurship—something the New Testament calls apostleship. It’s the kind of radical determination, innovation and fierceness the Apostle Paul showed.
As I wrote about here, the church today is filled with shepherds, to the point where shepherds are perhaps over-represented in church leadership. What we need most as we navigate new waters in a post-Christian culture is not more shepherds, but spiritual entrepreneurs.
Whether you call it spiritual entrepreneurship or the gift of apostleship, what we need is a new generation of Apostle Pauls who forge out in new directions. Who experiment boldly. Who dare greatly.
Spiritual entrepreneurs are the kind of leaders who will find tomorrow’s solutions when most leaders can only see the problem.
In a marketplace that’s in love with start-ups and new ventures, we need some leaders who are inclined to spend their lives in the marketplace who will take their God-given talents and energy and throw them full time behind the mission of the church.
Are you called to it? As I write about here, the fact that you have the gifts might be enough of a sign that you’re called.
So what does spiritual entrepreneurship look like?
What are the characteristics of leaders who can forge fresh ground in the church?
And how do you know if you might be a spiritual entrepreneur?
As I meet church leaders who are actually reaching unchurched people in massive quantities, here are the qualities I see among the leaders. (I wrote about 5 characteristics I see in their churches here.)
1. Think big
Too many churches die of small thinking:
We don’t have enough
It won’t happen
That’s plenty for now
Who will pay for it?
Leaders who serve an infinite God should never have their imaginations deadened by small thinking.
Spiritual entrepreneurs aren’t.
They think big. They dream of what could be, not what is, and they see the opportunity in every obstacle.
2. Believe God can
We serve a God who created amazing things out of nothing. Why do we think he won’t do the same for his church?
Spiritual entrepreneurs believe he will. And they see him do it.
They would agree with Henry Ford who said, “Whether you believe you can or whether you believe you can’t, you’re right.”
Before you dismiss this as positive thinking nonsense, remember Jesus couldn’t perform many miracles in his hometown because of people’s lack of faith. Then, moments later, he walked on water and fed 5000 because people in those communities had faith.
Spiritual entrepreneurs believe God can. And they see him do it.
3. See abundance, not scarcity
Spiritual entrepreneurs see abundance, not scarcity.
Give a dying church $10,000, and they’ll think they’re broke and need to conserve it.
Give $10,000 to a spiritual entrepreneur, and he’ll see it as seed money to start something big.
To a dying church, 5 leaders is defeat. To a spiritual entrepreneur, it’s a start.
Same facts. Different mindset. Attitude is everything.
4. Think vision first, resources second
So what comes first? Vision, or resources?
Spiritual entrepreneurs are very comfortable with the reality that vision precedes resources.
Casting a big vision (a solid, on-mission vision) will often lead to significant resources down the road.
Waiting for big resources so you can have a vision is a recipe for death.
5. Invest in personal and team development
Spiritual entrepreneurs aren’t crazy spenders, but they see a key distinction between an expense and an investment.
They realize that going to conferences, networking with other leaders, buying books and doing whatever it takes to make themselves and their team better is an investment.
Sure, there are limits, but smart spiritual entrepreneurs will often spend a minimum of 10% of all the money they receive making themselves and their team better.
6. Believe this is bigger than you
Of all the criticisms levied at spiritual entrepreneurs, the most common is often that they have big egos and it’s all about them.
Sometimes that’s true.
But most often it’s not.
Big vision does not automatically equal big ego.
The best spiritual entrepreneurs humbly submit to God and are committed to a vision that is so much bigger than they are.
Personal humility combined with big ambition for the mission fosters incredible leadership.
Think about it this way. The reason we’re talking about Paul 2000 years later is that Paul’s work wasn’t about Paul; it was about Jesus and the mission of the church.
If your vision is all about you, it will die with you.
True spiritual entrepreneurs know that.
7. Ship first, improve later
Perfectionists make terrible entrepreneurs.
If you haven’t shipped on your vision yet because you’re waiting for ideal conditions or the perfect result, you’ll wait forever.
People email me all the time (usually after going to a conference hosted by a large church with lots of resources) and ask whether a new building or better lighting or a move to a portable location will help them grow.
I always tell them it won’t (here’s why).
Big churches never started big. They usually started very humbly. But because they are led by spiritual entrepreneurs, those entrepreneurs at every stage made the most of whatever they had.
A spiritual entrepreneur can launch a growing church in a dying building with little money.
Then they make all the improvements later as facilities and resources grow.
8. Are fine with ambiguity
Ask a spiritual entrepreneur how they’re going to do it, and the #1 answer is “I don’t know. We’re just going to do it.”
There’s something powerful in that.
If you have it all figured out before you launch it, your vision isn’t big enough.
9. Will risk it all without guarantee of success
Too many leaders hope for some kind of guarantee.
Risk brings no guarantees because it’s risk.
Spiritual entrepreneurs are okay with that.
Most spiritual entrepreneurs want to die trying. Usually they don’t die trying, but the fact that they’re willing to is crucial.
Ironically, if a spiritual entrepreneur has a solid plan that’s on mission, they usually don’t fail. But you have to be willing to fail to succeed.
10. Never wait for consensus
Too many churches will only move forward if there is consensus.
That’s a critical mistake.
Consensus kills courage. By the time you have consensus, ideas are so watered down they are worthy of the committee that put them together.
Spiritual entrepreneurs rarely act alone (at least the smart ones don’t). But they’re ready to move ahead with a group of early adopters knowing most will eventually buy into whatever is being proposed once they see it working.
11. Let the critics talk while you act
The critics will always talk.
Spiritual entrepreneurs know this.
They don’t get weighed down by critics who criticize what others do and do little themselves.
How do you respond to the critics?
Just act while the critics talk. You’ll accomplish something. They won’t.
12. Break rules
Quite obviously, you should never break biblical rules. And the great spiritual entrepreneurs never do. Their character is solid.
But you’re going to absolutely need to break some human rules if you’re going to disrupt the status quo.
Innovation always breaks rules. Why?
Because innovation never asks for permission. It just innovates.
Some Help For Spiritual Entrepreneurs
Despite a leader’s best intentions, often leaders who start things don’t know how to scale things.
I had to learn the hard way, and have led our church past the 200 barrier right through the 1000 attendance barrier with multiple locations. These are barriers that, despite best intentions, 98% of leaders never pass.
Surprisingly, the reasons most leaders don’t scale their ministries aren’t spiritual—they’re structural. It’s the same reason over 99% of businesses stay small—the issues are structural.
Breaking 200 Without Breaking You is a course I’ve created that provides strategies on how to tackle eight practical barriers that keep churches from reaching more than 200 people. And it’s designed so I can walk your entire leadership team or elder board through the issues.
So whether your church is 50, 150 or 250 in attendance, the principles will help you gain the insight you need to break the barrier more than 85% of churches can’t break. Even churches with attendances of 300-500 and multisite churches are finding the material helpful as they try to reach more people.
What Do You See?
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