The biblical plan to reach people who are far from God and extend His Kingdom is clear and simple: Go into all the world and preach the Gospel. Then, plant churches and appoint elders in every city (Mark 15:16, Acts 14:23, Titus 1:6).
A problem many pastors share is our inclination to collect people—talented people, high-capacity people, quality people—and our hesitation to send them away. A sending church must have the faith to believe that it’s in the sending when we realize our greatest growth and influence. God is a God of multiplication, but He may require our most precious resource, great leaders, to advance His Kingdom.
Do we most effectively reach new people by adding new campuses and building better auditoriums, or by sending our greatest leaders to plant autonomous churches?
In some locations a campus will best serve the need, fit the leader’s gifts, and create a life-giving environment for the community. But there are places and situations where a sending model will prove more effective in extending God’s Kingdom.
For years we prayed for a presence in San Francisco, and eventually the Lord revealed to me that a 60-year-old white guy on a big screen was not the most effective way to reach this community. Instead, we sent two of our best young leaders to plant an autonomous church. It wasn’t easy sending these individuals away because they were accomplished, gifted leaders who would be very difficult to replace. Yet, God had revealed to us that a campus ministry would not be effective and putting these leaders in the role of campus pastors would stifle them.
Consider these four factors when moving toward any new city:
City need. What is ideal for the community we are entering? Our strategy should be determined by the best way to create a life-giving community and reach people. If we’re locked into building a campus or closely following a master financial plan, we may be settling for a less effective or even ineffective strategy.
We planted a Hispanic couple in mid-Sacramento, and they were a perfect fit for the community. Their congregation is multi-ethnic, with a strong Hispanic demographic, and they are creating a unique expression of the church in their community.
Long-range leadership capacity. Is the identified leader a church planter or a campus pastor? One is not better or more valuable than the other, but there is a clear difference that must be recognized.
Church planters have a higher level of leadership gifting. They are entrepreneurial thinkers, big-picture visionaries, and strong communicators. If they are kept in the corral for too long they may grow disillusioned and frustrated, or wrongly worry about having an independent and unsubmitted heart, when in reality they simply must be sent.
Lifting the lid. Those who demonstrate strong leadership potential must receive the same opportunities we were given when we built something from nothing. Releasing leaders into the wide-open frontier of visionary leadership is as important as identifying and developing leaders in the first place.
Filling the pipeline. Sowing current leaders into new locations where God can give them influence and opportunity is the best way to continuously raise strong leaders. Training through colleges, intern programs, or schools of ministry is an important part of the process, but releasing proven leaders opens opportunities for up-and-coming leaders to backfill key positions. Through this continuous process of training, developing, and releasing leaders, the church and its individual leaders realize their greatest growth potential.
Remember: The greater Kingdom influence is realized in the sending. Supernatural provision comes with the sending. The greatest leaders are waiting right behind our current leaders who may need to be sent.
This COVID-19 season will soon come to an end. I believe we are going to see the greatest Kingdom expansion and harvest in the history of the planet. Let’s position ourselves to send our best!
Dave and Donna Patterson are the lead and founding pastors of The Father’s House in Northern California. Their church community started with eight people in a living room and has grown to 7,500 people in 5 locations. They have over 30 years’ experience leading worship, teaching, and pastoring. They are also members of the ARC Lead Team. Their passion is to see people encounter the reality of God and the Body of Christ and experience new levels of God’s presence through worship. Learn more at tfh.org.