Young leaders who are passionate about the mission of God are a gift to the church. With youthful zeal and God’s grace these leaders catalyze new initiatives, plant new churches, and strive to make an impact on God’s kingdom with their lives. As I said, they are a gift to God’s church.
However, one thing I find that many young leaders lack is maturity for needed long-term faithful ministry. Over and over again, I hear stories of men who had a passion for God’s mission, but ended up jaded and burnt out. That is why it is absolutely imperative that young leaders ask themselves these five questions while contemplating pastoral ministry or church planting:
Do you know who you are and who you are not?
To lead in ministry you must know who you are and who you are not. Young leaders tend to develop opinions about themselves based on who they wish they were (or believe they should be), rather than who they really are. Very few people are self-aware enough to know what their strengths and weaknesses are and how they can best serve the church.
Can you rely on others?
One of the greatest dangers to the church is pastors who cannot share responsibility and leadership with others in the church. Do you rejoice in the gifting of other ministers, or find yourself drawn to comparison and bitterness?
Will you allow leaders in your church to take ownership of service teams, or does everything need to be run through you so that it doesn’t get “messed up”? Pride in your own ability will kill your ministry and your church as you suffer from burnout and true discipleship never takes place.
Are you a man of character?
Repeat after me: Seminary is not your qualification for ministry. Your gifts, charisma, or personality are not your qualification for ministry. When others look at your life, do they see a man marked by the qualifications for elder as outlined in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 or Titus 1:5-9? These are not qualifications you learn in a classroom. These are qualifications that come from a work of the Holy Spirit in your life.
Do you love the Church?
Do you love the church the way Jesus loves the church? Will you lay down your life for her? All too often young men pursue church planting because they hated something about the church they grew up in or are coming from. Is your desire to lead the church coming from a heart that will faithfully and joyfully serve God’s people?
Has someone invested in you as a leader?
Jesus’ model in preparing the disciples to lead His church was simple: spend time with them, teach them, correct them, and give them opportunities to put into practice what they’d learned. Has an older minister intentionally taken time to train, develop, and disciple you as a leader?
Maybe your answer to all of these questions is a resounding “Yes”, but my guess is that most young ministers will have at least one “No” in there. But here’s the good news: God has given us the church not just to grow up disciples as laymen, but to build up and commission pastors to go and do the work of an elder.
Your maturity as a leader will not come in isolation. It will not come as a result of you locking yourself away to work at and get better under your own strength. The promise of Ephesians 4:11-16 is not just for church-goers. It is a promise that we all, pastors included, grow into maturity in Christ through the work of other believers in our lives. Jesus saves us where we are, but He doesn’t leave us there. He’s given us the Holy Spirit and a community of faith to grow us up into fullness in Him.
For this reason, I encourage everyone who is contemplating a desire to pastor or plant a church to spend a season in a pastoral residency or apprenticeship. You need Godly men to invest in you as a disciple of Jesus and as a leader of His church.
Consider joining a two-year residency cohort for aspiring pastors and church planters with the Austin Stone. In addition to our Leadership Development Program, the cohort will provide specific learning environments in incarnational and personal leadership in year one followed by organizational and team leadership in year two.
Specifically, this pastoral residency will provide tangible missional community leadership experience, ownership of specific ministries each year at one of our campuses, and specialized training from our senior staff in organizational leadership.