I have been pastoring The Journey Church for 11+ years now. I was 25 years old during the preparation and launch phases. I turned 26 years old during our first year. To that point in my life, my only leadership experience was from sports as a teenager, the Army, and a role in a small youth ministry. What in the world was I thinking?
Pastoring a church is hard. Pastoring as a young man was even harder. In most cases, I was leading people who were the same age or older than me. In fact, I was leading some people who had been following Jesus longer than I had been alive. To put it lightly: I was in way over my head.
However, one of the markers in my life that served me well in those early years was a hunger to grow and learn. I knew I did not know anything about planting a church, so I had to grow. I knew I was not the most read or studied person, so I had to grow. I knew I had never led anything so important, so I had to grow. The overriding mantra that drove me in those early years was: grow or die.
This had nothing to do with growing the numbers of the church. It was me that had to grow. Why? Because I had to raise my leadership and pastoral lid if I was going to help our church achieve its mission and reach its full redemptive potential.
Pastors and leaders, do you feel an urgency to grow? Do you have a drive inside of you to get better? It is so important to the future of your ministry that you do. Pastors and leaders who are not eagerly seeking to grow and improve their leadership become massive liabilities to their ministries. You must grow or die.
When we started The Journey Church, I was 25 years old. We began with 30+ people who called our church home. Now eleven years later we have a church nearly averaging 1,000 people in weekend worship gatherings. I would have loved to reach that many people in our first year or two. But I was not the pastor or leader that could handle that nine to ten years ago. I needed to grow.
I still need to be growing. My urgency levels for growing personally and raising my leadership lid is still very high. Why? Because I’m not qualified right now to be the pastor where this church will be two years from now. I must keep growing and maturing in order to keep leading well. Did you catch that? I am not ready, as it stands, to pastor a church of 1,500 or 2,000. I need to keep growing or I will become the greatest liability to my ministry.
So what would I encourage you to do? How can you commit yourself to constant growth so you can continue leading and pastoring faithfully?
Leaders are readers. If you want to grow personally, you need to develop the consistent habit of reading. Read theology books and stay sharp. Read leadership books that can help you organize, plan, and cast vision. Read biographies of great leaders and people used mightily by God. Read. Read. Read.
2. Watch/Listen to Other Pastors
There are podcasts, interviews, sermons, conferences, and other types of resources are all around us. These are ways we can keep growing and learning. We can learn theology and leadership by seeking out these resources and regularly gleaning the wisdom of others.
Sometimes the only way you can raise your lid to new levels is to learn from those who have already been where you are. Find several people who you can learn from that are one to two levels ahead of you. If you lead a church of 200 people, find those leading a church of 400-500 that you can ask questions of. If you lead a church of 500, find those leading a church of 750 to 1,000. These people will be further along than you and can help you avoid pitfalls and make adjustments to your role in order to better lead. This is one of the reasons I coach other pastors. I want to help others avoid the pitfalls that I have experienced. It is also why I have coaches and mentors.
The motto “Grow or Die” should be etched into all of our minds. The mission of the church and the glory of God are why. We must remain hungry to keep learning and raising our levels of effectiveness. It matters too much not to.