Follow, Follow, Follow
For most leaders, learning to follow does not come easily. In this original article by David Perkins, pastor of Radiant Church in Overland Park, KS, he talks about the benefit of following in three specific areas. He believes that only by learning to follow in certain areas will we truly be able to develop as leaders.
Church planting feels like jumping out of a plane and praying to God that the parachute opens! As church planters, my wife and I have never worked so hard in our lives, but we have never been so fulfilled. We love our new church, city, and tribe: ARC. We’ve dreamed about church planting for a long time and I always imagined it as the ultimate leadership opportunity. However, in addition to the leadership challenge, it’s also been a test in learning to follow. As we parachuted into our new city, I led my family, the team, the prayer meetings, the interest meeting, and on and on. Yet, I have been struck by the need to follow as well. If we want to become great leaders, we must be great followers. As the months leading up to our launch day flew by, I discovered that church planting was for followers. Here are three marks of a follower:
- Excellence. Follow experts that are miles ahead. ARC intentionality empowers planters to run with the dream God has given us. We pick our church’s name, values, location, methods, etc. It’s a generous and life-giving approach. However, wouldn’t we actually do far better if we stood on the shoulders of those who have gone before us? Wouldn’t it be tragic if we were motivated by individuality over effectiveness? Personally, I’m amazed by the effectiveness of ARC churches that have already been planted. As planters, we do well to turn down the desire to be unique and turn up the vision to be effective. Sure, if the Holy Spirit has given you unique ideas, language and systems, run with them! I’m just convinced that we will do more for the Kingdom when we view ourselves as students that are eager to follow those that are successfully reaching people, making disciples and equipping the saints.
- Authenticity. Follow Jesus. Please don’t roll your eyes as if this is a “given.” If you’re like me, the angst to accomplish the church planting tasks will feel pretty weighty and you’ll be tempted to forgo praying in secret. Undoubtedly, people will applaud the new website, the great launch day, and the newly formed launch team. That feels good. Plus, you’ll feel God’s pleasure as you carry out the vision and dream that God put deep in your heart. It’s wonderful! Yet, in the midst of this journey-of-a-lifetime, follow Jesus like a disciple. Get close. Spend time with Him. Please don’t be one of those guys that says that God told you to “get to work” so you don’t have time to pray. That’s not what Jesus taught us. Pray first. Schedule first what matters most. Spending time with Him daily is your most important task during launch season. Imagine standing up in front of your new church sensing God’s smile over your process. In addition, imagine people saying of you what they said of the apostles in Jerusalem: “they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13b).”
- Humility. Follow friends that are a step ahead. As I prepared to plant, I visited a young church planter who I had served in ministry when he was a teenager, a youth pastor, and now a lead pastor. I studied his church and process. I got up in the dark and set up signs with him outside of the school on Sunday morning. I learned so much from this young church planter who is over a decade younger than me. I referred to another planter as my big brother even though he’s ten years younger than me. Why? We can learn from these young church planters that are a step ahead. Truthfully, it can be hard to follow someone significantly younger or a former colleague. Yet, in my view, it’s one of the most strategic keys to leading well. Those young church planters aren’t miles down the road yet, only a few steps. They are right where we will be soon and they have valuable lessons to teach us. We do well to follow them closely.
As we aim to grow as leaders, let’s grow as followers too. Jesus called His disciples to follow Him long before He told them to lead. They spent three years watching, listening, interacting, learning and following Jesus. After following, Jesus commissioned them to go lead. Let’s follow first and then lead strong!
David Perkins is the pastor of Radiant Church in Overland Park, KS (ARC #600). Prior to church planting, David spent fourteen years serving students at New Life Church in Colorado Springs and two years mobilizing young people to global missions through Every Home For Christ. He graduated from Southern Nazarene University with a degree in religion and The King’s University with a masters in theology. He enjoys date nights with his wife, Renata, and exploring Kansas City with his four kids.