Church Starters are often presented with a leadership dilemma – leading with vocational integrity. With high levels of stress due to an abundance of unknowns and unsettled questions, the church starter may find him/herself in a vulnerable situation. Two common catalysts that can lead to this vulnerability start with the letter M: members and money.
In order to start a church, you must have members. The term “members” is used here in the general sense to mean people and in no way is advocating a certain form of church polity. For members to become active participants in the community, the church starter has a choice to make: honestly present the mission and vision of the church as God has led the leadership to do or tell people what they would like to hear to win them over.
Recently while running with friends, I have had two conversations about the mission and vision of Ichthus. I had a choice to make. I could play it safe and say what I thought they wanted to hear or truly share about the community that God is leading me to start. With God’s help, I was able to share openly and honestly.
Here is what I learned from those two conversations: 1. People appreciate when you are open and honest with them. 2. There are more people who will agree with you more than you might think; you just have to find them. Now to the next point about money.
It is no secret that money is a necessary resource for almost anything. Aside from money collected from those who become a part of the community, there are a number of churches and parachurch organizations who are willing to support pastors who wish to start a new church. These churches and parachurch organizations often have expectations of belief that you must uphold in order to receive funding. Thus, the church starter is presented with a choice to make: honestly present who you are and what you believe in or tell the church or parachurch organization what they want to hear in order to receive funding.
For example: There was an application that I filled out in order to receive funding from an organization before I knew the CBF existed. Long story short, I politely let the organization know that I would not be able to follow the expectations they outlined to receive funding. I was encouraged to consider following the guidelines to receive funding and then change once the term had completed, but I declined.
Here is what I learned from being open and honest during the application process: 1. It is difficult, but possible to share openly and honestly. 2. There was no need for me to take the money from the organization because there was another organization of like-minded people to do ministry with.
There are a number of benefits when church starters lead with vocational integrity by presenting an authentic picture of who the community is from the beginning. Here are a few of them:
- An example and expectation of authenticity are set by leadership
- There are no surprises for those who contribute to and participate in the community
- The fabric of the community is strengthened by leaders who lead with theological and ministerial integrity
In conclusion, it is of utmost importance that church starters lead with vocational integrity. When we lead with integrity by sharing openly and honestly, we better avoid the pitfalls of people-pleasing and shaping our message or actions to appease financial contributors. There is no doubt that, as tough as it may be, those who lead with integrity have a freedom in their life that money could never buy and noone could ever take away.