Cocky, Obnoxious Jerks Make Great Church Planters

To what extent is the calling of a church planter connected to personality? I recently attended an Acts 29 boot camp that also included an assessing process. This process included two personality profile tests, several questionnaires regarding doctrine and personal history, and 3 references. After the boot camp, Laura and I spent two hours in a dimly lit room in an abandoned warehouse filled with agentsmith.jpg Gestapo types who asked us about our personal lives, ministry experience and whether or not we knew a certain “Morpheus.” Most importantly, they were interested in discerning a definite sense of calling.

What I found quite interesting in all of this was the notion that certain personality types make better church planters. The bar-fighting hothead who was a cheerleader dating running back in high school seems to be a good fit for church planting because these guys score high on qualities of entrepreneurship. This was the main point of emphasis in the personality profiles. When I told the assessor that I am more of an introvert, he said, “that’s rough.”

Now the question: to what extent is personality bound up in calling? This is different from ministry ability, because dorks and jocks can both preach good sermons. But does a particular personality type fit best with church planting?

My personality profile is “ENTZ,” which is Extroverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Organizing. This type scores high on entrepreneurship, which is surprising to me because I always thought of myself as more introverted. Of this personality type it is said that the “ENTZ cannot NOT lead.”

This is my conclusion: there is the inevitable conclusion that certain personality types are going to thrive in a pressure cooker, while others will wilt. The purpose of the assessment is to determine how much heat can you take before you wilt. If you freak out easily, then you’re probably going to buckle under the constant pressure of planting a church.

But the calling in and of itself cannot be determined by personality, because God operates beyond these parameters. Where God calls a man, He gives him the necessary tools to accomplish that calling. But we need to be realistic and recognize that God often calls a person based on how he’s already created and wired that person from the beginning.

God’s calling does not appear out of nowhere, at a certain point in time, but is something that is woven into the fabric of that person’s life, is always evolving, and the development of personality is part of the deal.

So, no, personality is not the key factor. Churches will reflect the personality of their pastor in five years anyway. We need a diversity of personality types planting a diversity of churches. But certain people will have a more difficult time with certain aspects of leading because everyone responds differently to different situations.

13 thoughts on “Cocky, Obnoxious Jerks Make Great Church Planters

  1. This has always troubled me about Acts 29, and about Driscoll in particular. Do you think being “cocky and obnoxious” is a positive quality for a church planter? I think they do, to some extent. To me, at least as I measure this against the sermon on the mount, appears to be a major character flaw, rather than a virtue. I wonder if the value of “entrepeneurship” is another example of the “professionalization of the clergy” that folks like Piper, Eugene Peterson, and David Wells have been warning us about during the last couple of decades.

  2. Josh- I do agree with you. The question I have been wrestling with is how God sovereignly uses a particular personality trait, entrepreneur-ism, in calling people. Does God call awkward people with poor social skills to plant churches? Does God call people without administrative skills or Bible teaching skills to plant churches? I would say no, because of the qualifications of elders which are primarily character driven but do require a certain skill set as well such as teaching ability and the ability to manage a home. The problem, then, is when those traits alone are the determinative factor. In some church planting models, this can be a determining factor. In others, the issue is ignored altogether. I think that we need to be mindful of both character and capability for God requires both.

  3. Agreed. Character and capability. Do you think that character is many times overlooked in favor of capability? Younger church planting movements seem to be trending that way, don’t you think?

  4. I don’t know what all the trends are because I’m pretty new to the whole arena. My concern initially popped up when I heard a talk by Driscoll about the qualifications of a lead planter when he said that successful church planters are often guys who are jocks with a more domineering personality (read: cocky jerk). I think there is a skill set and character qualities required, but the skill set doesn’t necessitate a personality. I prefer to follow leaders who are gracious and kind. I prefer to be this kind of leader as well.

  5. Michael,

    Arrogance is often mistaken for boldness, isn’t it. A church planter definitely needs to be bold to deal with wolves and life-sucking consumers that seek out new church plants. However, boldness has much more to do with Spirit-driven commitment to the gospel than personality. Please note that I’ve many times been put in my place by geeky introverted men I could physically rip in half. Their fear of God outweighed their fear of men. Think Paul before Caesar. Thus, a introverted man that fears God and is called should do fine.

  6. I have heard people refer to “humility” in ways that seem more like “timidity.” And confidence mistaken for boldness and certainty. A thoroughgoing revision of these words have been underway for some time now, and even applied to Jesus. We’re uncomfortable with a confident, bold, masculine Jesus, but quite comfortable with an effeminate man carrying around little sheep.

  7. Brandon,

    What does someone’s bench-press have to do with their character or spiritual ability? There are scores and scores of men that could bench press more than Christ could during incarnation (unless you have a faulty understanding of Christ’s humanity and make him into some sort of super-hero that only appears to be human) but none of them possessed the boldness of Christ.

  8. Ability to bench-press great quantities of weight totally directly relates to their boldness. Its a scientific fact. You can look it up. Wait… what? It’s not? Oh well…

    But my point is that while it is obvious from scripture that Christ was bold (turning over money changer tables, calling out the Pharisees to their face, etc.), I just simply hate when people portray Christ as some wimpy hippy looking guy. Dude was a carpenter. No, not a member of the 70’s singing group, although he was standing on top of the world looking down on creation… No, he was a carpenter. An old school carpenter. I don’t know how many house framers you’ve hung out with, but they are a generally buff group of fellows. So I think there was some appeal to the general populous of the day to Christ’s cause simply because he probably was pretty darn fit and charismatic to boot (no, not snake handling charismatic).

    On a side not, got to hear D-Mike preach on Sunday. I think he’ll be a great church planter. I hope he doesn’t end up planting a church here in Louisville, because then I’d be torn over which church plant to support!

  9. Brandon,

    I’m no fan of the weak hippy Jesus that is merely a cultural creation and a perversion of Christ as revealed in his Word. However, the pendulum swings both ways. We could easily inject a ideal of manhood into our understanding of Jesus that isn’t Scriptural but merely cultural. I think this is exactly what many of the young church planters I have recently met do to justify their arrogance which masquerades as boldness. Know that I say this not as some skinny Moby-look-alike McClaren-loving sissy. I’m a rather large man (6′ 1” 260 lbs) who grew up wrestling, boxing, and in MMA (I bench 350 lbs). I ‘m just sick of the cocky-jock makes a good church plater idea.

  10. I just wonder if what draws people to a church plant is the charisma/attitude/square cut jaw of the planter or if it is God, regardless of the above? I would hope that it is God through the prompting of the spirit the majority of the time. But I also wonder if Satan doesn’t use the cocky-jock type in his own ways, sending people to mislead, confuse and betray? I think about some of the N.T. churches that all seemed to have a trouble maker or three… How did those people wind up in those churches? Did the Spirit initially move them or were they a Satan plant all the way? I don’t think we’ll know for sure (although I won’t be shocked if one of you throws down a great Biblical discourse with a definitive answer). But I wonder this because I want to know how to A) Make sure that trouble makers don’t wreck the church plant I’m a part of and B) Make sure I’m not ever a trouble maker myself. I’ve already been lured in by my church’s teaching pastors good looks and cocky attitudes, ha ha!

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