Driscoll and Stetzer on Church Planting Partners

Driscoll and Stetzer

The Acts 29 Boot Camp in Raleigh concluded this afternoon with a great Q and A session from Stetzer and Driscoll. They were off the cuff and unscripted, and clearly these guys have a Bert and Ernie love for each other. Stetzer would be a great guy to have your back in a church plant or a bar fight. This guy is a beast. Though they don’t agree on everything, there is clearly a love and mutual respect.

Thankfully, they answered the question I submitted regarding planting churches as a team. Although A29 is committed to the leadership of elders in a church as opposed to the senior pastor as CEO model, they also recommend a single church planting “lead pastor” rather than a team of several lead pastors.

In my own church of Fellowship Louisville, which is a plant of Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, we have a team of two pastors who are both teaching elders. Neither one is the “senior pastor;” they both are equal and neither can pull rank over the other.

That was my question: what do they think of team planting, and how to go about working with a partner?

They were clearly against the idea. In their collective experience, it seems to be a recipe for failure because church planters are usually guys of a certain stripe: cocky, opinionated, headstrong, stubborn. Not the most pleasant list of characteristics to be sure, but I can’t argue with their assessment. These types of people are just the sorts of people who are headstrong enough to take a punch and keep going, so they are well suited for church planting. The problem is, they often don’t work and play well with others. This is not as negative as it sounds, its just the fact that headstrong leaders want to lead, not follow, and thus they work best by themselves.

In any team of people, leaders emerge by nature of their personalities and gifting. According to their observations, within a year or two, church planting teams either fail or all the leaders except for one leave.

I’m still in process on this issue. The critical question seems to be role clarity. Do you need to have a guy who can pull rank in a dispute? I talked with a few others about this at the boot camp and the consensus seems to be that there needs to be a lead planter, and he needs to guard that position very carefully. He also needs to guard the “2nd in command” position carefully and distinguish it from his own. The lead planter needs to be the guy with the microphone.

Driscoll said that the temptation towards a team model can be driven by:

1. A false sense of this being the more “humble” method

2. Insecurities of the lead planter in his own ability to make decisions confidently and align people to a particular vision.

3. Wanting to have someone else share the blame in the event he screws everything up.

4. Overcompensation for the perceived inadequacies of the lead planter.

According to both Driscoll and Stetzer, these may be legitimate problems, but adopting a co-leader mentality is not the solution.

On the other side of the coin, however, I met several people there who are adopting the team model and recommend it highly. This will be a major hurdle for me to cross over the next few months as I decide which approach to take.

And also in its favor is my own church in Louisville. The pastors are very strong leaders and love each other well, but neither is the “lead guy.” It works at my current church. The question is, is it right for me? I still don’t know.

  1. Michael F., They are against church planting teams where you equally share the lead planter role. The consensus is you have to have a lead guy. If you plant as a team, have a lead guy that can pull rank if necessary, and make sure the #2 person is the right person. And make sure he knows that he’s not the lead planter. Role clarity was most strongly emphasized. This was not so much talked about by Driscoll and Stetzer but from other guys at the boot camp.

  2. I still find it strange that we then would be advising folks to start out with a Sr pastor model of government (or lead pastor/planter/guy model but seriously whats the difference? Its merely semantics) and thereby laying this form of DNA into the church which you eventually hope to move against that same DNA into a plurality of elders model.

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