You’re More Like John Calvin Then You Thought

In 1538 John Calvin was not the well-known reformer, influential theologian and lightening rod figure that he is today. Rather, he was a young pastor who had just been fired from his first pastoral position. In a challenging season of his life a more seasoned pastor named Martin Bucer invited Calvin to serve alongside him as an associate pastor in a nearby city. For the next three years Calvin and Bucer lived next door to each other and spent hours in the backyard discussing theology, pastoral ministry and practical wisdom. When Calvin returned to lead Geneva in 1541 he did so equipped with the wisdom of Martin Bucer.

Whether it was a parent, youth group volunteer, sports coach or pastor I’d guess you’re the leader you are today because someone invested in you: someone was Martin Bucer to your John Calvin.  Both our personal experience and church history demonstrate that intentional investment is key to the cultivation of leadership.  This is the second post in a series (Part I) that overviews my home church’s, The Summit Church, approach to developing church planters (or pastors of any sort).  My big point is that 90% of church planter development is intentionality.  Intentionality, as I’ll use it in this post, refers to a person or persons who deliberately invest in the development of future church planters.  Needless to say I think it’s really important, keep reading to learn why.

What’s So Great About Intentionality?

Intentionality accelerates planter development and its absence stunts it.  There’s an old adage “experience is the best teacher” but in the realm of church planter development I’ve found that “evaluated experience is the best teacher”.  An aspiring planter tends to stall in his growth if he relies solely on experience to facilitate growth. He needs people around him to help process and evaluate his experience. Was that a good event or a bad event? Well that conversation imploded, how could I have handled that better? How good of a preacher am I really? These kinds of questions are surfaced and answered through intentional investment.

The second reason intentionality is crucial is that we all have blind spots: strong and weak areas of our character or competency that we are unaware of. Where has God gifted me that I need to lean into? What weaknesses do I have that I need to own? Intentional mentors help an aspiring planter recognize and own his blind spots along the way.  This helps prevent awkward assessment interviews where an aspiring planter realizes for the first time he has some significant growth areas.

Intentionality is crucial to developing church planters and the good news is that anyone can do it. It doesn’t require a large budget or a special gift set. All it requires is commitment and follow through. So I’ll share a few ways that my church, The Summit Church, has sought to thread intentionality throughout our development process.

3 Ways To Cultivate Intentionality

Through Mentorship: Our pastoral apprentices (men we are grooming for pastoral leadership) are paired with seasoned pastors who supervise them during their time on staff. Our pastors commit to invest in the life of an apprentice two semesters at a time. When he graduates from the program every apprentice should have a meaningful relationship with at least one of our pastors.

In Community: Whether it’s book discussion, preaching lab or Bible study our apprentices grow together in a cohort environment. We’ve seen community based learning squash pride, increase retention and facilitate strong intentional relationships. In fifteen years when a former apprentice is tempted to leave the ministry I hope his first instinct is to talk it out with one of his former classmates.

On Retreat: Each semester we take our guys on a retreat. We use that time to expose them to new contexts, innovative approaches to ministry and what God is doing around the country. These retreats have been invaluable for catalyzing chemistry and transparency among the group. Some of our most meaningful and intentional conversations have occurred as we rode down the interstate or ate together.

You Can Do It

The next John Calvin may not be in our apprenticeship and I’m definitely not Martin Bucer, but its exciting to watch our guys grow in their leadership and I hope they remember this time as one of meaningful relationship and intentional mentorship.  The good news is that anyone can increase the level of intentionality in their development process through some planning and follow through.  I hope this gets your creative juices flowing about how you can continue to intentionally invest in the leaders God has entrusted to your care.

Josh Miller (@joshmiller0604) is Director of Assessment for Summit Network and serves as an Associate Church Planting Pastor at The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC.