Apostolic Leadership for Church Planting (by Murray Moerman)

18 May 2017

I share here observations and reflections on apostolic leadership from a global perspective; specifically types of apostolic leadership observed and roles these apostolic leaders have in church planting.

The first observation I’ve made is that apostolic leadership is not related to personality type or character qualities. Apostolic leaders are introverts and extroverts, humble and proud, holy and carnal, theologically conservative and ‘creative’. They are cheerful and melancholy, secure and insecure, mavericks and able to function within organizational constraints. Looking for apostolic leaders within the narrow confines of stereotypes will result in overlooking high-potential emerging leaders. This we must avoid.

The second observation is that despite these differences, apostolic leaders display some or all of the following behavioural characteristics in common as they plant, train, organize and mobilize. Apostolic leaders are:

  • Converted: I will take a risk here which may be challenged and could be confirmed by someone’s research project. My anecdotal observation is that apostolic leaders I’ve encountered are disproportionally converted, decisively and often dramatically, from another world-view (e.g. hedonism, Islam, secular/atheist etc.). Many apostolic leaders have been raised within the church of course but it seems to me that, given the proportion of the existing church and of the proportion of the church converted from outside, that an external conversion may be more likely to produce an apostolic leader. Those converted in this way are sometimes disillusioned with the established church and may require extra care, through their observations often have merit.
  • Self starters, internally-motivated by the Gospel: As such, apostolic leaders need encouragement (as do we all), can benefit from being mentored and coached (in the sense of asking clarifying questions) but generally need little management.
  • Make opportunities: In my observation apostolic leaders don’t simply see opportunities that others may not see but make opportunities - sometimes out of almost nothing or in circumstances which would intimidate others. This characteristic is closely related to the next…
  • Risk taker: Taking, or more often making, opportunities in spite of the possibly of failure or even personal danger, displays a higher risk tolerance than is sometimes found in other men and women of equal capacity. Overall my impression has been that apostolic leaders are not necessarily men or women of greater spiritual gifts, intelligence, or charisma. But they are people willing to work with what they have with faith and courage.
  • Perseverance: Apostolic leaders are those who do not quickly say, “My circumstances are more difficult than those of others so little can be expected of me here.” Rather such leaders adjust on the fly, persevere, adjust again if needed and persevere again – even if their initial risk didn’t pay off.
  • Sacrifice: It has often been observed that apostolic leaders pay a personal price for their obedience to the Gospel. I’ve certainly observed this to be true. (I’ve also observed that this price is often paid in the first half of their ministry and that the temptation of the second half is to take fewer risks and make fewer sacrifices, in fact to accept the perks of power and prestige; a temptation all of us must acknowledge and resist.)
  • Realists: Apostolic leaders are not romantics or idealists, i.e. they don’t wait for the ideal but are willing to build on what is before them now. As such they are not procrastinators. They decide and act in current realities.