Is Your Church More Effective Without You?

Do your church members have more discipline and obedience in your absence?

Every pastor should be haunted by the words of Philippians 2:12-13:

“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” 

It is not just letting God work from within his people rather than from the pulpit that is haunting. It isn’t the “too close for comfort” of the words “work out” and “salvation” in a single sentence that is alarming for the protestant evangelical teacher. It is the idea that a church can be more obedient in the leader’s absence than in his presence that should bother every pastor.

When we scan the terrain of American Christianity, where churches are built upon charismatic personalities that struggle with succession when that leader falls, dies or moves on, we realize that much has been built on something other than an apostolic foundation.

We simply must see a new breed of leader emerge that is able to release people to serve Jesus in such a way that dependency is not created. We need people who can distribute authority rather than simply delegate it.

The problem as I see it is twofold: We have created leaders that need an audience, and we have created an audience that needs a leader.

Until we see the church and the leader differently, we will be stuck in the same vicious cycle.

Break free.

Give the ministry away.

Lose the ego and live for others’ success rather than your own.

Neil Cole
Neil Cole is the founder and executive director of Church Multiplication Associates, which has helped start hundreds of churches in thirty-five states and thirty nations. He is seen by many to be one of the key founders of what is known as the organic- or simple-church movement.