How to Find the Next Great (Unlikely) Leader in Your Church Plant

Are you looking for the “Zacchaeuses” around you?


love the Jim Collins quote from his often-quoted book Good to Great: “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”

The problem: Where do you find great people?

Recently, I was reading the story of Jesus’ confrontation with Zacchaeus in the New Testament, and I noticed at least 10 principles that apply to all of us when choosing leaders to help us in our work.

First, the story:

Jesus entered Jericho and made His way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.

When Jesus came by, He looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” He said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”

Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.

Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”

Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost” (Luke 19:1-10 NLT).

Below are 10 of my takeaways from this passage:

1. Remember that success in ministry has a lot to do with choosing the right leaders. Good ones will minimize your weaknesses or maximize your strengths. Jesus spent hours in conversation with His father before choosing the men He would pour His life into. I’m not sure this encounter with Zacchaeus was as random as it looks. I think possibly the tax collector became a part of Jesus’ extended leadership circle. I also think he was carefully chosen.

2. The next great leader may not be the obvious choice. Most people wrote Zacchaeus off as a short little crook. Jesus saw through the obvious to his hidden potential. Many people believe that Zacchaeus was actually the Apostle Mathias who was chosen to be one of the Twelve when Judas betrayed Jesus. Some believe he went on to become the Bishop of Ceaserea. At any rate, Zacchaeus became more than he was before his encounter with Jesus.

3. Choose people who will go out of their way to get involved in what you’re doing. Zacchaeus didn’t let the fact that he was too short and the crowd too big keep him from seeing Jesus. If you think about it, there are probably some people who are making a major effort to be close to you. Don’t overlook them. If you don’t have to talk them into following, you probably won’t have to talk them into staying.

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Greg Surratt
Greg Surratt is the founding pastor of Seacoast Church, one of the earliest adopters of the multi-site model. Located in Mt. Pleasant, SC, Seacoast has been recognized by various media as an innovative and influential thought leader in future strategies for church growth and development. Greg is also a founding board member of the Association of Related Churches.