After listening to one of our residents, Scott Heider (thegroveaustin.com), teach from the Book of Proverbs, I was inspired to write up my own collection of sage advice from the Proverbs-- to my good friends who need wisdom that only God can give to do one of the hardest things that any man can do: create from nothing a church for antagonists who fall in love with Jesus who are then developed into people who love the gospel so much that they share it.
1. Busyness generates business.
“Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.” Proverbs 10:4
Glenn Smith has famously said, “Hope is not a strategy!” A church planter that enthusiastically works hard will be rewarded with a growing tribe of raving fans. The first step in funding your work is that you demonstrate some indication that God is up to something here. Investors want to get behind something that indicates a current reality of a growing network of relationships and team members joining the work.
2. It it’s going to be…it’s up to me…seriously.
Consider the ant…it has no commander, no overseer or ruler…” Proverbs 6:6
With no one looking over your shoulder or creating a task list or managing your work schedule, you get things done. The latest learnings on productivity and morale indicate three difference making factors: Autonomy, Self-mastery, and Purpose. Autonomy is a healthy independence. Mark Driscoll says a planter has to be “The Dude” when he comes to town. Self-mastery is having the EQ to understand how you roll and leaning into your strengths. Purpose is about the compelling nature of living with a sense of destiny received from God.
3. Gospel is an outside job.
“Prepare your work outside, afterwards then build your house…” Proverbs 24:27
Here’s the proper order: Engage culture, form community, and then start addressing ministry design. The hard work of understanding deeply who it is you wish to reach through serious cultural engagement is contrary to the Field of Dreams assumption that “if you build it, they will come.” There is nothing as beautiful as the feet of those who go outside, make friends with hundreds of people antagonistic to the gospel, and form community out of that company of the "unwashed." Afterwards then build your house.
4. Hunt…kill…cook…eat: in that order.
“The lazy man does not roast his game…” Proverbs 12:27
This is a funny proverb. My Texas hunter-gatherer friends totally get this metaphor. Can you imagine doing the hard work of hunting for your food and then letting it breed worms and stink before preparing it? It takes both starting skills AND sustaining skills to plant a prevailing church. How many times have I hunted down a great new strategy but never got around to executing it? By God's grace, I had some people around me who moved beyond starting to sustaining; they got the kill onto the stove...and onto the table.
5. Dreamers build castles in the sky…Doers collect the rent.
“The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.” Proverbs 13:4
Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators, was famously quoted as saying emotion is no substitute for action and action is no substitute for production. Dreamers come up with amazing ideas, but doers actually put together an actionable plan that clearly defines the win, and practices winning behaviors that get them there. Dreamers build good websites; listen to good podcasts, sit long, talk much. Doers build good communities; do the word, love the gospel so much that they share it every day.
6. Self-awareness wins the day.
“He who chases fantasies lacks judgment.” Prov 12:11
Plato said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Self-awareness is Daniel Goleman’s neuroscientific link between organizational success and a leader’s self-awareness. Self-awareness is the capacity one has to manage his or her own emotions and read the emotions of others. Every time we assess new planters, we meet some good bible teachers, many with high IQ but low EQ. Sadly, their lack of self-understanding disqualifies them as likely to succeed in planting a gospel centered church.
7. Never make excuses…ever.
The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside!” or, “I will be murdered in the streets!” Proverbs 22:13
The Sluggard never says, “Honestly, I don’t want to go outside because I’m lazy.” The sluggard looks for a calamitous excuse for not getting out and engaging people, or confronting sin, or dealing with conflict, or changing course or doing what needs to be done but will require courage. Such catastophizing tends to create anxiety that in turn fosters a vicious cycle of paralysis.
8. If you keep doing what you are doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.
"A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed -- without remedy." Proverbs 29:1
Dr. Phil’s take on this proverb: “How’s that workin’ for ya’?” The Leadership Pipeline explains that leaders must learn to adjust their behaviors, skills and time use to fit the next phase of their leadership path. (What got you through phase I will not get you to phase II, etc.) The great evangelist has got to adjust his identity to great organizer, and then to great disciplemaker, and then again to great manager, and so on with every transition. Learning to get the coaching you need to transition from evangelist to planner to promoter to organizer to disciple maker to leader of disciple makers is the key to getting the outcomes you desire.