Take Off the Leash

July 31, 2017 — Leave A Comment

I’m excited to invite Alan Briggs to the blog this week! Alan is the Director of Frontline Church Planting, the Multiplying Pastor at Vanguard Church and the Lead Creative at Stay Forth Designs where he equips leaders and teams for health and kingdom impact. He’s a proud dad of four and a missionary to his neighborhood and city. His books Staying is the New Going (2015), Guardrails (2016), and Everyone’s a Genius (releasing in September) help leaders catch a bigger vision for their life. Learn more at AlanBriggs.net.

“We want to do something big for God in our community!” I started to grin as this couple in their early sixties beamed with the passion of teenagers. John has been an elder in our church and Sue has blessed countless people with her hospitality. They had twenty ones years of connection to their community. I’m pretty sure they’ve had half the town around their dinner table.

They shared a Macedonian Call of sorts back to the town they inhabited. They were ready to make greater sacrifices than ever before to see the gospel wreck and rebuild the people right around them. Their passion made me want to do a Tiger Woods fist pump. But I felt a twinge of something else. “Oh no!”, I thought. “Have we NOT already allowed them to do big things for God?!?” The truth is they had already been doing big things, and we all saw it. They had fleshed out a contagious and winsome gospel. They had unintentionally shepherded their town. John and Sue’s story is exciting, but it’s not an anomaly. There are people right under our noses who want to do something big, to take the plunge in the name of Jesus.

As a pastor I need to show you my poker hand; I don’t believe pastors will be the primary ones to transform communities in this age. Everyday folks like John and Sue will. This belief led me to coaching in addition to pastoring. At times that scary term “pastor” gets in the way of pulling genius out of people. Friends disengage from the conversation as they imagine me coaxing them into visiting hospitals, holding babies in the church nursery or crossing oceans to work among the poor.

Every follower of Jesus has the Spirit of God within them. Every human is created in the image of God. One of the most fulfilling things I get to do is watch people experience faith in Jesus and reimagine how their gifts can impact others. They might continue to make lots of money, lead lots of people, create lots of change or innovate lots of things, but the motivation shifts. This turns the key and unlocks their soul.

Those with the gift of hospitality often feel relegated to hosting church events in their home or working in the church café. Instead we can coach them to open their home as a respite for the lost, lonely and broken. Maybe instead of pouring lattes in the church café they’re supposed to start a café in the community.

To unleash anyone is to trust. I’m learning to trust the Almighty, who created them. I’m learning to trust the people who desperately want to discover how God fashioned them. We must take off the leash that’s been holding so many people back.

Perhaps our vision is too small. Perhaps our prayers too tiny. Perhaps our fear of preservation too gripping. A leashed congregation may be easier to lead and control, but that obsession with safety will lead a church on a journey to a slow, safe death. Unleashing God’s people and the creativity they possess is a risk, but a risk we simply must take. This is the time for a courageous church, not a fearful church. We need to coach and release people back into their communities.

The innovators, influencers, disruptors and change-makers are among us. Are we looking for them? There is massive opportunity in this moment. We must learn to recognize, to affirm, to coach and to release these gifted people back into our communities.

Excerpts of this post are borrowed from my book Everyone’s a Genius, which will release in September (but you can preorder it now!)

Michael Warden

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