Plumbline #13: Not Just Seating Capacity, But Sending Capacity

Plumblines are a series of short, pithy statements that we, at the Summit, use as rallying points for our staff. They are a way to encapsulate our theology and philosophy in short, memorable phrases.

Plumbline #13 is: “We measure our success by sending capacity as much as seating capacity.”

Jesus’ vision of the church was not a group of people gathered around one anointed leader, but multiple leaders going out in the power of the Spirit. The more I reflect on this, the more astounding it is: Jesus claimed that a multiplicity of Spirit-filled leaders would be greater than his earthly, bodily presence (John 14:12). That’s a strong claim. And before we begin to think that Jesus was being a bit hyperbolic, he goes ahead and calls our bluff—floating up to heaven and sending his Spirit instead. That’s really putting your money where your mouth is.

Recent business leaders have begun to make some similar claims about leadership—without, of course, the promise of an anointed, supernatural Spirit of God. Jim Collins, for instance, in Good to Great, points out how important it is for leaders to catalyze and create new leaders. In his insightful little taxonomy of leadership styles, I was struck by his designation of the “Genius With 1,000 Helpers.” On the face of it, this type of leader seems pretty impressive. He gets a lot done, and unlike many leaders who refuse to delegate, he includes a lot of other people in his process. In the church world, this is the pastor who—assisted by a large supporting team—can draw in crowds of thousands. Judged by seating capacity, he is an enormous success.

But the Genius With 1,000 Helpers never shares responsibility or authority. The vision stays with him, and even though a lot of others are involved, they never become leaders in their own right. However impressive his vision is, it’s got a ceiling. He can build an empire, but it’s got an expiration date. For a pastor, that means that despite the excitement of filling a stadium full of people, this type of leadership can’t keep the stadium full. And that’s the irony of it all: without raising up new leaders, the seats won’t stay full. Without sending people out, you won’t continue to draw people in.

That’s why we say: our success is measured by sending capacity as much as seating capacity. Following Jesus’ example, we recognize that the church is not a group of people gathered around a leader; it’s a leadership factory. We must be committed to engineering our churches to building up and sending out leaders. The more leaders we send out, the more leaders step up to take their places, because pushing out leaders creates more leaders.

At the Summit, we are committed to planting 1,000 churches in our generation. But to plant 1,000 churches, we need 1,000 church plantersBy God’s grace, we have already sent out over a dozen church planters—some of our best and most strategic leaders—to some of the most influential cities in the United States.

Might you be one of that thousand?


Interested in church planting? Want to take the plunge? The Summit Network is recruiting for its 2014/15 Church Planting Residency—a stellar training program for godly, gifted, & passionate leaders who feel called to church planting. Contact Josh Miller to find out more.

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