Pastor, Not Entrepreneur

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Imagine being on a first date with someone who spent the whole evening emphasizing a love for Mario Brothers. Imagine being served by a chef who emphasizes how good a store-brand steak sauce is. Or imagine riding with a helicopter pilot who emphasizes how new he is to flying.

Emphasis matters.

When it came to making disciples and planting churches, Jesus or Paul never emphasized being entrepreneurial. It’s true, they believe hell is real and that making disciples and planting churches is desperately urgent. Yet this never led them to highlight industriousness or creativity for church planters. Instead, they emphasized character (1 Tim. 3:1–7, Titus 1:5–8), conviction (1 Tim. 4:1–4, Titus 1:9), and capability (1 Tim. 3:2) for church planters. They underlined the need for men who taught the gospel faithfully and embodied that message in their daily lives.

They emphasized character, capability, and conviction because they knew a few things we tend to forget. They knew that the devil prowled and was powerful. They knew that the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak. And they knew the world was enticing.

The first church planters knew, as Jesus taught, that several kinds of soils produce people who profess faith in Christ but bear no fruit. Only one kind of soil produces believers who will endure (Mark 4:1–20). The Lord loses none of his sheep, but the attrition rate for those who profess Christ in the world is high. Therefore, the apostles emphasized planting churches with men who were sturdy, not men with creativity or charisma who planted with straw.


Martin Luther famously wrote a book amidst the early fires of the Reformation entitled The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. In it he critiques the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church. I wonder if someone should write a book entitled, “The Business Captivity of the Church.” The author could expose contemporary people’s trust in their industry to produce kingdom results.

I once participated in a church planting ministry’s vetting of potential planters where the thrust of the time was spent evaluating the potential planter’s ability to start something from nothing. They had to write out their calling and vision, present it, and defend it. They had a “speed dating” exercise where they were asked questions and evaluated by how they answered. This same organization has also asked planter candidates to present their work to the tune of music from the business reality television show Shark Tank.

Emphasis matters.

It’s hard to find a church planting book, conference, or website where the word “entrepreneur” doesn’t come up quickly. It’s not a sinister word or concept in and of itself. It’s sometimes helpful. But the frequent use of the word often points to a goal of getting church plants to grow as fast as possible for the sake of financial security and multiplication. These two things become the evaluative lenses by which planters are assessed.

To be sure, we should all want financial security and multiplication, but by emphasizing the fruit of ministry, you run the risk of de-emphasizing the root of ministry: a heart for God and his people.

Emphasizing the acumen of Wall Street and the values of Silicon Valley in what to look for in a planter distracts us from paying attention to the New Testament’s emphases—who a man is.


Think of the story of the three little pigs. The first two quickly build houses of straw and sticks and make fun of the third pig who painstakingly builds with bricks. They make fun, that is, until the wolf blows down their houses and they retreat to the bricks.

We need churches made of bricks. We need planters who are assessed on what Paul emphasizes. We need sturdy churches led by men with spines of steel and hearts of compassion. We need pastors, not entrepreneurs.


There’s one more thing Jesus emphasized that we overlook in evaluating church planters. Not only should our evaluations emphasize character, capability, and conviction; we should also emphasize a planter’s love.

At the conclusion of his church planting residency, Jesus asked his lead planter three times if he loved him. As Peter responded positively each time, our Lord answered by telling him to feed and tend his sheep (John 21:15–19).

Love for Christ leads to compassionate care for the sheep he purchased with his own blood. This was Jesus’s final evaluation as he commissioned Peter to go out and plant churches, a call that Peter was evidently struck by, as he commanded it to the dispersion later (1 Pet. 5:1–4).

Love is not efficient in the business sense. It’s willing to finish last now for the sake of finishing first in the end. Love is slow—it’s patient. Love is kind—not pushy. Love does not insist on its own way—it insists on the Lord’s way of bearing crosses, not earthly crowns. Love sees the people it’s preaching to and praying for. Love doesn’t look for crowds built quickly, but a people built intentionally together. This kind of love never fails—ever (1 Cor. 13:1–8).

It is for this reason that Paul counsels his young disciple Timothy that our aim is love which issues from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (1 Tim. 1:5). Our driving passion for moving into a community to start a church is not to get things going as quickly as possible—it’s to love. Love for Christ and love for his blood-bought sheep.

Therefore, planter-pastor, aim at love when you set out to start a new assembly for Christ. Love the character of Christ, love the convictions of Christ, and plead for the capability to proclaim Christ in that love. Then love Christ by feeding and tending his sheep. Whatever comes as a result of that will be enough. Because this kind of love never fails.

Nathan Knight

Nathan Knight is the pastor of Restoration Church in Washington, D.C.

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