Developing New Leaders (with Terry Virgo)

Terry Virgo is the founder of Newfrontiers, a church planting family of churches that currently numbers around 1,500 churches in over 70 nations.  In this hangout, Terry draws on his years of ministry experience to share with us a Biblical approach to developing new leaders for our churches and church plants.


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How Jesus Appointed Leaders

  • It says in Mark 3:13-15 that Jesus "went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him." And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons."
  • The setting is important. In Mark's gospel, whenever Jesus goes up a mountain there is something significant happening. This shows us that raising up leaders is very important to Jesus. He did gather a large crowd, but his eyes were on the leaders. We are told in Luke's account of the same events that Jesus prayed all night before appointing them.
  • Jesus invited the leaders that he wanted. It wasn't a democracy. Leaders take the initiative in choosing more leaders. We shouldn't let others (or religious heirarchies) make the choices for us.
  • Jesus chose those that he desired. Appointing leaders isn't a casual thing. There is an analogy to marriage - you should pray about it, but it's also good to go with somebody that you like! There is no problem in working with the people that you like working with. Paul chose Timothy in a similar way.
  • Jesus called them to himself. This wasn't a call to a Bible college or a statement of faith. There is something crucial about raising people into relationship. In the Old Testament, people came over 'to David'.
  • Jesus 'appointed' twelve. This word carries a sense of 'formed' or 'created'. What Jesus is doing is creating a new thing. When we plant a church we are doing something similar - we are creating a culture. The relationships between the leaders create the culture, and then others are added in to this.
  • Jesus called very different types of people (for example, there was a zealot and a tax collector). We need a team that is made up of different kinds of people, not just clones of ourselves. They create a culture of love acceptance in the church by loving and accepting each other. 
  • You can handle a storm on the edge of the church, but you don't want there to be a storm at the centre of the church.
  • We need to create environments where people have the freedom to speak their mind on key issues.
  • The men that were called were apprenticed. In our day, we tend to send people to Bible colleges, but Jesus took people as his apprentices. It is as they shared in his life and his ministry that they were raised up (see Hebrews 13:7).
  • We can teach people as we do things. You can learn doctrine in a school, but to learn how to pray you need a leader.
  • Jesus appointed them to do the things that he had been doing. This wasn't just a training position but real authority.
  • Take people with us as we do things so that they can see us doing it, and then create a context where they can do it and bring our appraisal and correction. Finally release them to do it themselves by planting new churches and new congregations.
“I'd rather put ten men to work than do the work of ten men.” (D.L. Moody)

Q&A

1. Can you avoid being a generalist in the early days of a church plant by giving responsibilities away?
  • It is better to be involved in most things at the start - you want to put your stamp on how things are done.
  • Being involved in a lot of things models a servant heart to your church.
  • People don't always understand the importance of little things (such as how the chairs are arranged).
  • In time, people will start taking certain tasks from you.
  • If you absolutely don't have a skill (for example, doing the P.A., then you need someone else doing that straight away).
2. Can you give examples of difficult decisions that you needed to make about who to invest in as leaders?
  • You are looking for transparency in people. Be wary if people seem to be coming with their own agenda.
  • On one occasion, Terry Virgo felt pushed to form a team before he was ready by somebody who he sensed ambition in. He was cautious, and when he did eventually form a team he didn't invite that person to be part of it.
  • There was another man who came with people already looking to him as their leader, and so he assumed that Terry would automatically bring him on to the team. Again, Terry was wary.
  • You need to be able to read a person's personality, character and motivation.
  • Ask yourself whether you feel safe around a person.
3. How do you invest in leaders in the early stage of a church, knowing that people with a greater measure of gifting may come through at a later point?
  • Be transparent with people. 
  • Ask them to help you with things as they are at the moment, but don't be too quick to give people titles.
  • As more gifted people come in, there will need to be adjustments. 
  • Good friendships with people really help.
4. What advice do you have for integrating people onto your team who see things in a different way to you?
  • Having a personal rapport with people is a good thing (Jesus chose those who he desired, after all).
  • But it is also important to learn to work with a breadth of people. 
  • As long as the person doesn't have a different agenda, and you know that they are for you, you can work with them and celebrate the diversity of gifting.
5. What gifts or other attributes do you look for in a church planting team?
  • Acceptance of one another.
  • Willingness to forgive.
  • The leader should look out for where relationship strife could come and try to nip it in the bud.
  • It is possible to build relationships that make everybody dependent on you - but this isn't really building a team.
6. In a church planting context, what does it look like to ask people to make a commitment?
  • We aren't looking for this initially - we are looking to build friendships and easy relationships with people.
  • At some point, there does need to be an acknowledgement of 'we're in'.
  • You shouldn't keep asking people over and over to commit - this makes things way too intense.
7. Would you invite somebody who hasn't been a Christian for long to be a leader?
  • Being around for a long time doesn't necessarily imply maturity.
  • Try to spend some time with them and get to know them.
  • Maturity comes from good choice and good responses to things that God is doing in them.
8. What advice would you give to someone who has never built a team before?
  • Get close to people and start by forming friendships.
9. What is the role of prophecy in developing leaders?
  • It hasn't been a big part of Terry Virgo's experience.
  • Where people have words over them, encourage it. 
  • But sometimes people may have words that are not from God. Ask whether you have peace about it or are nervous in your spirit.
  • Terry Virgo has noticed that sometimes travelling prophets come in, give some really big words over people and then eave, and it can actually bind people rather than release them.
  • Terry tends to place more stock in the personality, character and work rate of the person.

Recommended Resources

Terry Virgo has written many books, all of which we would recommend. These include: 

Note - If you buy these books using the affiliate links above, Broadcast will receive a commission from Amazon to help more churches get planted, at no additional cost to you.