Pastor Craig Groeschel discussed the importance of moving from a self-reliant style of leadership to one of being empowered by the Holy Spirit during the Exponential West conference at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, on Wednesday.
Groeschel's message focused on his experience as pastor of Life Church, a multi-campus congregation in Oklahoma, and the trials he had to endure before realizing that the Holy Spirit needed to work in his life before he could lead a church.
"Church planters have a choice to be self reliant or spirit empowered ... Sometimes we try to lead out of our own ability but we forget about the power, the presence and the voice of God," Groeschel said.
He added, "As a church planter, someone involved in moving forward the greatest entity on earth, you need to understand that you'll have resistance from the evil one and you don't want to be just a great leader, you want to be a spirit empowered leader."
Groeschel recounted how many people told him that he was too young and that Oklahoma didn't need another church when he was beginning his church 18 years ago.
During that time, he said he faced much opposition which continued when he decided his church was going to become a multi-campus congregation and also when he launched the YouVersion Bible app.
Through those experiences, Groeschel learned that the Holy Spirit plays a role in making leaders bold enough to stand against any opposition. He also noted that individuals who are not ready to face opposition, are not ready to be in a leadership position.
"You have to have the courage to take the first step when you hear from God because You have no idea what you set into motion when you obey the voice of God. Extraordinary acts of God usually start by ordinary acts of people," Groeschel said.
He also spoke about the "scariest moment" he endured early on while church planting. He said that he was just starting out and a man in the congregation began teaching erroneous doctrine during small group meetings, which Groeschel admonished him not to do. The man continued spreading his teachings to the members and threatened to take a third of them to begin a church, which he eventually did.
"I was devastated but I learned that you're going to be tested early on in your leadership. But will you run or do the right thing, even if it costs you a lot in the short term? The Holy Spirit will give you power to stand strong and lead your ministry where He wants it to go," Groeschel said.
He added, "The reality is opposition can come in so many forms. They can tweet about you or opposition can come through health, your marriage or finances but every now and then you have to find courage within the Holy Spirit."
He also noted that many church planters are often led by their intuition when church planting. He said he was cautious about not following this same pattern because he knew his ministry would have been limited.
Prior to launching his church, Groschel and his wife Amy went to Pastor Greg Laurie's church service to visit. At the time, Christian singer Crystal Lewis was also in attendance and sang 'Come Just As You Are' during the altar call which Groschel said moved him because the song was representative of his situation.
A few weeks later, he was driving and praying for guidance on whether he should begin the church or not when the same song came on the radio. That was the moment Groschel said he knew he was called to plant the church.
During his time of prayer, Groeschel said he did not have all the details he needed to feel secure in launching the church. In the same manner, God does not reveal why He calls individuals to ministry, He just expects obedience, Groschel explained.
"If God gives you details, you wouldn't obey the voice of God. He's going to give you just enough to do what he calls you to do," Groeschel said. "His word is a lamp unto your feet, a light unto your path. If I have a lamp unto my feet, I can only see two or three steps in front of me, not four, five or six."
Groeschel also said one of the most obvious results of God speaking to him was during a time when the church did not have the resources for a location.
He recounted how he felt prompted to pull into a church that was also struggling to pray for them one day. He sat in the parking lot of the church for an hour just praying and the next week, the church called him and asked if he would be their pastor.
After declining their offer, the church told him that they felt the need to be under his leadership. Although the church was not struggling financially, in fact, they were debt free, Groeschel said they had great need and exactly a month later after praying in the parking lot, the congregation joined Life Church and the building became their new property.
That experience was just another reason why Groeschel began to believe in the importance of being in a spirit-led leadership position and it is why he now encourages church planters to seek the same.
"You don't just lead by intuition or natural leadership, you seek the heart of God and when His spirit speaks to you and prompts you, you just have to take steps one, two and three and trust God for steps four, five and six," Groeschel said.