66% is a “D”. We Don’t Need “D” Church Planters

Actually, it’s an F where I’m from.

What kind of work is church planting? What does it take to be an effective church planter? How should we assess church planter candidates?


Todd Henry describes 3 types of work in his new book Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day(It appears he also blogged about it here.)

  1. Mapping: This is what you do before rolling up your sleeves and doing ‘actual work’. But it’s still work. It’s the important, non-urgent work that determines what kinds of work you should be doing. It’s the act of discerning between merely urgent things and truly important things. It’s planning and conceiving, incubating and sketching, whiteboarding and prioritizing, envisioning and preparing.
  2. Making: This is the deliberate tackling of a task list. It’s the act that produces something you can point proudly to at the end of a day, week, month, or year, and say “yep—I made that.” It’s follow-through. It’s often urgent, and it should be important. But by the time you’re in the throes of Making, it’s rather late to be making those distinctions, because when you’re making, your head is down and you’re banging away at something till it’s done. Till it’s made.
  3. Meshing: This is the ineffable work of synthesizing the work you’re doing on a number of fronts by making note of their interrelations. It’s the act of aligning your various callings so that there is synergy and integrity between them. It’s the work of discovering, by reflecting on the work while you’re not mired in the work, exactly what sort of person you are, and might become. It’s the slow arrival to consciousness of your emerging legacy.

Which kind of work are you predisposed toward?


My ‘boss’, the fella who chairs the committee that oversees my church planting work, once said to someone, and I quote: “Just plant the stinking church.” What is he getting at?

Todd Henry says that …

  • … if you Map and Make, but don’t Mesh, you’re a Driver. You can get things done, and often the right things. But you fail to become a more effective human being. You’re too busy ‘accomplishing’ to become truly accomplished. You might actually be a decent church planter with this mix of competencies—even if you never become a Tim Keller.

And then there’s two work ruts that seem to plague church planters.

  • … if you Make and Mesh, but don’t Map, you are a Drifter. You end up with a thousand little ideas in no particular order. Some of them see the light of day, but most of them are abandoned after the initial fun of dabbling wears off. “Dabbling”. That’s essentially Mapless Making. You see the big picture and you are a well-rounded human being. But you don’t ultimately never decide which ideas should become projects and which of them were simply brain exercises.
  • … if you Map and Mesh, you are a Dreamer. You have many ideas about many important things, but you’re all forest and no trees. Instead of a thousand unfinished projects, you almost never begin anything. In the creative economy, we can fool ourselves into thinking that we can be cerebral and visionary without ever undertaking something that has an explicit beginning, middle, and end.

I’m sometimes the Drifter, sometimes the Dreamer, just in case you were curious. So I’m often a well-rounded fella who fails to distinguish important from unimportant work (Mapping) or who fails to actually get to work (Making).

We need to honestly determine whether we are prone to be a Driver, Drifter, or Dreamer. And once we do, we need to determine who to let into our life in order to challenge us to include the type of work we love to exclude from our personal workflow. Do you have a sidekick who covers that base for you? Do you have a coach who can call BS when you’re excusing yourself for not owning all 3 types of work? Are we who assess church planting candidates prepared to spot Drivers, Drifters, and Dreamers? Do we have the guts to flunk them, or at least send them ‘back to the minors’, if their work-neglect habits are acute? 2 out of 3 is 66%. We don’t want D-level workers planting churches.

Die Empty is all about making the unique contribution that you were put on planet earth to make. It’s about moving from being a Driver, Drifter, or Dreamer toward becoming a true Developer. And this is what church planters ought to be: developers. We ought to be people who determine what counts as valuable work, people who do that work, and people who become better people because they integrate their It’s narcissistic to obsess about your legacy. But it’s just plain obedience to be faithful across all three dimensions of work, in order that you might be, at the end of your life, counted a fruitful servant of Jesus.

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