Invest: Your Gifts for His Mission

Sutton Turner was the executive pastor at Mars Hill Church. His first book, Invest: Your Gifts for His Mission, was released by Resurgence Publishing. The following is from the foreword, by Pastor Mark Driscoll.

One of my grandfathers was a red potato farmer. The other was a diesel mechanic. My dad was a construction worker. Jesus saved me in college while studying communication. As you might have gathered, my family can change our own oil, but we can’t organize a profit-and-loss statement. I made it through college without a clue about anything related to money, stewardship, or organizational structuring.

Sensing a call to ministry, I started studying the Bible intently. I read big books with footnotes and enjoyed it. I got married in college, and then graduated. Eventually, I interned at a church and then planted my own church while pursuing a master’s degree in theology. I started an organization and got an MA degree, still without any clue about the practical side of leadership and working on an organization, not just in one. It’s a miracle I did not end up doing prison ministry from the inside.

My family can change our own oil, but we can’t organize a profit-and-loss statement.

As the years rolled on, my ability to preach and teach the Bible grew. My ability to pastor people grew. But my ability to run an organization did not. I did not know how to deal with issues such as fundraising, real estate, organizing people, cash flow, payroll, budgeting, legalities—pretty much anything not clearly in the Bible or related to dealing with a sinful or suffering person. I was totally unprepared for more than half of ministry.

And as our ministry grew, things got worse and worse. As our church grew, I just worked harder. At one point, I had over twenty direct reports, an intestinal ulcer, blown adrenal glands, and my body was so burned I literally could not stop working and fall asleep. I was about ready to stop talking about Jesus and just go to heaven to talk with him. I was in my thirties, and old men felt sorry for me.

OUT OF BALANCE

In high school, I played football and baseball with a guy who diligently hit the weight room day after day and only worked on his upper body. He literally never worked his legs. Eventually his upper body looked like an action figure and his lower body looked like a set of chopsticks. One day, I watched the guy literally fall over for no reason. He was completely out of balance.

When it came to leadership, I was like that. And since organizations tend to reflect the strengths and weaknesses of their leaders, our church was like that. To make matters worse, since like attracts like, I ended up with a bunch of leaders who were like me: Lots of people who wanted to write, preach, teach, and debate theology, but nothing but skinny legs when it came to anything else. We could debate theology with nerdtastic skill, but good luck finding an org chart or spreadsheet saying how many days of cash we had on hand.

Organizations tend to reflect the strengths and weaknesses of their leaders

I am a prophet. I preach, teach, and write. Prophets attract a crowd. Priests then step up to love and serve the crowd. But unless a king shows up, the big crowd is just a big mess. We were a big mess—a Bible-believing, Jesus-serving, church-planting, convert-making, media-garnering mess. And we were about ready to fall over if we did not start working our legs.

In God’s grace, the King of kings sent us some kings. We don’t have it all together, but we are working our legs.

PASTORS, WE NEED HELP

In reading this, most pastors will think something like, “Thankfully, I’m not like Mark.” Most pastors are just like me. They are just in denial. If ministry fails, most pastors will not be taking jobs as a CEO, CFO, COO, or leading a division such as marketing or sales for a large company.

Most will become counselors, teachers, and give their life to people and/or ideas somewhere down the food chain in a large organization.

We need help. We don’t need more people like us in leadership. We need people with experience that is different from ours, skills that are different from ours, and education that varies from ours. We need to be humble enough to admit that just because we get to teach the Bible for a living doesn’t mean we do not also have a lot to learn—and some of it is from the general revelation and common grace that the Bible tells us to also learn from. The rest is littered in the Scriptures, in places like Proverbs and Jesus’ parables on stewardship. And while we will do fine exegeting the Hebrew and Greek text, we are more likely to walk on water than translate those principles into organizational action.

If ministry fails, most pastors will not be taking jobs as a CEO, CFO, COO, or leading a division of a large company.

Dear Bible Guy, please don’t be yet another nerd who prooftexts verses on lovers of money, lording it over like the Gentiles with curse words like “pragmatism” and “it’s all about the numbers” criticisms. Stop using God’s Word as a defense to keep working the upper body and ignoring the legs. Your church body needs some legs, just like ours does.

I’m deeply thankful for Pastor Sutton and his gifts. He’s being pretty humble in this new book. He’s a Joseph, sent as the former CEO to run an empire for a sheik. For him, running our little church is like playing T-ball for Babe Ruth. But he loves Jesus, the church, and our people. He’s helped a ton. He’s helping us get our legs. And if the guys like me would take counsel from guys like him to heart, the King of kings might even send them a king to multiply the vision God has given them, thanks to some legs built for a good hard run up the next hill.

 

Since the closing of Mars Hill Church, the author will continue to make the book available and also release the book in the future with updated content.  

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