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February 22, 2018

A Lifetime of Leadership Lessons

By Daniel Im

A lifetime of leadership lessons

Larry Osborne started his life of ministry by leading two youth ministries to their largest numbers in church history. Then, at the age of 28, he became the pastor of North Coast Church in Vista, California. At the time, North Coast was a new church plant that had been open 18 months. It had about 70 adults in attendance. Under his leadership, it attracted many young families and quickly grew to approximately 150 in attendance, 95 of those being adults. Over the next three years, their attendance grew to 151. Yes, you read that correctly. 151. Just one more than three years prior.

Larry speaks openly about that time calling those years the Dark Years. At the end of those three years, Larry recalls two things that happened: first, he realized that spiritually the mental math that was making him depressed would have also caused him to be arrogant if the numbers had gone the other way. And second, once he made that realization, he could take better care of the people in his congregation. Larry began to dream of simply doing ministry well. Growing within his capabilities. Not simply trying to force his church to grow larger without focusing on relationship and discipleship. Adjusting his dream to fit his capabilities has proved to be fruitful for the ministry of North Coast church. They are now a multisite ministry that reaches over 11,000 in weekend attendance.

Avoid the monorail

Early in his career at North Coast, Larry found himself confusing leadership development and discipleship—morphing the two into one. In a healthy church atmosphere, leadership development and discipleship create the two rails the church needs to run on. When they are morphed into one—a monorail—the train easily tips over. Leaning to one side creates arrogant leaders that get mad at every disciple who doesn’t want to become a leader. Leaning to the other side creates despairing people who feel like they won’t ever measure up because they aren’t wired to lead.

“Most leaders, when it comes to discipleship, assume that the path that led us closer to Jesus is the path that everybody else must take. Guess what? My path of discipleship led me to be a leader. So next thing I know I wanted everybody else to become a leader. That was a big mistake,” said Larry.

Focus on the building blocks

There are several core values that come into play when a church is building their leadership team. Education, experience, character, and work ethic are just a few. Larry likes focus on character and work ethic primarily. “I’d rather get you on the way up and get you training on the job, because when you train on the job you understand what you are learning.” Larry recommends looking not for the hyper-qualified but instead for those who are gifted and who are walking with Jesus.

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  • “The body of Christ is not an illustration or a theological construct. It’s a reality. If I’m going to develop leaders, I really have to understand, ears will never see, and eyes will never speak.”-@LarryOsborne
  • “I failed to shepherd the flock I had because I wanted to use them to reach the sheep I wanted to reach.”-@LarryOsborne
  • “I think it’s really common for us to have a vision from God and assume everybody else exists to either fund it or fuel it.”-@LarryOsborne
  • “Staff stay for relationships. Volunteers stay for relationships. They sign up for the job, but stay for the relationships.”-@LarryOsborne


Daniel Im

Daniel Im (@danielsangi) is the Senior Associate Pastor of Beulah Alliance Church, a multiplying multisite church focused on reaching 1% of Edmonton for Christ. His latest book is You Are What You Do: And Six Other Lies about Work, Life, and Love. He is also the author of No Silver Bullets and co-author of Planting Missional Churches. He co-hosts the New Churches Q&A Podcast, as well as the IMbetween Podcast. He has an M.A. in Global Leadership and has served and pastored in church plants and multisite churches ranging from 100 people to 50,000 people in Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Korea, Edmonton, and Nashville. Because of their love for the local church, after pioneering and leading the church multiplication initiative for LifeWay, Daniel and his wife, Christina, moved back to Canada with their three children. For more information, visit danielim.com and follow him on social media @danielsangi.


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