Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pastoral leadership perspective #3: He's a visionary

Anthony Payton, Come As You Are  Community Church
I once bumped into Pastor Anthony Payton at Starbucks. My friend Brooke and I were sitting right behind his table, chatting away about seminary stuff, and womanhood, and who knows what else. We were going a hundred miles an hour. I can't imagine what he must have been thinking of us as he tried to prepare his sermon for the following Sunday.

When I went to the restroom, Brooke struck up a conversation with him, and the rest is history. We learned he was working on a series titled "God's got an app for that," and we talked about seminary and ministry...and how God moved him from the mental health field to start a church. I think there were 12 people at the beginning, including his own family. Fifteen years later, there are about 600 people. As you can imagine, God took Anthony Payton's "OK, Lord," and ran with it.

Specifically, God built Rev. Payton as a visionary and an entrepreneur—and through an amazing story of recovery from addiction and faith in Christ, he gave him a platform and a ministry.

On Vision:
As Pastor Payton pointed out, churches that are predominately African-American in attendance tend to be pastor-centric, or based on the pastor's vision and leadership. For Anthony, this meant spending one week alone praying for God's vision for the ministry before it even started. The mission statement is reviewed every  Sunday morning: Teaching saved souls to reach lost souls, by becoming fully devoted followers of Christ. The vision hasn't changed, except as it is influenced by the people the church had versus those they now have. For seven years, they sang with taped tracks only, a great sacrifice for their church. They started in a 3,000 square foot building, and now they own a 12,000 sf building where they lease out space to a charter school to pay down their debt. Anthony's goal: to transform their neighborhood as "their Jerusalem"—using the church's resources to reach people in their local area.

On Mentoring:
Not many people can say they've been training their eventual replacement for five years. Anthony has. In fact, he believes it's every pastor's responsibility to mentor his or her replacement. He also mentors young pastors in Brazil through mission trips, and he works to stay connected with the younger generation in his church, and to encourage their men and women in mentoring opportunities. Anthony believes he spends 75-80% of his time developing leaders.

On Being a Change Agent in the Community:
Anthony's vision to create a welcoming church that would become multicultural continues. That's why he sought out a retired Caucasian pastor and regularly invites people of different ethnicities into the church doors. When the church had the opportunity to buy an abandoned building, they did--then rented it out to businesses run by people of different ethnic groups. His philosophy: develop fully-devoted followers of Christ to launch them out to other places and ministries, as God calls.

Anthony's current challenge? Stop the flow of vision for awhile so the Lord can send people to administrate and oversee the ministries currently in place. While he waits, he continues to guide through his primary ministry of teaching and preaching.

Current leadership reading list:
The Law of Respect by John Maxwell
21 Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell
The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork by John Maxwell
favorite pick: The Key Principles to Take Your Business from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Frank I. Luntz

For pastoral leadership perspectives #1 and #2, click below:
perspective #1, Carla: She's a connector
perspective #2, Jim: He's an innovator

What are your thoughts on a pastor-centric church versus an elder-or-congregation led church? What other visionary/entrepreneurial opportunities have worked for a church near you? 


  1. Thanks for this series, Suzanne. Interesting questions too. It short, I have found a pastor-centric church to be dangerous. I understand that some elder-led Presbyterian churches do quite well. I don't think a congregation church is a "model" to seek after either. In short, we must be sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit and organize the church needed for the particular community that it is serving. There needs to be accountability so that all of us are guarded to resist temptation.

  2. Natasha, agree with all you've stated. There is a context for everything. What I do believe is that our churches should be orderly, with built-in accountability so that we stay on-mission according to God's Word.