35 Values I Wish I Had Possessed When I Started Pastoring 10 Years Ago

Posted by Pastor J.D. on November 25, 2011

People often ask me what I wish I had known when I started pastoring 10 years ago. This list represents 35 different things, ranging from the spiritual to the mundane.

[Update, June 2016]: We had previously called this our list of “plumb lines.” Plumb lines are a series of short, pithy statements that we, at the Summit, use as rallying points–both for our staff and for the entire church. Since I first posted this, we’ve consolidated and changed our list of plumb lines quite a bit (which you can now view here). So consider these a time capsule of our past “plumb lines in training.”


                1. The gospel is not just the diving board, it’s the pool. Christians grow not by going beyond the gospel, but deeper into the gospel.
                2. People are the mission.
                3. Jesus commanded us to make disciples, not converts.
                4. Discipleship happens in relationship.
                5. God’s strategy for completing the Great Commission is planting churches in strategic cities.
                6. The church is God’s demonstration community.
                7. The church is God’s plan A.
                8. Belief unlocks the power for the mission of God.
                9. The church is not an audience; it is an army.
                10. The week is just as important as the weekend.
                11. The best ministry ideas are in the congregation.
                12. The Great Commission is completed through multiplication, not addition.
                13. We measure our success by sending capacity as much as seating capacity.
                14. Stay where you are; serve where you live; let’s be the church in your community (a value we promote in our multi-site strategy).
                15. We multiply congregations, not preaching points (another value for multi-site).
                16. Each small group should function like a small congregation.
                17. People come because of quality and options; they stay because of personalization.
                18. Those who serve are just as important as those you serve.
                19. Live sufficiently, give extravagantly.
                20. Generosity is contagious, and so is stinginess.
                21. The sermon starts in the parking lot.
                22. In light of global lostness, excellence must be balanced by “good enough”.
                23. Word of mouth is the best advertisement.
                24. Just because “we can” doesn’t mean “we should”.
                25. Humility is shown by openness to the ideas of others.
                26. Believe the best about others.
                27. Move with the movers.
                28. Nod to fashion; don’t embrace (especially as you age).
                29. Preach the announcements (announcements are – or ought to be – how our people apply the mission).
                30. Love is the most essential element of leadership.
                31. Pushing out leaders creates more leaders.
                32. You replicate what you celebrate.
                33. It is easier to get 1 volunteer out of 3 than 3000: Make people feel like you are talking to them personally.
                34. One size rarely fits all.
                35. When I’m sick of saying it, the staff has just heard it. When they’re sick of hearing it, the church has just become aware of it.

Pastor J.D.


J.D. Greear is pastor of The Summit Church, in Raleigh-Durham, NC and author of Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (2011) and Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (2013). More

14 responses to 35 Values I Wish I Had Possessed When I Started Pastoring 10 Years Ago

  1. at the risk of sounding stupid, were you referring to fashion as in clothing, hair, etc. in number 28?

  2. Great list.
    I can even cope with the ubiquitous nod to ‘the city’.
    Umm. Were the two sentences in 35 meant to be 35 and 36?

  3. Thanks for sharing this list. Your insights and learnings are extremely helpful. I also wanted to say thanks for writing GOSPEL. Read it 4 hours and loved it. I’m planning on going back and rereading it to soak it all in again. Thanks for your ministry!

  4. solid. thanks jd! gonna bookmark this in case the Lord leads me down the path of ministry!

  5. This was like reading Richard Baxter; read a line, let it sink in. Read a line, let it sink in.

  6. Nah, it is indeed 35. The last plumbline indicates that a pastor shouldn’t give up too early. It’s easy to have the vision and state it. But once that is done…it is NOT DONE. The staff won’t embrace it for a while, so the pastor has to keep repeating it.

    And even when the staff has embraced it, we (the “dumb sheep” congregation) still have a long ways to go toward internalizing it.

    The pastor should not assume that once something is stated or taught, it has been internalized. I don’t know why it takes so long, but maybe it has to do with being dumb sheep, or maybe it is a recognition that the Holy Spirit has actually been working it into the pastor’s life and thoughts for quite a while before he ever utters it a staff member.

    Grace and glory,

  7. If I might add one…

    * Celebrate the Lord’s supper weekly, and do so with wine and bread which Christ said is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Both historically and Scripturally, this is one central thing Christ’s Apostles taught the gathered church to do together. The gospel is not proclaimed by word only. ‘For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.’

    I’m new to the area, and I’m quickly noticing a trend. Four times a year, or perhaps once a month in the particularly devout congregations I visit, they may turn off their $60,000 sound system for long enough to partake of little cheap juice and a crumb of cracker. He said ‘do *this* in remembrance of me,’ about one thing people, and he didn’t stutter.

  8. JD, thank you for this list. I’m a new senior pastor after 16 years in student ministry and I found this list very helpful, reminding, and convicting. Thank you for your faithfulness to Him, His church, and to those of us who are beginning the pastorate.

  9. What does 15 mean? What does multiplying preaching points mean?

  10. Yes, Terence, #28 refers to all that. IMO, too many pastors are trying to be way too cool and they end up being showy or just downright ridiculous. My wife tells me that I should nod to fashion, but not try to call attention to myself in how I dress.

    Scott, #15 means that in our multi-site strategy we are trying to create more local and more personal congregations, filled with people who know and are known, not just venues where we can gather an audience to hear me preach and watch a show. If the multi-site movement has any value in it, imo, it is in making the church “smaller,” more accessible, more personal, and more pastoral.

  11. agreed!! too many “affliction” t-shirts and blazers going around…

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Thirty-six Pastoral Values From J.D. Greear | mgpcpastor's blog - November 25, 2011

    [...] J.D. Greear provides thirty-six ‘plumblines’, values he’s picked up over ten years of pastoring which he wishes he’d had from the beginning. Including the now ubiquitous nod to ‘the city’ there’s a lot of well phrased wisdom here. Yes, I know there are only thirty-five. Weird, huh? (I think 35 was meant to be 35 and 36.) People ask me what I wish I’d known when I started pastoring. Here are 36 of them. At our church we call them plumblines. Plumblines are guides to our decision-making. These are the values we pursue as we follow Jesus. [...]

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