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The Five Tier Leadership strategy is not original to me.

It was made most popular by John Maxwell.  As John taught it, the strategy was used mostly for business leadership, but it can be applied to any organizational structure.

BILD, International has developed an application (See page 9 on this PDF) for church planting movements which is based on John Maxwell’s pyramidal form.  But application might not be the best word, because this strategy was being used in a lot of the Christian world even before John Maxwell came out with his idea.  BILD, Intl simply described what was happening in successful movements and presented it in an organized format which could help other leaders.

Successful Movements

basketballI should qualify the word successful when I say, “successful movements”.  In America, it’s actually pretty hard to imagine success in the same terms that was evident in the Early Church and is now happening in the Global South (South America, Africa, and South and Southeast Asia).

I’ll be quick to say that numbers are not the most important thing when it comes to success.  But when the Holy Spirit is moving, large-scale conversion happens.  And the churches which result have to be established fully to view it as successful.

That being said…

For us in the states, it’s nothing short of a miracle to be able to say that God used you and your network to plant 4 or 5 churches.

But in the Early Church, some say that Paul himself planted 16-20 churches, with each developing its own leaders who planted in surrounding areas.  But if you count both Paul and his team, they planted churches which saturated much of North Africa, Palestine, Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy.

In the Global South today, you’re talking about people who have planted tens of thousands of churches through their network.  I’ve personally met leaders from India and China whose networks span their entire countries.  And they structure themselves by the leadership development strategy put forward by BILD, Intl (which is really just a reiteration of Paul’s team’s structure).

When the #HolySpirit is moving, large-scale conversion happens. Click To Tweet

The Five Tier Strategy

writingThe following is my own summary of BILD, Intl’s strategy.

And I should say this:  in America, we tend to think in too small of terms (which could be one reason be why we don’t see the same kind of success as the Global South today).  We think of elders and pastors as the top level leadership.  And we shoot ourselves in the foot because we aren’t thinking large enough.

The Tier system might seem at first glance hierarchical, but it’s not about power.  It’s about networking.  The higher tiers don’t necessarily get to tell the lower tiers what to do.  They might bring in authoritative teaching which could be standard for all tiers, but the goal is effective leadership development and sharing of resources.  There is relationship and give-and-take, where hierarchies would simply require obedience.

We shoot ourselves in the foot because we aren't thinking large enough. #faith Click To Tweet

Tier 1:  Grassroots

These will be your small group leaders, heads of households, teachers at bible studies, relationship evangelists, etc.  They will have proven themselves through knowledge, hard work, and skills in ministry.

The type of theological education they require is foundational in nature.  These leaders need to be able to teach people the gospel, general hermeneutic principles, and basic life principles from Scripture.

Tier 2:  Overseers and Assistants

This tier is the elders and deacons, and program leaders – such as women’s ministry, youth ministry, college ministry.  It could include emerging leaders, and people involved in single or very few church plants.  They show their competence through their accomplishments as a team and achieving group objectives.

These leaders require more specific theological education than Tier 1.  They need to understand major principles of shepherding, such as marriage, childrearing, stewardship, lifework, and passing on the faith.  And they need to be able to teach it.

Tier 3:  Vocational/Non-Vocational

These are your pastors, city leaders, city elders, and community evangelists.  It’s the people who start managing the church on a city-wide level.  They organize people and resources toward predetermined objectives.  They work to make the shepherding of the people effective and efficient.

These leaders must have a specialized theological education.  They must be able to handle the Scriptures proficiently, teach publicly, master shepherding and training new leaders.  Notice I did not say a seminary degree (I’m not against seminary degrees and definitely not against theological education, but check out this article to see why it’s omitted from the list).

Tier 4:  Regional

hopeful manHere we have our leaders of church planting networks and ministries.  Some are actually what we traditionally call pastors as well, and might participate in itinerant public speaking.  They’re generally regional leaders in nature, and their impact shapes a very large group incorporating a number of cities.

These people prove themselves by their ability to influence others to commit to a large, clear, and compelling vision.  They help the lower tiers to be as effective as possible in their own work.

Regional leaders require training in mastery of the Scriptures, organizational leadership, and sociological understanding of the culture.  They will have to transfer biblical principles to cultural issues, legitimizing their conclusions and spreading them to the network.

Tier 5:  National

And finally, national leaders are leaders of church planting movements and ministries, denominational leaders, pastors of strategic churches.  In addition to their leadership of large-scale movements, they often publish critical pieces to the public about Scriptural principles applied to their society.

National leaders create the vision for the lower tiers to manage.  They are able to make massive societal changes through their work, and must still show humility as God is the one who gave them their abilities.  These are your Apostle Paul’s in today’s world.

Their training is doctoral in nature (though, again, not a seminary degree.  I’ll refer you one more time to this article to explain why a seminary degree is not what we’re talking about here).  They must excel in Scriptural application to societal issues, executive leadership and strategy, and networking.


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