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Which one are you? Are you the cowboy or the farmer? Do you like to live in the land of discovery? Or do you like to stay close to home and develop what's in front of you?

Gifts and talents

I think that Christ spoke clearly about this in the parable of the talents. The holders of the talents had different capacity, but the same calling—to responsibly steward their gifts to both proclaim the kingdom.

We're all given talents, some more than others. At no point though, are we to covet another's talents or compare ours to theirs. Everyone is designed to be something useful to the body of Christ. We are created and called to work together.

In Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul notes,

"So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."

Paul clearly identifies different voices and styles of leadership. Could it be that the "apostle," "evangelist," and "prophet" are more cowboy? Are "shepherd" and "teacher" more farmer? Both groups are valuable and both are required for the body to create, lead, and discover what God is doing in and around a community.

In my youthful immaturity, I saw the farmers I left behind as people who lacked bold faith and the capacity for innovation. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Depending on your background and context, you may notice some styles are more valued in certain circles than others. When I (Steve) decided I wanted to plant a church at the ripe age of twenty-five, I was firmly planted in the cowboy culture. The cowboys and cowgirls I met along the way wanted to reach people groups we thought nobody else was reaching, in places we felt nobody else was going, with methods nobody else had tried.

Of course, it all sounds pretty arrogant in hindsight—God was already at work among all those people groups. But we felt a fierce rush in saddling up with a small, brave band of compadres to take on the world.

In my youthful immaturity, I saw the farmers I left behind as people who lacked bold faith and the capacity for innovation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of these leaders were and are some of the best mentors and relational leaders I know. They had nothing to prove in their ministry style and exercised great discipline and focus with a clear goal and a steady hand. As hip as innovation is as a ministry quality and as alluring as it is for cowboys, it's not the most valuable tool at a leader's disposal.

Cowboys and farmers

We need both cowboys and farmers to create healthy ministries. It's critical to support and respect each other without comparing our talents or gifts. This requires intense self-examination and brutally honest conversations about who we are and what we are designed to be.

Consider Gerald Tellis and Peter Golder's study cited in Jim Collin's work Great By Choice:

Tellis and Golder systematically examined the relationship between attaining long-term market leadership and being the innovative pioneer in 66 wide-ranging markets, from chewing gum to the Internet. They found that only 9 percent of pioneers end up as the final winners in the market. … It seems that pioneering innovation is good for society, but statistically lethal for the pioneer!
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