Don’t Settle for “Popcorn” Leadership

Written by Russ Cambria


Where are the workers? The leaders? Those who will help us to take our churches to the greatest level of ministry that our communities can imagine? Jesus warned His disciples and us when He said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Luke 10:2). He doesn’t stop there. He adds, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers….” Just as we are to pray for workers to join us on the front lines, I believe that Jesus would encourage us to do the same when seeking new, or additional leadership within our organizations and churches across the country.

Too often, church planters, pastors, and leaders of nonprofit organizations, due to a lack of support, suffer from what I like to call a “popcorn leadership” epidemic. Popcorn leaders can be defined as those who, just like a kernel of popcorn exposed to a heat source for a consistent period of time, eventually POP! Within our churches, a popcorn leader may “pop” simply because he or she has been around long enough. Their exposure and familiarity to our ministries, our staff, and even to us as lead pastors, becomes acceptable as a qualifier to a greater role. Sometimes, it works, but all too often, there is imminent fallout on the horizon and people can get hurt. Is it the popcorn leader’s fault? Absolutely Not! They were asked to step up and they agreed to do so.

However, before we get too excited about a popcorn leader’s willingness to accept the invitation to lead, we must remember that this person will:

1. Carry greater authority around your church and volunteers,

2. Speak on your behalf and,

3. They will present the first impression of your church or organization directly to your community.

Their face, actions, words, competency, and personality will become your billboard. When put this way, we come to a greater understanding of why it is so important to make sure that our decisions are Holy Spirit-led, God ordained, and made under consideration of wise counsel (Prov. 15:22).


Pastors, we live in very challenging times for the church, both here in the U.S. and abroad. We live in a world where many who look to bring honor and prestige to themselves seek titles and authority. They will use your church to do it if we haphazardly allow it because we feel that our choices are limited. Instead, let’s pray for leaders and learn to identify traits in those who will make great leaders. Train them. Disciple them. Test them (1 Tim 3:10). Invest in their futures. God will provide these individuals and has probably already begun to do so. Partner with God when choosing your leaders and be patient.

It’s always a good idea to reevaluate members of your team. Why did they join you in the mission to plant? Why did they stay after you launched? What have they added? Who are the emerging leaders in which you should invest? Remember, longevity can be “a” qualifier, but is not “the” qualifier. Choose wisely. Be strategic. Promote on purpose. Be careful when you are tempted to take a qualified and successful passenger and force him or her to give up their seat because you need another driver. God may have already placed them in the right seat. Use caution and ask for wisdom. James 1:5 tells us, “If anyone lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and He will give it to you.”

Finally, do not forget about the rest of your team and their needs concerning leadership. After all, you are about to choose someone who will essentially co-govern areas of the organization in some greater capacity. Your team trusts you daily to lead the church or organization in a way that generates success. It’s God’s ministry, but He has entrusted you with the day-to-day operations. Before allowing a new leader to “pop,” make sure you have confidence they are exactly who God has placed on your team for such a time as this…

Pastor Russ Cambria

Pastor Russ and Jen Cambria returned to Las Vegas in 2015 to plant a church in the city! Russ previously served as the Director of two Teen Challenge programs, a Board Member of Teen Challenge and Penn Del Charities, and the Registrar at the University of Valley Forge.

In 2015, God redirected he and his wife, Jennifer, to Las Vegas to start a new urban church. Jennifer works for the Clark County School District as a First Grade teacher and is actively involved in CityReach. Russ and Jen are joined in Las Vegas by several families that have heard God’s call and moved 2,500 miles away from home to serve in the church. They are continually reminded of how much God loves this city!

2018-01-17T00:21:51+00:00 April 18th, 2017|Church Planting, Leaders|