The XP Pastor: Are We Laboring in Vain?

King Solomon penned these words under the influence of the Holy Spirit over 3,000 years ago: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1).

I believe there are two leaders of a local church who are most challenged by this verse: the lead and executive pastors.  As most know, the role of the XP is a recent one within the church.  It sprang out of the great organizational complexity emerging in our society in the late 1970s.  The layers of complexity expanded in the subsequent decades, making the XP role the most complex, vast, and ill-defined one within the local church leadership team.

The typical XP operates almost as an appendage of the lead pastor (LP).  The XP engages strategically and tactically.  They are the “junk drawer” of the church organization.  They often handle everything the LP doesn’t want to touch, which means the XP is expected to be a subject matter expert in all things related to organization and systems, finance, HR, insurance, facilities, legal matters, risk management, technology, communications, etc.  That means the XP needs both strong leadership and managerial chops to survive the expectations alone, not just achieve the desired outcomes.

Of the hundreds of XP’s I know, almost every one of them suffers from daily attacks from the enemy regarding their inadequacies to live up to these expectations. We hear words like, “pretender,” “fake,” “fraud,” and “if they only knew.” Many feel like they are daily losing ground and laboring in vain.  

Life Work  

God has given me a great passion to train and equip the next generations of XP’s to delight in this work while serving Jesus and his church. No longer should they feel like “laboring in vain!”  Success looks like XP’s and Pastors/Directors of Operations knowing they were called and uniquely gifted to serve in their role. They are equipped and ready to assume the vast array of duties and responsibilities coming their direction, and as they earn and retain the complete trust of their LP that LP/XP relationship becomes characterized as a “band of brothers.”

Cohort Approach  

One of the delivery methods of serving the church and equipping XP’s is through the use of coaching cohorts. In the past year, two different cohorts, each with 12 members, were established to bring together leaders serving in the XP and operations roles. The first cohort, the XP Coaching Cohort, is one semester long. A new one is starting January 26, 2017 with a two-day Opening Retreat in Fort Myers, FL. There are a few spots remaining and the registration deadline is January 5th. I would love to journey alongside of you through this next year in my XP Cohort as we tackle some of the challenges and strategies of XP life! 


Tim is the former executive pastor of Sojourn Community Church, a multi-site church in the Louisville, KY area.  He has previously served as the executive pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle from 2007 to 2010 helping to grow the church from 3 to 12 campuses across 4 states. He spent 25 years in the US Coast Guard and retired as an O-6. Tim is trained in multiple coaching platforms and has coached over 120 pastors in diverse contexts over the last 12 years. He serves as a member of the Sojourn Network Board of Directors and Strategist and is a part time Pastor of Strategic Initiatives at Summit Church. He is the founder and principal of 10 Talents Consulting, his church leadership focused firm. Tim has been married to his wife Patty for 43 years and is the father of two adult children and two grandsons, who love the Lord and are serving the church today. You can follow Tim on Twitter @beltz.