Characteristics of an Effective Replanter: Willingness to Confront

By Bob Bickford

2 Timothy 4:2

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; rebuke, correct and encourage with great patience and teaching.

Our research has determined that replant pastors must possess a willingness to face conflict and a willingness to confront sin.

The effective replant pastor with a willingness to confront has the ability to willingly (not eagerly) navigate conflict with directness, love, humility, patience and wisdom, driven by a love for the church and her members.

When we envision ourselves in the pastorate, we likely see ourselves boldly proclaiming God’s Word before God’s people. We imagine God moving, people responding, the church growing and our communities being loved and served in Jesus’ name.

This is a good and worthy vision — and it’s one which the adversary will do everything in his power to block. Churches in decline and near death are often controlled and stymied by longtime church members who may be used by the enemy to subvert the development of spiritual health and vitality within the congregation. Most who behave this way believe they are protecting the church. From what? Their justifications can be as numerous as the grains of sand at the beach and as mysterious as the origin of the waves. But one thing is common: Their behaviors and actions often are unbiblical, un-Christlike and a danger to the church.


I’m going to be really honest: Your preaching, as great as it is, probably won’t transform them.

Paul, writing to the young pastor Timothy, encourages him to preach, but highlights additional necessary actions required of him as he leads the church which Paul has sent him to shepherd: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; rebuke, correct and encourage with great patience and teaching.” (2 Tim. 4:2)

You’ve probably focused on the first two exhortations and diminished the importance of the others.

  • Preach the word? Check, it’s what you love to do.
  • e ready in season and out? Check, I’m always ready to preach.
  • Rebuke? (Um …)
  • Correct? (What?)

Most pastors I know never received adequate instruction on those actions in Paul’s list to a young pastor. Did you take Rebuke 101 or do a Jan term course on how to correct the errant members in the church? Doubtful.

Even more, you may be, by temperament, conflict avoidant or averse.

This week I learned about a pastor who has faced the following from a couple of power brokers in his church:

  • Was told he couldn’t have his contractor friend repair the baptistery (for free) for upcoming baptisms.
  • The trustees blocked the driveway so leaders couldn’t get into the parking lot to attend a scheduled leaders meeting.
  • Was told that the reports of recent ministry victories and people coming to faith in Jesus were all conspiracies to gain control of the church.
  • Was asked to resign via text from one of the church bullies.

You may be a better preacher than me, and I’m a Baptist who is not supposed to gamble, but I bet even the best of sermons won’t change behaviors like these. I think that’s why Paul adds “confront, rebuke, exhort and encourage” to “preach the word.” In working with many pastors and dysfunctional churches, I’ve discovered that not many are prepared or bold enough to do those things. And as a result, God’s church languishes.

Brother pastor, if you are only preaching and not rebuking, correcting and exhorting, you’re not being faithful in the fulfillment of your ministry and calling.

Don’t miss that; read it again.

How do you rebuke, correct and exhort? Here are some simple ways to go about it. Imagine speaking these words to the controllers and power brokers in your congregation:

  • Did I hear and understand you correctly?
  • What did you mean by that?
  • How does that action/opinion/attitude square with the conduct of a Spirit-filled, on-mission devoted follower of Jesus?
  • I hear you, but if we did that, we would not be faithful to the mission God has called us to obey, so we are not going to do that.
  • We’re not going to do that, we are going to do this _______________.
  • No.
  • Stop.
  • You cannot be a leader in the church and (act like that, say those things, do that.)
  • Based on your (actions, attitude and conduct) which are contrary to God’s Word, we are removing you from your leadership position. I am prepared to bring this before the entire membership of the church body, if necessary.

Are you prepared to say those things or things similar? If not, you need to seriously revaluate your readiness to serve as a replanter.

I’m not advocating you be intentionally aggressive or mean-spirited, but I want to warn you sternly. If you never confront and regularly back down and avoid conflict, if you never or rarely rebuke or correct members who need it, your congregation will be unhealthy. The church will stay declined or even die.

Longevity in a church does not equal spiritual maturity. Sacrificial service doesn’t excuse one from mutual submission and the obligation to follow spiritual authority acting within the guidelines of Scripture.

As you correct, rebuke, exhort and encourage you should do so as Paul instructs — “with great patience and teaching.”

You will face conflict in replanting, that is certain. What you determine to do in the face of it must be equally as certain.

Published February 23, 2021

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Bob Bickford

Bob Bickford is a Replant Pastor in suburban St. Louis, serves as the Associate Director of Replant for the North American Mission Board and is the co-author of Am I a Replanter,  Pathways to Partnership and the Associational Replanting Guide. Follow Bob on twitter @bobick