Essential qualities of a Replanter: Capacity for suffering/perspective

By Bob Bickford

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.
Philippians 1:29

What is it in a man that causes him to accept a call to a church known as a “Pastor Killer?” For some it could be the misguided belief that they will fare better than the rest of the souls who ventured before them and failed. Others may be driven by the necessity of economics and relatively few options vocationally speaking, so both jump in and hope for the best. In time, each will find themselves packing up and moving on—their names added to the list of those who came and went in short season.

Church experts tell us that Pastors who give up and quit, move on because of a handful of people, often leaving just before a breakthrough point. This revolving door of leaders leaves congregations skeptical and mistrusting of Pastoral authority and stuck in their decline.

A Replanter is different. He accepts the invitation to lead a pastor killing church because God has called him there and he stays because he knows God will sustain him.

Pain is part of ministry. They tell you that in Seminary and in Bible College but it’s one thing to hear stories about it and another to experience it personally, first hand.

Ministry is hard; it’s difficult and painful. Replanting is painful and difficult on steroids.

As we’ve talked to those engaged in the work of Replanting we find that God, in His grace, has uniquely equipped these men with a high capacity to endure suffering. By grace, Replanters have perspective.

A Replanter’s Perspective:

He understands that trials are part of God’s work of sanctification: it is easy to think that God has placed you in the church to do a work through you—He has, but He also has placed you there to do a great work in you. The resistance, criticism, poor judgment and deficient discipleship present in the congregation may frustrate you to no end—and rightly so. But the work God is doing in your church is also His work in you. God could be slowing you down, driving you deeper into the Word, calling you to be longer in prayer, more dependant upon Him. Spiritual muscle isn’t formed without heavy lifting, and heavy lifting isn’t necessary when things are easy.

He keeps sight of the big picture vision in the midst of struggle: a Replanter possesses a clear picture of the church’s future which drives him toward the goal of bringing glory to God—through the renewal of the Church’s passion for Jesus and the Gospel. He never loses sight of the vision that God has given him. When there are set backs, when the anonymous letters arrive, when he has to explain over and over why the bulletin no longer contains every committee meeting announcement, when he struggles with the aging facilities and scant resources he hears God’s whisper and is reminded that this isn’t they way it’s always going to be.

He sees beyond binary thinking: a Replanter knows it’s not all or nothing, black or white, my way or their way. The one whose mind is confined this way will find himself powering up to win or grieving his losses. Replanting is pioneering work that’s less about following a road map and more about operating with the skill of a navigator who is led by the Holy Spirit at every turn. A Replanter operates in faith, knowing that God is in control of all things even when it seems like things are out of control.

Perspective is a critical part of the capacity to endure pain in ministry. Paul’s words remind us of that powerful truth:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18

Published October 13, 2015

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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