Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us Hebrews 12:1
If ministry is less like a sprint and more like a marathon, replanting is like running back to back marathons. As a Pastor seeking to lead a church to health and vitality, one that hasn’t been healthy for decades, you’ll need the endurance of a long distance runner who understands that pace is key in finishing the race.
The reality is this; change comes slow, especially when the decline has been long in the making. Many of the Replanters I meet understand this in theory but forget it in practice. Charging ahead may feel good and right but it also may leave you with little energy or reserve when you need it most, in the middle of the race as you take on the hills.
Replanter you’ll need to lay aside certain things that will keep you from running with the endurance needed for your efforts to see a church return to vitality.
Here are a few of the things you’ll need to lay aside:
Your Expectations: you came in with a plan—that’s good, if you didn’t have one coming in you’re probably not a Replanter. There will be a big difference between the timely implementation of your plan and what you experience in reality. That’s not a sign of failure or incompetence but rather an opportunity for God to work not only in the life of the Church but your life too. Anger is a sure sign of unmet expectations and lack of faith in God’s timing.
The Standard Metrics of Success: many have said that the ABC’s (Attendance, Budgets, Conversions) are key in measuring the vitality of a church—they are, but the nearly dead church must measure success differently, at least in the beginning. If you were just in ICU yesterday success for you is not running around the block. Sitting up, eating a meal and breathing on your own—that’s success. That you had a business meeting with no contention, started a new small group, redirected designated funds to the general budget, assimilated two new families and actually have children in the nursery again—that counts as success. In time you’ll need to watch the ABC’s but don’t obsesses over them in the early days.
The Approval of Others: a Replanter bringing healthy change is likely making everyone uncomfortable. The long time members are struggling with the changes and the new arrivers are hoping change will accelerate. This leaves many Sundays when no one is particularly happy with the state of the Church—even you. If you are dependant upon hearing “good job” and “Atta boys” to keep going you’ll be in trouble. You must look for approval from the Father—He loves you regardless of how many attended church on Sunday and how cool your power point was.
Worry/Lack of Faith: in a replant there is plenty to be concerned with. The failing HVAC, how you’re going to pay for health insurance, the lack of a youth group for your kids, the by-laws bully and if people are going to continue supporting the work financially. We must give these concerns to God, let him carry them—they are way too heavy for you. He will provide what is needed for the ministry he has called you to for His glory.
As you lay these weights aside you’ll be able to run the race with greater endurance. Replanting is a battle and as one in battle you are called to be a solider and to endure. Impossible on your own, possible with God’s help.
Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus 2 Timothy 2:3
Published October 20, 2015