Exercising tactical patience

By Nathan Rose

There are some hills on which we should die, but that doesn’t mean we should try to be martyrs. If we can lead the church to be healthier while avoiding martyrdom in the process, that’s not compromising, that’s being tactful.

I previously served at a church that was located in a military town. Virtually every member of that church was active military, retired military, or a military family, except for me. During that time, I picked up on a lot of military lingo. One of my favorite sayings I learned, which also directly relates to church replanting, was “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” This paradoxical statement communicates the importance of not making changes too quickly. Slowing down and carefully calculating the necessary changes ensures that the transitions are smooth, which in turn speeds up the process of bringing life back to a dying church. This, in a nutshell, is tactical patience. 

In an earlier post, I defined tactical patience as the ability to skillfully implement change at a pace that is appropriate to a specific congregation’s health and needs. In this post, I want to stress one last time the necessity of tactical patience for the replanter and give a few practical suggestions for implementing it. Below are three of them. Next week I will give three more. 

(1) Expository Preaching is the Main Medium of Change 
If you study church history then you’ll know the means by which God uses to change his people is through the preaching of his Word. The Protestant Reformation is the result of pastors exposing their people to Scripture. They didn’t use slick branding, innovative gimmicks, or complex systems. They preached expository sermons and this is what God used to change the spiritual climate across Continental Europe. For the replanter this means you must remember that the most significant catalyst for change is to consistently and faithfully preach the Word of God. This is the fount from where all true healthy change springs. You may not be fully aware of it, but preaching the Scriptures week in and week out is reshaping your church for the better.

(2) Always Keep the Big Picture in View.
One thing that can lead to frustration and discouragement in replanting is seeing little to no fruit. Often times, this will lead a replanter to make a rash decision in an effort to force change. But you must always keep the big picture in mind. It will help to pace you and keep you patient. 
One question you should consider asking yourself when thinking about making a change is, “Will this be an issue in 2-3 years?” If not, then you probably don’t need to change it. Some things will inevitably work themselves out if over time. Keeping the big picture in view allows you to tolerate some things you want to immediately change because you know that eventually it will be resolved.

(3) Waiting is Not Always the Same as Compromising 
Sometimes in an effort to be faithful to Christ and his commands replanters will make decisions that are detrimental and not diplomatic. They believe that if they do not change something immediately then they are compromising on their biblical convictions. And this can certainly be true.
However, let me qualify this. There are some hills on which we should die, but that doesn’t mean we should try to be martyrs. If we can lead the church to be healthier while avoiding martyrdom in the process, that’s not compromising, that’s being tactful.

Maybe an example would be helpful. If a church doesn’t understand the importance of biblical church membership and the need for church discipline, then it would be untactful to excommunicate a member. Instead, the more tactful approach would be to teach and disciple the congregation regarding these issues and once they understand them move forward to implement them. So if you find yourself in this type of situation, remind yourself that waiting is not always the same as compromising. Also remember that if they fire you then the likelihood of that church permanently closing their doors increases exponentially.

Published February 2, 2016

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Nathan Rose

Nathan Rose is the senior pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Liberty, Missouri. His love for the local church propels all he does, including his role as a National Replanting Catalyst for NAMB and the Director of Church Vitality for the Clay-Platte Baptist Association. He is also a regular contributor to For the Church, a gospel-centered ministry of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he is also pursuing a Ph.D. in Historical Theology. He and his wife, Rachel, have three young children. You can connect with him on Twitter at @nathanrose33.