Honoring those who were there

By Replant

Replanters are typically pastors at heart. One of the questions often asked by a Replanter as they consider leading the congregation through change is: 

“How do I lead change, honor, care for and shepherd the members who were there before I became Pastor?”

It is likely that a faithful handful have been keeping things going at the church for some time prior to your arrival. Their sacrifices have kept ministry going and money flowing into the church budget. It is right to want to respect, honor and celebrate what they have done in the name of Christ. Here are a few ways you can begin to move forward and honor their commitments at the same time.

Praise what is Praiseworthy: work hard to find people, programs, efforts and actions that are indicative of a commitment to Jesus and the gospel. If you look you’ll find them. Celebrate what God celebrates and do so by tying your praise to the work of God not the work of the people. Begin teaching your people that we are to live our lives for God’s glory—not our own. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 Respect Relationships: Paul provided wise counsel to a young Pastor named Timothy:  Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. Honor widows who are truly widows. 1 Timothy 5:1-3

The Church is a family, those that Pastor will do well to remember that family relationships are blessed when there is respect shown that is appropriate to age and stage. This doesn’t mean you shy away from difficult conversations—rather it means you approach them with a loving relational mindset.

Correct and Exhort with Wisdom and in God’s power: it can be easy to make the mistake of believing that longevity equals spiritual maturity. This is not always the case. Some of the long time members may be considered saints by many but may not actually be all that saintly.A Replanter must pastor, but they must also correct whenever and wherever necessary.

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. Colossians 1:28-29

Hold up the Gospel of Jesus in your preaching, counsel and leading. Don’t hesitate to sound the warning when any individual or the Church is getting off-track. Teach everyone to understand and apply God’s word faithfully. Do this with all wisdom.

That may mean you reserve correction for a personal conversation rather than a public meeting. It may be necessary for you to speak a corrective word boldly and unapologetically to a committee or the congregation without reservation. God can and will lead you in this as you stay sensitive and dependant upon the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Honoring those who were there before you does not mean you don’t challenge or correct. In fact, it is dishonoring to not warn, challenge and teach. It is likely that your predecessors failed to do that boldly and biblically and that is the reason the church declined.  It is also the reason that God called you there.

Published May 15, 2015

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The Replant team of the North American Mission Board works to reverse the death and decline rate of Churches. For more information and resources on Replanting go to www.namb.net/replant and follow @churchreplanter.