Leadership Challenges in a Replant

By Mike Rubino

All leadership is challenging. Leading a volunteer-led organization is even more challenging. Leading a church in need of replanting is the most challenging.

Here are three challenges replant leaders will face:

1. People cling to idols!

In a replant, people are hurting. They’ve made decisions based on fear of the unknown, not faith in the God they know. They don’t know what to do, so they go back to doing what they know. The problem is that what they did got them where they are. Einstein reputedly said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” By that definition, some churches are functionally insane!

Dying churches idolize the past and ignore the future. Like the Israelites, they romanticize the good buffets back in Egypt and forget about the bad times.

Members of dying churches also can idolize methods and ignore mission. How they do things is more important than why they do things. The objects they use in their worship have become the object of their worship.

Three practical solutions:

A. Biblical leadership. Your job is not to keep them happy, it’s to help them become holy. Tom Landry said, “Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, so they can achieve what they want to achieve.”

B. Celebrate the past; concentrate on the future. Don’t kick somebody when they’re down. Acknowledge the foundation you’re building on, but focus on the future.

C. Communicate mission, not methods. Always emphasize the what behind the why. Keep their eyes on the finish line instead of what sneakers they’re wearing!

2. People stab you in the back!

I don’t want you to walk around paranoid, but someone, at some point, will turn on you. Sometimes it’s the people you least expect. It happens for a few reasons:

A. People love to complain. The Israelites complained when they were hungry, and when they were full of free manna. Every church has chronic complainers. Moses had a few million; I think we can live with our few. Be OK with people not always being OK with you.

B. People love to criticize. You’ll move too fast for some, and too slow for others. You’ll spend too much time in your office for some, and too much time in the community for others. You can’t please everyone and, if you try, you won’t please anyone.

C. People love to control. Many churches have informal ruling families. And if they can’t control you through their tithes, committees, and constitutions they’ll come after you and your family.

Three practical solutions:

— Don’t respond to every complaint or ignore any complaint. Check your heart, check the Bible and check with a few confidants who will tell you the truth. Change if you need to – and cut out any cancer if necessary.

— Focus on pleasing God not people. Don’t let someone else’s opinion become your obligation. Let people play Goldilocks with their own porridge.

— Fear God more than man. If He handled Pharaoh, I’m sure he’s got your deacon board covered!

3. People will wear you out!

Church replanters need to be part doctor, counselor, CEO, entrepreneur, janitor, teacher, preacher and shepherd! Most days, there will be things you don’t get done. Learn to live with that now.

Modern ministry is multi-faceted. The way people communicate is changing. Technology is a powerful tool – and just when you think you figure things out, it changes.

Christians are less prepared to deal with life after decades of man-centered preaching and teaching. The more we focused on our felt needs, the less our faith needs were met.

Don’t get so busy in the work of the Lord that you forget the Lord of the work. Remember: You were a son of God before you became someone else’s pastor.

Three practical solutions:

— Find resources that will work in your context; 90% of all resources were made for only 10% of the churches. Research affordable options, but remember free can be the most expensive option.

— Identify, disciple and empower leaders. In the beginning, all roads lead to Rome – and the replanter is Rome. That’s okay at first, but don’t encourage it to continue. Don’t give things up too early, but don’t hold on too long.

— Have a Martha work ethic while maintaining a Mary motive. Don’t let the tyranny of the urgent in ministry, replace the importance of sitting at the feet of the Master.

Replanting is rigorous but rewarding work. It’s a calling that comes with challenges. But it’s worth it because of who we worship. Re-planters get to see resurrection power of Jesus Christ!

Published March 18, 2022

P.S. Get our best content in your inbox

We send one email per month full of articles from a variety of Replanting voices.

Mike Rubino

Mike "Doc" Rubino is the Lead Pastor of Cornerstone Bible Church in Port Jefferson, New York, and a passionate church replanter and revitalizer. His desire is to help churches wake up, grow healthy, and live again. He believes that when churches are both multi-cultural and multi-generational, they best reflect the beauty of the Revelation 7 multitude! As the Revitalize Conference founder, he is aggressively pursuing gospel-centered leadership and local church multiplication in New York and throughout the Northeast.