Replanter, Do These Things

By Bob Bickford

Pastoring has always been a challenging work. When you mix in an almost year-long global pandemic and add deep political acrimony to the mix, you get the reality soup we’re facing as the church today. Tired pastors, concerned congregants and stalled mission can often lead to infighting, which is counter to the unity that Jesus prayed we would possess in his high priestly prayer in the 17th chapter of John’s Gospel:

I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word. May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. (John 17:20-21)

Unity is paramount for the Church because it represents the gospel. The gospel brought those of us who were enemies of God back to him, we are were reconciled in Christ. No more division, no more animosity and no more wrath because of the work of Christ.

The first disciples were an eclectic mix of laborers, white collar professionals, political zealots and outcasts who were deemed as traitors to their own people. Among them were two brothers, prone to rage and ready to call down fire on those who rejected them (Luke 9:54), and a bumbling spokesperson who was prone to overestimate his commitment and act rashly when threatened (Matt. 26:50-51)

Jesus didn’t abandon these men. Rather, He loved them, rebuked them, discipled them, served them. He later commissioned them to proclaim the good news and make disciples to the ends of the earth. You and I heard the message of the gospel, in part, due to their effectively fulling the ministry given to them — even as finite and fouled up as they were.

Characters like these were among those who spread the gospel around the world. Characters like these are in your church. They probably make your job a little harder.

One of the guiding verses for me as a replanter comes from Colossians 1:28-29 — “We proclaim him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with his strength that works powerfully in me.”

In this season what must we do? 

Proclaim the gospel. Our primary purpose as the people of God is to proclaim the good news about Jesus. Not politics, not how to have a hassle free and happy life, not the spreading of what if’s and what-a-bouts. We are commissioned to share about the hope we have in Christ.

Warn and teach. My guess is that your seminary or Bible college prepared you to preach. I know mine did. I’m also guessing that, like me, you missed enrolling in “Fundamentals of Pastoral Warning 101.” Wait, your seminary didn’t have that either? We are good at teaching. Warning? Not so much. The Greek word for ‘warning’ means to exhort, admonish or “put in the mind.” At times, before the mind can be filled with good gospel-centered teaching, warnings like these are sometimes in order.

  • “Church, we need to make certain that our hope is firmly in Jesus not the things of this world.”
  • “God calls us not to hate or enemies but to love them and pray for them.”
  • “Every earthly leader is removed or established by the hand of God.”

Do this with wisdom. Never before have we, as pastors, needed God’s wisdom in leading our congregations well. The continual refrain from pastor friends is this; “Leading right now is incredibly hard and I’m exhausted.” When we are pressed, we need God’s wisdom, or we’ll end up leading from our frustration.  Pray and ask God to give you his wisdom. He will. (James 1:5)

Make maturity the goal. If your metrics for successful ministry have been based on numbers (attendance, baptisms, offerings), last year and this year probably have been hard on you. If you’re basing your effectiveness on “views” of your online teaching or downloads of your sermons, I can guarantee you’re probably discouraged. Embrace the metric of maturity of your members as the goal. What is maturity? It’s when members place more and more of their lives under the lordship of Jesus on a regular basis. That’s the goal and it’s hard work. Focus on that.

Serve with the strength God provides. The number one reality facing every pastor I know right now is fatigue. We’ve never worked harder and seen less fruit. We’re discouraged and disappointed. We wonder if people we haven’t seen in almost a year are OK, and if they are ever coming back.  Are you tired? That’s a signal from your body and your Lord that it’s time to rest. Accept your limits as a reminder that you are not God. Is there something needing to be done? Ask God to give you the strength to accomplish what He is calling you to do. Rest and work and rest.

I’m praying for you and I believe in you.

Published January 26, 2021

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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