Characteristics of a replanter: Capacity to suffer

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

The task of a replanter is not an easy one. A replanter is someone who willingly faces not only self-inflicted pains from his own messes in ministry, but also the pains inherited by the messes of others. In many ways, a replanter is walking into a hostile environment; he is consciously walking into the meat grinder of a church that has already bested men who have gone before him. Make no mistake, the replanter’s job is not at all glamorous. It’s wearisome. It’s tedious. It’s unappreciated. It’s met with stubborn resistance and skepticism and resentment. The replanter isn’t coming to his congregation in order to expediently make a name for himself; it may take years for him to see his congregation united and healthy. The replanter is coming to die to himself. Of course, this is true of every faithful pastor—every undershepherd who aspires to lead sacrificially, like the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-21)—but the duties of a replanter strip off the compelling varnish of outward reward, which often coats exciting church plants and thriving congregations. There’s no fooling the replanter; the ugly side of ministry is the side that welcomes him at the door.

Because of this, an essential characteristic of a replanter is the Capacity to Suffer. Resilience is required for this line of work. To have a capacity to suffer is not the same as stoically facing affliction without wincing at the pain or showing indifference towards trials. To some degree, thick skin is necessary; not every criticism launched at a pastor is legitimately founded, and a pastor should be able to take a hit without becoming paralyzed. But far more crucial than having the natural wherewithal to shrug off offenses is the ability to maintain perspective. If a replanter is going to make it, he must have an encompassing category for suffering—something more ultimate than his temporal circumstances.

A replanter must come to grips with the fact that suffering is not merely something he will endure for the sake of his church, but that it is rather—in and of itself—a means for his own sanctification, his own benefit. In other words, suffering is not merely an unfortunate byproduct of ministry; it is a gift of God that he provides for the replanter’s own good! Notice, when Paul is writing to the Corinthian church about suffering, he doesn’t merely say, “the eternal weight of glory is better than your light and momentary affliction. So just stick it out a bit longer; it gets better.” No, Paul says, “This light momentary affliction ispreparing for us and eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). So the replanter who experiences suffering is not being interrupted by his trials; he’s not working to grow more Christ-likein spite of his suffering. Rather, his suffering is making him more Christ-like. Suffering does something.

Likewise, the author of Hebrews makes this point clear when he writes, “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvationperfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source” (Hebrews 2:10-11). In other words, Christians will be perfected—they will progress in holiness, they will be sanctified—in the same way and with the same source that Christ was perfected: through suffering. Indeed, all of Scripture is replete with the concept that suffering yields sanctification. In this way, the need for perspective in suffering applies to all ministry positions—and, in fact, all Christians—but the replanter has struggles unique to his calling; he must endure suffering that may be seldom relieved and even more seldom recognized. Therefore, perspective in suffering is doubly crucial for him.

The replanter should not be surprised by suffering. He should not spend his time in ministry trying to avoidsuffering. When God calls pastors to shepherd his flock, which he purchased with his own blood, hardship is expressly part of the deal. As unoriginal as it may sound, following God’s call to replant may not (dare I say, will not) lead to more comfort; in fact, it most likely will lead to the opposite. The fruit—the gain—of a Christian may be death (Philippians 1:21), and a replanter should expect no less. Indeed, he dies to himself for the sake of his congregation on a regular basis, possibly without ever receiving the same sort of reciprocated love from his people. Without a biblical perspective on suffering, a replanter will not have the capacity to suffer, and will subsequently not last in his ministry. This kind of capacity to suffer is a non-negotiable for church replanters.

Get engaged and become equipped in replanting as you spend two days with experienced replanters at the NAMB Replant Lab.

Published July 12, 2016