Proverbs 25:15, Luke 8:15, Romans 8:15
The timeline for church replanters differ from church planters and established church pastors in many ways. For example, virtually every program for a church planter is a new program, so announcing a new initiative and implementing that initiative with the buy-in of the congregation can occur in a timely and seamless manner. When it comes to the pastor of an established and healthy church, new initiatives won’t typically alter the general direction of the church’s mission too drastically—if a church is healthy, it typically won’t need initiatives that will drastically alter the direction of its mission—and so here, too, change is reasonable. If the machine is well-oiled, slight tweaks shouldn’t cause too much trouble. But a replanter is one who by definition is taking over a machine that is not well-oiled; the kinds of changes that he will need to make will be drastic, congregational-identity-altering changes, and as such, they will happen slowly. Very slowly.
This means that a virtue a replanter can never have too much of is patience. However, simple patience is not enough. A replanter must have tactical patience, and he must have this unique form of patience in two primary respects: his decision-making and his expectations.
First, a replanter must have tactical patience with respect to his decision-making. This means the replanter must prioritize the changes he will make to the church. As one who is coming into a situation that is somewhat volatile, he cannot afford to attack every problem he sees as if he were playing a game of whack-a-mole; he must treat every decision with delicacy. This does not mean a replanter must be a pushover, or he must never feel that he has the liberty to rock the boat—after all, a replanter does arrive with the express purpose to rock the boat. It does mean, however, he is careful about when to make the needed changes and in what order changes need to be made.
So for example, maybe the worn 70s carpet needs to change, but before that happens, the every-week-special-music needs to be addressed. And before the every-week-special-music is addressed, the frequency of observing the Lord’s Supper needs to change. And before the frequency of observing the Lord’s Supper needs to change, the manner in which business meetings are held needs to be altered. And before the manner in which business meetings are held can be altered, the pastor needs to gain more trust from his congregation. In this situation, a replanter with tactical patience will begin to steadily earn the trust of his people, without forgetting about business meetings, the Lord’s Supper, the every-week-special-music or the worn 70’s carpet—tactical patience will grant the church a new carpet without a revolt.
Second, a replanter must have tactical patience with respect to his expectations. The replanter must never forget his ultimate measurement for success is his degree of faithfulness to the Great Commission; namely, making disciples who make disciples. Of course quantitative growth is to be desired, and eventually, it is necessary, but only to the degree that quantitative growth is a testament to qualitativegrowth. A church replanter is not someone who comes in with gimmicks to raise attendance quickly; he is coming to restore health and vitality to a dying congregation. This means progress for him looks much different than progress looks for a planter; progress may look like a few key members being convinced that membership should be more in depth than a congregational vote immediately following an expressed interest. Progress may look like the music director agreeing to have the order of the worship service altered. Progress may look like a congregation becoming accustomed to gospel-drenched preaching as opposed to moralistic-object-lesson preaching; walking through the Bible and doing serious, rich exegesis over the course of months may not be the easiest thing to adopt if a congregation is used to their pastor taking a pogo-stick through scripture.
A replanter should be able to take a look at the exterior context of the church without getting discouraged by the apparent lack of movement. He can do this by looking at his congregation through the lens of tactical patience; he will be able to see that although things may seem to be moving slowly on the surface, subterranean plates are shifting under the foundations of the church. With his tactical patience, the replanter will be able to remember he is simply a helping hand on Christ’s master project to build his church; it is not the replanter’s external decision-making that will prevail against the gates of hell, but Christ himself.
Published July 19, 2016