Issue #23: A Pastor’s Greatest Sacrifice
Thousands of churches across the United States are in decline. Many are in danger of closing their doors forever. These congregations need revitalization. Several of them need to be replanted.
Replanting is much easier when the church does not have a pastor. The reason for this is at least two-fold. 1) The current pastor probably doesn’t have the skill sets necessary to right the ship. He’s just not the right man for the job. 2) The pastor is unwilling to pursue a replant because he knows it might cost him his job.
A few members of our elder team met with a church a couple years ago to discuss a potential replant. The lead pastor was open to the idea, but his associate pastor clearly was not. Though he did not state it explicitly, it was evident that any attempt to replant the church would be met with resistance from this man. To his credit, he saw the writing on the wall. He knew a replant would likely cost him his job.
This is why we need sacrificial leaders. We need pastors who will take an honest look at their church, admit that it needs not only revitalization but a complete replant, and be willing to step aside. The fact of the matter is, when a stronger church replants a struggling congregation, they are going to use their own leadership team. This might not happen every time, but in most cases, the stronger church will seek to transition all current personnel off staff of the struggling church. They want to use their own trusted leaders to the job, which only makes sense. But for this happen we need leaders who are willing to lose their jobs.
We need leaders like George, a pastor in Nashville. George is originally from New Jersey. He moved to Nashville to be near family. Soon after arriving, he began attending a local Baptist church that was in decline. By decline, I mean they have 25-30 attendees on Sunday morning, and the average age is 87 years old. George knows the church won’t survive much longer. So, for the past two years, he has been pursuing replant opportunities. The incredible part is George is willing to lose his job. I met him for lunch and asked, “What happens to you if the church gets replanted?” George said, “I step away.” George loves his church so much that he’s willing to stop being their pastor so they can thrive again. He knows he can’t turn the church around—not with the resources available to him. And he knows that his church requires dramatic change. Small measures will not due.
May God raise up more men like George. We need pastors who will humble themselves and be willing to lay down their ministries. This work should not be considered a loss or defeat. Imagine George is able to make a replant happen. Would anyone look at his situation and say that George failed? Of course not! They would say, “Look at the legacy he left behind. Look at this selfless man who cared so much for his church that he was willing to step aside so they could thrive.” Brother pastor, you may be in this situation. Are you willing to pursue what is best for your church even it means you lose your job?
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