EP 169 – THE BATTLE FOR CHURCH HEALTH
Welcome to this Nashville version of the Bootcamp. The guys got down to recording an EP while doing some Replant work in the big music city. In this installment they guys address how to deal with “stiff-necked” change resisting members of the congregation.
- How do you deal with people who resist change?
- How do you deal with folks who just vote no?
- How do you handle people who stand in the way?
He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. Colossians 1:28-29
The dynamics of a dysfunctional church can be incredibly difficult to deal with, Bob addressed this in a long “Bart Barber-esque” tweet you can view here.
Here are some alternative ideas to consider when you are working to Replant/Revitalize a declining church.
- Be willing to “get fired” in order to stand up to those who resist change.
- Understand the nature and process of attacks.
- Radical change always requires a definitive battle
- This is a spiritual battle
- Be gracious and endure, but be firm and don’t hesitate to warn.
- Engage in church discipline. Know this, church conflict doesn’t go away, it often goes under ground.
- Trust the Lord to guide and provide.
Remember the three B’s: Bible, Bylaws and Buddies
We’re praying for you as you lead in the trenches, it’s difficult, we know it. Drop us a line, leave a comment or voice mail, we’d love to hear from you.
Our awesome sponsor One Eighty Digital can help your church renew its web presence and branding, contact them for help today and let them know you are a bootcamp listener.
JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] Here we are back at the bootcamp. Bob, I hope you’re ready for the next episode. boot campers, just so you know, here in a hotel room in Nashville doing a couple meetings, here in Nash, Vegas. And, we’re here in the hotel and I noticed, Bob, you have your socks on the wrong feet.
No, I don’t. Your socks lift which foot You’re supposed to put ’em. Oh, and you got the left one on your right foot and the right one on your left
Bob Bickford: foot. Well, but look at it, Jimbo, the back of the sock. , are they wrong side out? I don’t see how they would be, you know, cause I, I don’t, I’m, I
JimBo Stewart: don’t think they’re any different.
Oh, okay. But it says left and right. Okay.
Bob Bickford: I know. Well, there you go. Well, , I’m an old man. Jimbo
JimBo Stewart: You know what harken back to one of the first times, we ever hung out together, is that a dive bar called Tractors? and it was one of the first real long get to know each other, hang out, set tractors. You can go back. Many, many episodes ago, and you can look and hear about tractors. We went to another dive bar tonight and got some smash burgers [00:01:00] at.
I can’t remember what the name of that place was. This is Jack Browns. Jack Browns in Nashville on the recommendation of, one of our replant friends
Bob Bickford: here in Nashville. Yeah. Yeah. It was great. So I think they were playing two thousands Rock. Yep. In their little p o d when we walked in You knew all the tunes.
I didn’t know any of those tunes, I guess cuz that’s back in my youth pastor face when I could only listen to Christian music.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. Well, p o d that’s what was shocking was we walked into p od as a Christian band. Yeah, yeah. And they had Youth of a Nation, playing when we walked in. And then, then it went to System of A Down, which is a very different, similar style, but very.
Bob Bickford: It was all kind of similar sound music. Yeah. It was kind of pco shell, frosted tips kind of music. Yeah, man. I guess that was probably you back in the
JimBo Stewart: day, was I never had Frosted Tips or PCO shell, but I was, that was my music. That was your genre? That was my genre in, in the early two thousands.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. I, think, at this point I had two kids about to have a third, and, uh, I was just trying to.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I think I just met Jesus and [00:02:00] was still learning, a lot of different things. today though, we want to talk about, stiff Neck. I got a fun conversation for you, Bob. All right. We’re gonna talk about stiff neck, hard to deal with.
I mean, like resistant to change, not like resistant to change. Obst. to change. Bob, have you encountered in, in your many, many journeys of helping replants, have you encountered any, like really just, I mean, stand in your way, stiff necked opposition?
Bob Bickford: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, I’ve, I’ve been in ministry for 20 plus years, so yeah.
I mean, youth ministry and associate pastoring and especially in replanting, I mean, yeah. Almost every ministry stop along the way, I’ve encountered someone who is resistant to change. Now what? I categorize them as stiff necked, maybe a few along the way. Yeah. but, you know, not every, every stop, but there was at least people that were resistant to change.
And there, there’s a hall of [00:03:00] fame of folks that, in my mind that would be listed as stiff neck.
JimBo Stewart: in your, in your recent consultations, you, you’ve hit kind of a few walls. I’ve hit a few walls. Yeah. talk to us a little bit about what you’ve
Bob Bickford: experienced. Yeah, man. I was just on the phone with, someone who, who was at an event we did last year, and we were talking about leading change and the work of a re planter.
And so, they were, they were on their way to serve as a, a new replant pastor, his spouse at a. They had folks who had, agreed to help them with this replant. The, the church even voted to replant. So they show up there, they start doing the work, they start changing a few things and Jimbo, it, it seems to be a stiff neck people.
they don’t have to have a lot of change. It can be just a little thing, and it, it oftentimes, it’s just one thing that, that they’re just not gonna take it. Right. And. this particular group of folks rose up cuz they wanted to repair a roof that was leaking for 20 plus years and they just got bids on what it might cost to [00:04:00] fix the 20 year old leaking roof.
And, a couple of these folks got frustrated and they threatened to sue them and they had secret meetings and so, I think that would qualify as a stiff necked group of people. Yeah. Wouldn’t you
JimBo Stewart: think? Yeah. I mean, is this part, was that phone conversation part of what motivated you to write a Bart Barber Long
Bob Bickford: Twitter threads?
Yes, I think it was that, and another church that I was doing a town hall meaning for that just has a history of, you know, being a, a church. Runs pastors off. Yeah. And the last guy that was, at this one particular church is in, in the greater St. Louis area, young guy, was leading them through some revitalization steps.
And it’s just stuff that made sense, right? Yeah. It’s practical kinds of things. And so they just got to a point where they were, they’re not gonna change anymore. And so they bucked it and resisted it, and it’s usually a smart group of people. And that was the case here and. There have been several consultations that I’ve done over the last probably three or four months that have just stood out like that.
You’re just running and you’re like, man, is it everywhere? It seems to be a lot of different places right [00:05:00] now.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. And the thing is, the smaller of the church, it, when a church is much smaller, does not take many people to completely. Hijack or hold the situation hostage. Mm-hmm. , uh, they can completely keep it from happening.
Now sometimes we see, we got a buddy in Florida that we’ve been working with consulting, coaching him as he’s been working with his church and they had a, a replant opportunity to get voted down, but they actually had what we don’t see happen very often. One of the people who was standing in the way, it was really two votes that shut it.
One of ’em said, Hey, I will abstain, I will pull out of this. Why don’t you guys vote without me? And I, I won’t be a part of what happens moving forward. Mm-hmm. , and they were able to then vote again and it was voted in a hundred percent. So that happens
Bob Bickford: every once in a while. It does. And I’m so, I’m so thankful that that did, and actually I was in Florida and got a chance to meet that guy and talked to him, and I talked to him the day.
the vote went bad. , he rolled in there. Cuz [00:06:00] you had, you had mentioned to him, you know, Hey, Bob’s gonna beat this event. And so I met him and I was so excited to meet him and I was thinking, okay, how, how did go brother? And he’s like, well, he told me the story. Yeah. But then he said, but then the, the guy who voted, the two guys who voted against it and that was the super majority kind of a rule, right?
They just, the numbers can be so low. And that’s the thing, Jimbo is we see a lot of churches, there’s just a small group of. That can hold up progress. Yeah. And so you’ve gotta deal with those folks. And oftentimes it’s you, the pastor who has to deal with him is a pastoring in a long line, of other pastors.
He’s just the latest guy. It’s kinda like the paper towel dispenser. You know, you just pull off one and there’s another one that comes in. Right. Well, there’s like three or four or 12 before that. Yeah. Well, sometimes a pastor doesn’t deal, or his leaders, the lay leaders too, they don’t deal with the, the stiff neck people and they just hold the church hostage.
And so I think I’ve seen a lot of that unfortunately over the last couple of months. Well,
JimBo Stewart: the thing is, I get why the pastor [00:07:00] would not deal with them. And depending on the numbers and how your bylaws are written, I mean, going against that, That group, however small it is. I mean, very well condemned in you not being the pastor there.
That’s right. And I remember years ago I met with a guy who had been trying to, work around but not directly address. that group of people that was in his church and we had, lunch one day and, and he was just, you know, pouring his heart out to me. How he’s been there for seven years, I think, at that point.
And he’s just done everything he can to work around that group, but that group just holds all the power. Mm-hmm. , very small group of people, one family, and they just seemed to have hijacked everything. And so he told me he was about to put in his resign. But a friend of his, I think a cousin of his actually told him before you resigned, go have lunch with Jimbo.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. I think that everybody’s, that should be on everybody’s to-do list before you resign. Go have lunch with him. Go have lunch
JimBo Stewart: with Jimbo. Yes. And and [00:08:00] so he is telling me, I said, so I asked him, I said, so is it a foregone conclusion like, , regardless of how this lunch goes, you’re, you’re putting your resignation in mm-hmm.
And he said, yeah, I’m, I’m done. And I said, okay, can I just challenge you with maybe a thought you haven’t had? And he said, okay. I said, if you’re willing to quit, are you willing to be fired? Mm-hmm. . And he goes, I mean, what do you, what do you mean? And I said, well, what if I said, it sounds like every pastor prior to you has hit the same wall you’ve hit, and it’s.
And this family keeps winning. I mean, they win every battle because eventually the pastor just leaves. I said, so if you’re, if you’re willing to quit and not be the pastor there anymore, why not take some shots on your way out? Yeah. And let’s just try to just hit this head on and, I mean, maybe you end up getting fired.
But you at least maybe set the groundwork maybe a little bit for the next guy. and the beautiful part of that is he hit him head on. I coached him through some ways to do that, and we worked out a plan and [00:09:00] he was bold and he did it and. that family left, the rest of the church stood behind him in, I mean, eventually they had to disfellowship Oh yeah.
That family. Yeah. In church discipline. Yeah. And when they, when that happened, the rest of his church, I mean, they voted, they stood up and they said, yeah, you gotta go. Yeah. And man, he was so, he was reinvigorated and had just such new energy and excitement. and it was really cool to see that, new energy that he had after doing that.
But he had to be willing. to be fired. And that’s a, that’s a really easy thing for us to challenge people to, from our hotel room recording a podcast episode, . and there’s a lot of implications to that, but I do think it’s that
Bob Bickford: serious. Yeah, there’s, I, I think there’s, a situation in every church’s life that has been in long decline that maybe has, you know, bullies or gatekeepers or strongholds or divisions, that sort of thing.
For that church to move forward, somebody’s gonna have to take a. and until that person does, and sees that battle through, then oftentimes, especially if they get [00:10:00] up to the point of, of when they’re, they’re working towards change that needs to happen. And then if. . If the gatekeepers and the bullies and the, the, the people who are against it come out against them, and if they back down, then what it does is it entrenches that pattern and it emboldens those folks to, to continue to do what they’ve been doing for years.
So it does take somebody to say, this is not gonna happen anymore. Yeah. Right. And I’m gonna see this through. I’m gonna lay it on the line and the health of this church, the future of this church, the, for the sake of the gospel, I’m gonna have to take a stand on this, right? Yeah. And so we’re not talking little things Jimbo, we’re not talking, you know, style of music or, or bulletin or you know, all those sorts of things.
But we’re talking about fundamental biblical things. Yeah. That express themselves through folks who create division, folks who resist missional activity. Yep. Yep. In the, in the life of the church, you know, those sorts of things. And, folks who just resist the clear in the clear guidance of, of God’s word.
JimBo Stewart: Right. Yeah. I [00:11:00] think when I, when I talk to people in that have only experienced being in relatively healthy churches mm-hmm. , and they always have a lot of questions about my role and what I do, and, I. I start to tell some stories and they’re always like so shocked. like, like they’re just shell shocked that like, people actually oppose biblical mission.
I’m like, yes, all the time. Mm-hmm. . And one of the things you said in your bar barber esque, uh, tweet thread was, uh, you started out with a replant revitalization Reality is, as a church, declines and consistently choose not to address the underlying. , uh, slowly, really healthy people leave the church. Mm-hmm.
and, so sometimes people that are, that are back for whatever reason, and, and I’m sure it’s a different story each time, but a lot of times it’s a power thing. It’s a, there’s, there’s a lot of dynamics as to why this happened. But, if you’re talking about a church that needs to be replant, . So just to clarify, that means this [00:12:00] church at best has three to five years left before we’re shutting the doors, donating the property.
I mean, there’s just not, there’s not runway. Right. At that point, there’s a pretty high chance you’ve got some bullies, some gatekeepers, some unhealthy people in power that are gonna stand in your way. And brother, a
Bob Bickford: battle is coming. Yeah. Especially too, I think Jbo. , you know, we think three to five year, or you know, three years or less.
and most of the time when we attach that timeframe, it’s a money issue. Mm-hmm. . Right. But the, one of the churches that I was talking, uh, with a guy about, they just sold a piece of property, plus they had reserves to know they had half a million dollars in the bank. Mm-hmm. . So the time was not a factor.
Like the, the concern, yeah. The financial concern was not a factor, but the vital. , of the church living on mission is the concern and the age of the congregants, that sort of thing. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s an obedience issue and it’s a mi it’s an obedience and missional issue sometimes [00:13:00] more than it is a money issue.
Yep. Right. So unfortunately we have some churches that could be just a handful of people meeting in a really large auditorium, and they’ve got enough money to, to ride it out until they all die. Mm-hmm. , right? Yeah. , but that’s not a healthy church. No. Right. And and one of the things I always say when I’m consulting churches is, do you ever know somebody who died who had a lot of money?
And they say, yeah, well church is this, church is, is in that same position. Yeah, you got a lot of money, but you guys are heading towards death. Yeah. And so money is not the marker of health and vital. .
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. So talk to us about your favorite, what’s your favorite replant or scripture passage? Yeah. That, that applies to this scenario.
Bob Bickford: Well, Colossians 1, 28 and 20 nines is really my go-to replant verse, and it talks about the, the focus of the gospel. So it says him, we proclaim, and then. Here’s the next phrase. Paul says, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom. And so oftentimes we overlook that warning, right? We get, we go to seminary.
Mm-hmm. , we get trained to teach, we get trained to pastor. [00:14:00] Sometimes we even get trained sort of to administrate the affairs of a church. We’ve never really been trained about warning, like, how do you issue a real serious, clear warning that’s based on a church being disobedient to what God has called them to do.
Being divi, people being divisive, or people working behind the scenes? Right. So one of the churches I recently consulted, there was a, a staff member’s wife who punted her Sunday school lessons for the entire season. The church was considering its future. And she rallied a group of older senior adult women, towards voting down or being resistant to this, this church moving forward with, with its future.
And so she was doing that out of a, out of a desire to preserve. What existed preserve a, a place for her husband, a place for herself, a place for the old, these older ladies. So maybe the intentions were good, but Jimbo, one of the things I told the pastor is like, Hey, you can’t allow that to happen. No.
Right. She’s there to teach, uh, the Bible study and [00:15:00] to pray and to shepherd those women and to participate as a leader in the unity in trying to build unity in the life. . Now, she doesn’t have to agree with the decision, but she needs to respect the process. And the process is, we’re gonna talk about this as a church family.
Mm-hmm. together in town hall meetings. Yep. Not use my Sunday school class to embolden these women to vote against whatever this, opportunity is before us. Yeah.
JimBo Stewart: I mean, I think it’s so important that we understand, we have to do this. You have to say what you’ve gotta. with the directness of a prophetic voice.
Mm-hmm. , but with the gentleness of a pastoral heart. Mm-hmm. . And it’s gotta be both. So you can’t just come in and be the hammer. But one of the errors I think we make sometimes is we lean more towards the gentleness side. Yeah. And what unintentionally happens is we are unclear because clarity. Creates conflict, in these types of situations.
And in the sense that when you’re very clear about, Hey, here’s what we’re [00:16:00] not going to do, that’s a confrontational you can do that in a pastoral, gentle, but also very clear. Mm-hmm. and direct. And so, couple things I would say is, be ready. Change. Change is going to almost radical change will always.
A definitive battle. So just suit up, brother. Get ready And I to add another scripture, I would go to Ephesians six under spiritual warfare. Remember, these people are not your enemies, right? We don’t fight against flesh and blood, but we fight against rulers and powers and principalities not So there’s spiritual things at dynamic here, which is why you can’t just do the.
Prophetic voice. It also has to be pastoral, and it’s why it’s so important Here, I’m gonna I’m gonna add three bees, the three bees of battling bullies. Are you ready? Here we go. This episode is brought to you by the letter B. Here we go, the three bees of battling bullies. Then let’s break these down.
One. The Bible, two bylaws, three buddies, . [00:17:00] So the Bible, let’s go Bible first. you make, make sure if you’re gonna stand this firm, that you are biblically justified. No, right? Don’t fight this hard over the chandeliers. No. don’t fight this hard. Over what you print in the bulletin. these battles reserve this kind of battle that we’re talking about where you could end in church discipline and disfellowship people you reserve that for biblical matters and make sure that your battle plan is biblical.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, absolutely. Two
JimBo Stewart: bylaws. Do not please hear me so clearly. Do not go against your bylaws. Your bylaws may be trash, but I’m gonna quote the great Rick Richard, Rick Wheeler, and here’s what he told me a long time ago. When Baptist Fight the bylaws win. Yeah. So here’s the, so often you, I, I’ve heard people go, yeah, but these bylaws are [00:18:00] trashed, so we’ve got it.
Nope. They are the bylaws. And if you’re gonna, if you’re going to disfellowship, you’re gonna do some sort of major. That requires a vote from the church. You double, triple check that you’re going by the bylaws. If you have the capacity to get legal counsel. Get legal counsel. Most state conventions of your Southern Baptist have some lawyer on retainer that can give you free legal advice over the phone.
Yeah. And you can talk to ’em and you can, you can email ’em the bylaws and you can say, here’s what I think I’m gonna do is this legal? . If I get sued, will I lose Now? They can’t prevent you from getting sued somehow. People are just gonna sue you. Yeah.
Bob Bickford: Well, they’re threatened. They’ll also threaten to sue
JimBo Stewart: and not, sometimes they’ll threaten to sue and not sue.
Sometimes they’ll sue, but they have no grounds. And so, if you’re gonna do anything, it has anything to do with how the bylaws tell you to do things. You have to do it by the bylaws. Yeah. Bible bylaws. Don’t pastor her alone. You can’t do this alone. You need some friends. [00:19:00] Mm-hmm. . Um, you need a d Om, you need state convention help.
You need other pastor friends that can be there for you. they can be a sounding board. Give you wise counsel. if you’re gonna fight this kind of battle, make sure you’ve got some guys in the bunker with you.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. You can’t do it alone. And, the last. Tweets in this bar, Barbara esque thread. I think kind of set the, the context for us here to understand the importance of it.
Here’s, here’s what I said. Um, here’s the decision point. A war is already raging for the health and wellbeing of the congregation, who will stand up to the gatekeepers and bullies out of love and with integrity and call them to biblical faithfulness or salvation who will fight for the wellbeing of the.
and then here’s what the pastor needs to know, pastor. They will attack your ideas. Mm-hmm. your work, your preaching, your pastoral care, your leadership. And if you are undeterred and if they are not corrected by you are the larger body, they will often [00:20:00] escalate and begin attacking your family. Yeah. So this is the context of the last battle for the war for church health.
This is the tactic of the enemy, or these are the tactics of the enemy. So here’s Theh. Stand strong re planter or revitalizer. There’s always one final fierce battle to face with the power of Christ, the grace of the spirit, and the authority of scripture. Hmm.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. I mean this is a Nehemiah defending off Sandlot and Tobias and all the dissenters that.
man. There, there are times when, I mean, they’re legitimately, this is gonna be battle. Mm-hmm. and, sword in one hand, travel on the other. That, that sword though is the word. Mm-hmm. . and so I, I think you said that very well. In your Bar Barbara esque tweet. which, which is actually perfect because this is the episode brought to you by the letter B and Bob
Bob Bickford: Bickford and Bob Bickford with his Bar Barbara esque Tweets.
JimBo Stewart: Battles with Bob Bickford. Beats Battle Star. [00:21:00] Galactical. . Oh man. bears. No, this is . Um, so there’s, if you are dealing with some sort of major change, just to summarize here, there will be battle.
Mm-hmm. , there will be war. And, and don’t take this lightly and you’re gonna have to count the cost. The Bible talks about counting the cost before we go to war, before we build anything, you’re gonna have to count the cost. If you’re married, talk to your wife. and, and I’m, look, I’m very serious about this.
Don’t do it alone thing. And that’s your wife too? Mm-hmm. , like, I would, when I was going through battles like this, I had like a council of outside pastors. I had Rick Wheeler as my director of missions. I had, couple of other pastors that I leaned on. And before I did anything big, I would. Here’s what I’m thinking.
Here’s what I’m dealing with. Poke holes in it. Ask me questions. And there are times where they, they course corrected me and shifted me from walking into a bus saw when I didn’t have to. sometimes you’re gonna have to walk into a [00:22:00] bus saw and like it. What I would say is, if, if you’re so exasperated that you’re to the point that you’re going, I’m done.
I’m gonna walk away, I would pray and ask the Lord for enough fight to get fired. And that may feel like a failure. What I’d tell you, it is not a failure. even Jesus was rejected as a prophet. just because you speak truth does not mean people are going to hear it and receive it. But we still have a responsibility to speak truth in love and in gentleness based on the word, but speak truth and.
be ready. Count the cost. Talk to your wife, talk to counsel. Make sure you’re making the right wise decision, the right decision. But if it is, then be willing to get fired. I mean, stand on convictions and say, I’m not gonna bend here and pray that you don’t get fired. Pray that this goes well. And
Bob Bickford: sometimes it does.
Yeah. Don’t be stupid and do stupid things and get fired. Please don’t. But stand on the Bible. Stand on truth, and fight for the health and wellbeing of the body of Christ, like who’s gonna [00:23:00] fight for it. The bullies have been fighting, fighting to keep it from being healthy for a long time. And I think that’s really the heart of what I’m trying to say through this thread, through this podcast, through just this exhortation, is be ready to lay it on the line and fight for the health of the church according to what the scripture says.
Because if you get up to the point where you are, facing fierce opposition and you are, are facing, uh, an intense. know that it’s likely that people before you have backed down and the church has suffered. Yep. And it’s only when someone stands up for the church mm-hmm. , that the church will move forward and something will happen that will create an opportunity for health.
And here it, it really will go two ways. One is the, the gatekeepers will, will realize that they’re not gonna be able to intimidate you and you’re gonna win the vote, or you’re gonna win the battle when they’re gonna leave. Right. And then the church moves. , there’s a cost to that, right? Yeah. And you may not be the guy that, you may be the guy there to fight the fight and win the battle and then let somebody [00:24:00] else come in and build on that.
That may be your role. Yep. Or, what could happen is you, you could back down and then the bullies win. Yep. Right? And then you leave that battle scarred and. And fearful, and you might not get into, you might not go back In ministry, we see a lot of guys that, that don’t survive the first battle or the first threat of battle, right?
They hear the shots and they bail out. And so what I would say to you is, is you’re gonna face a battle in every ministry position, like Jimbo, like you talked earlier, in every, every stop. Some are gonna be really fierce, some are not. But man, stand up for the health of the church. Stand on the word of God, be a gracious, humble pastor, but but be courageous.