EP 215 LONG TERM PASTORS & CHURCH RENEWAL
Greetings Bootcampers. Today the guys tackle an important and oft asked question; “Can a long tenured Pastor lead a church toward renewal?” Characteristically the answer is usually a not affirmative. We want to push back on that a bit and stress, a long tenured Pastor might be able to lead a church toward renewal-but it takes some clear thought, a huge commitment and the power of God working through the Pastor and the congregation.
Here are some of the highlights.
There are 3 things involved in considering a church and renewal:
Pastor (he must become a renewed pastor)
- Personal renewal comes first
- Take a sabbatical (even if it’s just for a week)
- Do some prayerful personal evaluation
- Make sure you are ready to make the commitment to see this through
- Get some perspective and insight from others
- Decide what strengths you need to lean in on and maximize
- Decide what weaknesses you need to focus on as growth areas
Church (it has to be willing to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit and earnestly desire to be renewed)
- Ask the church to enter a season of prayer and anticipation
- Do some strong evaluation (maybe get some outside help/perspective)
- Rightly define reality and lead your church to holy discontentment
- Build or enlist your leadership team to help you not do this alone
- Decide on a plan and a direction (that is not the same direction you have been going)
- Choose Bible Studies and sermon series that are about pursuing God’s will
- Lead with the Word not force of personality
Culture (things cannot stay the same, or business as usual)
- Define the new direction in a clear and compelling way
- Amplify that message as often as possible. When you are tired of talking about it you may have started to get through
- Create some small wins to keep the momentum going and celebrate them loudly
- Setup a process of continual evaluation and adjustment where necessary
What do you think? Have you renewed a church as a long tenured Pastor? We’d love to hear from you. Why not drop us a line, a voice mail or a comment? While you are at it, get with our great sponsors over at One Eighty Digital-they have the know how to refresh and renew your church’s website.
JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] Here we are. Back at the boot. Back at it again. Bob, you ready for the next episode? Episode
running, well. Sleeping with train tracks. Rolling next to and everything.
Bob Bickford: Yes, and I wanna say we’re probably 87.5% unpacked.
JimBo Stewart: Hmm.
Bob Bickford: We have a few things we’re still looking for, and I think they all made the trip. Matt and the, uh, moving team from Allstar Movers did a fantastic job of getting this down here from St. Louis. but Jimbo, we got a lot of stuff and, uh, I just, I wanna, I wanna give a, a shout out to, everybody just to say this, man. Reduce and declutter, that’s all I gotta say is reduce and declutter. In fact, Jimbo, I’m sending a vintage international harvester hat to one of our fateful [00:01:00] P one listeners, Mr. Josh Wally. uh, so I got his address boxed it up and sent it to him. And so
he’s, uh, he’s gonna be sporting a brand new bright red strong gray. So look for him on the interwebs.
Uh, wearing a new hat that’s not, you know, been out in the sun for a long time.
JimBo Stewart: Well look, we’re still within the two weeks of Bama Hate Week for LSU, so I still can’t, I still can’t support being nice to Josh Wally at this time.
Bob Bickford: Really.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, we gotta wait. We get, we both, so like Alabama and LSU both took bye weeks, so we had a whole week and then now we got a whole nother week. And, then we can be friends again. after that.
Bob Bickford: Well, that’d be good. I, I just, I want to call the, uh, Arkansas season done. Uh, it is over and, uh, I also, um, I think I went on record on Facebook in calling, uh, the Cowboy season over,
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, probably so.
Bob Bickford: I think they, they spanked to whoever they were playing last week. But, uh, I just think that was an anomaly.
Uh, they’re not gonna do.
JimBo Stewart: [00:02:00] Well, you talk about moving, look, you never know how much stuff you have until you move. Like you think you don’t have a lot of stuff, and then you move and then you’re like, wow, man, this is a lot of stuff.
Bob Bickford: Yes, yes. And my rule is if I haven’t touched it for a year, it’s going away.
and here’s what I’m, I’m, so this is one of the things I’m thrilled about living here in Nashville. Just, from our house, probably about a mile and a half, two miles, is something called a Goodwill Express Drop-off Center. And so, I load up stuff in the back of my pickup and I drive to that express drop off location and the guys take it outta the back of my pickup and I don’t even have to say anything. They just take it.
JimBo Stewart: Hmm. There
Bob Bickford: a beautiful, it’s a beautiful thing.
JimBo Stewart: I like it. Well, you know, something else happens when you stay, somewhere long enough. And let’s talk, let’s, let’s segue into our topic for the week. Most of the time on this podcast, I. When we are discussing what topics to [00:03:00] put on the podcast, our intended audience is typically a potential or rookie re planter or revitalizer.
That’s kind of the way we’re trying to think is, hey, what are, what are episodes? Just so you know how we think about what to talk about. One, we love to get questions and things from you guys, so please send those to us. Two, we like to think through, Hey, if I’m sitting down with a rookie or potential replan or revitalization pastor, what are some of the questions they’re asking?
What are some of the things they’re dealing with in their first few years that, this podcast can be a resource I. After that conversation, had a conversation just yesterday that I was like, man, here are two or three episodes I think you need to listen to. and that’s the win for us. We’re not as much trying to be a huge podcast as just trying to be helpful in that, but I’ve had a conversation a little bit outside of our target audience recently, Bob, that I thought might be Again, as some conversations I’ve had enough that I feel like it’s, it’s worthy of a podcast episode [00:04:00] resource that we can pass on when we have that conversation.
Bob Bickford: Let’s do it. Let’s go for it.
JimBo Stewart: So here’s the question. The question I get is, I’ve been a pastor here for more than 10 years, and the church is in need of revitalization. Can I turn this around?
And if so, does that look like? How do I do that? Because it seems like conventional wisdom is that in order to turn a church around, you need a new pastor with a new vision, new energy, new direction. there are, there’s some research I’ve seen that says . That after 10 years, you really start to lose momentum and effectiveness, at pretty large scales, and it doesn’t really come back.
And there are few exceptions to that. So it can seem a little bit dismal and discouraging if you’ve been somewhere 10 years and it’s a church that really needs revitalization. So if you’re deciding to stay, should you stay? And if you do, what does that look like?
Bob Bickford: [00:05:00] Yeah, super. Great question and, and I think, a lot of folks typically struggle with trying to answer that because they feel. A sense of obligation to a local congregation, right? They’re, they’re the shepherd. They’ve been there for a while, they think. And if I leave, who’s gonna watch over these people?
What’s gonna happen? And then also Jimbo, I think it’s just familiarity, right? And, I think it, it just, you you get familiar, you get complacent and you get comfortable. And so I think this is a really good question, and, and I think your first point here is that, uh, the pastor, if he’s going to stick it out and stay at a particular location past 10 years. He really can’t be the same pastor.
He has to be a renewed pastor, to experience a renewed church.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, we’ve got a great pastor here in Jacksonville named Dr. Albert Bird, Dr. Bird, and, I love Dr. By, I actually, uh. First time I met him, I spoke on a church [00:06:00] revitalization panel here in Jacksonville. I’d only been here probably not long enough to actually have been on a panel, but I I, I had been here for a little while and was asked to be on this panel, me and him and Rick Wheeler, and, said, They did not have the same pastor revitalize this church.
I had to become a different, I had to become renewed. I had to become a different pastor. So I, I’m gonna, I think similar to last week’s episode when we sailed the seven Cs of a church renewal movement, those seven Cs. Really boiled down into, three kinda legs to the stool.
Right. We talked about, for the associational leader, how do you affect the culture as you talk about and, and, and remove about in the world of church renewal, how do you help the pastors that, that are leading and potential pastors, and how do you help the churches? It’s the same three legs to the stool here that we’re gonna talk about today.
Uh, we’re gonna do it in a little different order though. ’cause in this one it has to start with the pastor.
It [00:07:00] has to be a renewed pastor. Then we’re gonna talk about the church itself, and then we’re gonna talk about the culture of the church and the pastor. And really all three of those are required, a renewal of all three of those.
So let’s start with the pastor becoming a renewed pastor. I think you gotta take some . I’m gonna use the word sabbatical. Here’s what I mean. I, you gotta step away enough long enough. To kind of see some things and hear some things like you gotta, this is gonna be really hard for you to do in the regular rhythm of preaching a sermon every week and doing hospital visits and meeting with your deacons and meeting with your committees, like in the midst of that rhythm.
It’s gonna be really hard for you to let your brain be still enough, quiet enough, your soul and your heart be quiet enough. Still enough, long enough. So when I say sabbatical, look. All you can get is a couple days away and you’re not preaching this Sunday, and that’s all you can get.
Bob Bickford: Mm-Hmm.
JimBo Stewart: And the Lord can use that.[00:08:00]
Just ask him to use it. But you need to do something that requires you stepping away for a minute and for a dedicated amount of time you are prayerfully pursuing some wisdom from God on yourself and on the church.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, a different pace in a different place I think are really key there. So you can, and Daisy agrees, evidently Daisy pup, uh, endorses that
JimBo Stewart: Amen.
Bob Bickford: So yeah, I mean, different place, different place gives you different perspective, right? You see things differently and, and so man, it, it can be, a town, a couple towns over getting in a coffee shop, maybe spending the night, maybe sitting in the church over your buddy praying, just thinking through some things and then a different pace, varying your schedule up.
Right? I think the thing is sometimes we just get into this routine and we just repeat the routine all the time, and if we don’t shake it up and, and create a different pace for ourselves. We get stuck in a rutt. [00:09:00] So different place, different pace, I think. But I think one of the things that, that you’re, you put here in the outline that we’re gonna talk about is it’s not just getting going somewhere new and slowing down. You have to do some things while you’re doing both of those in order for you to be renewed.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah,
you’ve gotta do some peripheral personal evaluation.
one, you just gotta make sure, are you really committed to see this through?
I mean, are we talking, Hey, how do I revitalize this church in the next 18 months? cause that’s probably not gonna happen.
we’re, we’re probably talking a five to seven year window here.
And so I think one of the things you gotta ask yourself is. Am I committed to a five year at minimum process from here, like
the clock starts over.
Now you have a little bit, and maybe it’s four years because you’ve already established some credibility obviously in that time, and you have some trust, hopefully.
if you don’t have trust, that’s a whole nother [00:10:00] conversation and a whole nother podcast. We’re assuming that you have credibility and trust as you enter into this, but you gotta really, you gotta evaluate, am I ready to do this? And do I have the energy? Do I have the capacity? Uh, have the time, really do this?
Then you’ve gotta evaluate and figure out, hey, as a leader. What are, what are my strengths? Like what are the things that if you, if, if, if every church member were really honest, what would they say are my best strengths? That I really, and, and that’s awesome. Lean in on those things, that those are God-given strengths.
Lean in on that. Then if every church member were honest, what are kind of my shortcomings, and listen, I’m not telling you to fix all of them. You don’t need to try to fix all of them, but what’s one or two that may be getting in the way that you need to go? Okay, this is something I’ve heard more than once.
some negative feedback. You know, where’s the truth to that? But here’s the deal. You can’t do this on your own. You need [00:11:00] some loving, kind, somebody that’s for you. That’s in your corner, but is gonna be honest feedback. It can give you some feedback on that, and it can be honest and can say, yeah, there are some areas I think you could grow in and you can’t be offended, when you ask for it.
Like you can’t ask somebody to give you feedback and then get offended. you, you gotta, you gotta be ready to hear something that you may be completely nose blind about and, and, and, maybe a, a complete blind spot and you have no idea that this is some, an area that you need to grow in.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, that’s a hard one. but I, I think that the, one of the distinguishing marks between a good leader and a great leader is this, this receptivity to constructive criticism that is, is given in a way that. Is with the desire to help you become better at what you do, right? So, so it’s not the, the destructive criticism that tears you down and belittles you and [00:12:00] just says you suck at everything. It’s the criticism that says, Hey, here’s an area that I think you either want to, uh, see if you can improve, or you may want to allocate some leadership ca capital. Delegate some things to somebody or find a process or a system to compensate for this leadership deficit. Because if you’re not gonna, if, if you can’t become a, you know, in the words of, I think it’s John Maxwell, if you’re a five and you’re trying to become a 10, you might become a seven.
You’re probably not gonna become a 10, like they’ll say an administration or something. So knowing that you’re always gonna struggle with administration, how can you effectively lead? In spite of that, and in light of that, in ways that help you move forward, right? So that’s gonna take some work and, and maybe it is good to get some of that feedback and then go, get away and sit with that for a while and, and process that so that it gives you time to really think, how do I unlayer this?
How do I understand the truth behind it? And wait, it’s gonna be productive [00:13:00] for me and for the church and for our mission.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. And then you create a development plan. I mean, create a plan. Don’t just say, Hey, this is an area I need to grow in. You gotta create a plan. All right. Second leg of the stool is the church. first thing you gotta ask the church to enter a season of prayer in anticipation. You don’t have to say fully out loud just yet.
Hey. I’m trying to figure out how to turn this church around. I don’t know what to do. I think you just do say, Hey look. I love this church. I’m excited about the future of this church. I think God has some big plans for our church, but I wanna make sure we’re all on the same page with him. And so I wanna ask our church to go into a season of prayer.
I. In anticipation. And let’s ask God, what, what is it he’s calling us to do? I think that’s a key part of this. Let’s not just move to the strategic, let’s, let’s remember. This is ultimately a spiritual thing. and let’s ask God to move. And there are prayer guides for revitalization. There are books that you can use, that can help you along with that.
But then you [00:14:00] gotta move on just like yourself. Do some strong evaluation of the church, and this is where maybe you get some outside help and perspective as well from your associational leaders state convention, something like that. and you’ve gotta rightly define the reality that you’re in and you gotta lead your church to what?
You know, Bob has talked about on other episodes here as, uh, holy discontent, right? and it’s holy discontent where we’re, we’re coming to the conclusion, hey, we’re not where we’re supposed to be and doing what God has called us to do. Uh, so we’ve gotta come to a place that’s gonna come through prayer and that’s gonna come through evaluation.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, I don’t. Wanna underplay this point, and I don’t wanna overplay it, but many good capable, called competent, incredible leaders seek to lead their church forward and seek to have a renewed church. And the church resists, right? There’s a, there’s a core group of [00:15:00] resistors, controllers, gatekeepers, whatever you want to say. Who, they don’t want the church to move forward. They don’t want the church to be renewed. They want the church to be their place where things stay the same, where they have rule and reign, all those sorts of things. And so I think we can have, uh, on one side of it, we’re giving the pastor some instructions on how to lead the church, how to lead himself in in particular ways that could set the stage and the context for renewal. And I, I think a hundred percent agree with everything we said, but I think you can have a leader who’s a hundred percent committed to do that and a hundred percent committed to do the right things. And you might find that you’ve got a group of folks who just don’t want that.
you’re faced with the decision, do I stay here and work in this field and plow around this stump? Do I seek to try to loosen it and dissolve it over time? I. Or, or what will the Lord have me, you know, have [00:16:00] me do? I think that, the greatest frustration that I hear from pastors are those who are committed to do, to be the right kind of leader that God wants, and also to do the right things that God wants in a godly way, and then they find themselves in a church that’s resistant. I. To, to change. But Jimbo, you’ve nailed it. The church, the body, the leaders, and there are always some, there are always some, there’s always a remnant who wanna see the church move forward. And so what I would say is don’t focus on the skeptics, don’t focus on the critical gatekeepers. Don’t fo focus on the controllers. Focus on the ones who wanna move the church forward.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. And as you focus on those, either your existing leadership team, if they’re ready and they’re all on board, or build and enlist a leadership team, a guiding coalition of some kind, as some would call it, uh. So that you’re not doing this alone. you don’t need to do this alone. and then with that team, and maybe with the help of an associational leader, state convention leader, something like that, [00:17:00] build a plan and, and a direction.
And here’s the deal, I. This cannot be the same direction you’ve been heading. I mean that’s the whole point of this. Like, if, if this looks, smells and, and everything just like what you’ve been doing, then you haven’t accomplished anything. I, I think this is, and I, I say that uh, just a little bit, but like, this is what I see some guys do is they say like, oh, we’re gonna turn things around, and they just turn the volume up on what they’re already doing.
and they’re, they haven’t . Come up with anything that’s a, listen. I’m not saying you gotta be super creative and innovative, but part of it’s you gotta figure out has our community changed? Have the needs in our community changed? like what, what does it look like for us to be missionaries right here at this address right now?
And it probably doesn’t look the same that it did 10 years ago.
And, and so get some clarity on what it is you’re aspiring to do, what it is God is calling you to do, and. Find a way to [00:18:00] communicate that well.
Bob Bickford: Love it. I agree a hundred percent.
JimBo Stewart: Then I think something you can kind of do to undergird this is choose wisely the Bible studies and Sunday school curriculum and sermon series that you’re doing during this season, and make sure there are things that are pursuing joy, and unity and love and maturity. I. Pursuing God’s will. Things like experiencing God flickering lamps are things we recommend all the time.
Those are great studies to kind of, you know, get, get an evangelism kit and learn how to share the gospel. think through those things. Figure out ways to hear from your community and engage in your community. Here’s a word of wisdom for you, lead, but make sure you’re leading change with the word and not the force of your personality.
Now, that’s one. It is easy to in, but let me just even give this to you strategically. There’s 10,000 spiritual reasons to do this, to lead by the word and not your force of personality. But here’s what hit me today. I was talking to a guy today and it hit me. [00:19:00] If you lead with the word, then when you hit moments of opposition to the vision, which you will.
Even if they don’t like you at that moment, or they don’t like your personality, if you’re leading with the word, it’s hard to argue with the word. Now, I’m not saying manipulate and proof text. I’m saying let, let the word guide what you’re doing, not just your ideas and intuition. use the wisdom god’s given you.
Let the word be what leads and, and not just you and your personality.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. That’s so good. I, I was, talking with a pastor recently who, was working with his group of leaders as elders to install deacons and. The elders were hesitant because they had a run at a previous, uh, leadership selection process where it just didn’t make sense. It wasn’t wise and, you know, all those sorts of things.
And so their biggest pushback was, well, I. Is anybody qualified? We don’t know if anybody’s qualified. [00:20:00] Right? And so, uh, he patiently walked them through the word and walked them through the process of when the early church chose the deacons and the church nominated the deacons. And then they, the elders affirmed, or the apostles affirmed the deacons. And so he walked them through that passage, not just one time, but several times in a row. Said, are we clear on what this passage says? And they all said yes. And he said, then it seems like we should go ahead and do what the scriptures say,
JimBo Stewart: That’s good.
Bob Bickford: now, it wasn’t one conversation, and I,
I think I wanna share this with, with the, the leaders, the pastors out there, look, it’s gonna take multiple times saying the same thing in the same way, uh, and in different ways. Reading the same passages and supporting
passages over and over and
over. You are not such a great leader and a great teacher that you can say it once and everybody gets it right.
just can’t. [00:21:00] So just anticipate that it’s gonna be multiple conversations. It’s gonna be a consistent walk and a single direction that is really going to help you move the church forward with the power of the God of the word of God.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, that’s good. That moves us to the third leg of the stool, which is really the culture, which is where we do that. How it’s, it’s how we take what God has said to us as a pastor. As we’ve stepped away, we’ve evaluated, we’ve figured out where we need to grow, things we need to maximize. We’ve made a commitment to do this.
We’ve evaluated the church, we’ve defined reality. We’ve led the church to a holy discontent. We’ve made some decisions on where we’re headed and how do we really get us there. One, you gotta define the new direction in a clear and compelling way. you can call it a vision statement. You can call it your ethos.
You can call it, I don’t care what you call it, but it’s gotta be clear. It’s gotta be repeatable, it’s gotta be compelling. And I’ve said it on this podcast a dozen times before, if you can’t add it to every sermon you preach, [00:22:00] then you haven’t finished clarifying it. and so some version of your vision, mission, core values, ethos, something, something about the language you have crafted that communicates what it is.
God has called you to do and who he’s called you to be, ought to be able to be easily integrated into everything you preach every Sunday. You ought to be able to highlight back to this is part of who God’s called us to be. This is part of what God’s called us to do. Now, not every sermon is gonna cover the entire vision mission.
Strategies, core values, all of those things, but something out of what you figure out is communicating that ought to be able to get, put it amplified in that message as often as in every Sunday when you are feel, when you get sick and tired of talking about it. You’ve probably almost gotten to where you’ve talked about it enough.
Um, because here’s what you gotta realize. You live, sleep, eat, and breathe this stuff, right? The average church members coming to church, like one and a half Sundays a month.[00:23:00]
and so you’re sitting here seven days a week, 24 hours a day meditating on this, thinking about this. And so at some point you’re gonna get tired of it and think surely everybody knows, but you guys just gotta remember.
Your average church member and like someone who considers himself a good church member is maybe two Sundays a month,
and, and so you’re not getting it out to them as much as you think you are,
so you gotta just keep saying it as many ways as you can.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. I, I think that’s really good. And, and I think the key here is. saying it in a variety of ways, not just always the same way,
right? So, so you, in the, in the body of the message, you may have one point in the sermon that lends itself towards one piece of the mission or the vision or the ethos, right? So can’t add on that a while.
Right? Share that, share that in announcement time. If you’re, if there’s something in your, your church’s life in terms of its calendar, how it’s focusing, its time and its attention and its resources. Man highlight, Hey, [00:24:00] here’s why we do this, because we believe, you know, whatever. Right? Or we practice whatever.
Right? So I think it’s important to figure out how do we, how do we sprinkle this in as a good seasoning salt over a long period of time in a regular way, uh, ways that it, it just naturally flows. Like if you’re just getting up there and reading the vision from the,
the membership book or the vision statement of the Q card, that’s not what we’re talking about.
We’re not talking about just the repeating it. Let’s all say it together. Right.
We’re not talking about doing it in such a way that it’s like the, pre-flight announcement about seat belts and exit rows and those sorts of things.
But it’s something that’s got, got a, got a sense of passion and creativity to it. And, and it feels authentic and real. This is who we are, this is what we do, and celebrating that. Right? And so I, I think if you find ways to do that, it’ll feel more natural and your people will get it. ’cause people need. Millions of examples, right? To how to live the vision out and how to, how to, how to be the, the people [00:25:00] of God in the particular place that God has placed you.
JimBo Stewart: Uh, yeah. And that’s so good that it’s gotta be said. Well, I like that analogy of the announcements on the plane. ’cause nobody pays attention to that. and you know, ’cause it just, it, it’s just said so boring and whatever, and we don’t really care. So yeah, you gotta figure out a way, say it in a compelling way and a clear way.
And it’s gotta be clearly a new direction. And here’s the last thing. Here’s how you keep it going because it’s, this is a lot of work just to get this started and I hate for you to get this started and then stall out. So how do you keep from stalling out? You gotta create some small wins, some low hanging fruit to keep the momentum going.
Find little ways to win, along the way and celebrate those as. Loudly and often as you can, we have said on this podcast before, man, celebrate something every Sunday. and then lastly, you gotta set up a process of continual evaluation and adjustment. And so, I mean, every, every year there needs to be some level, [00:26:00] not a whole retooling, don’t retool every year, but there needs to be some level of.
Evaluating what you’re doing. Are our systems set up to help us accomplish what we’re trying to do? Are we doing what we’re supposed to be doing? Are we being obedient to what God’s called us to do and who he’s called us to be? where do we need to make adjustments? And so set up regular processes of evaluation and adjustment where necessary.
Bob Bickford: That’s good, man. I think every year, you should, have a checkup about the vision and the implementation and. Just evaluate it and see how you’re doing as, as a pastor, like how are you personally embodying the vision? How are you doing that in your small groups? How, how are your staff, your staff team or your key leaders, your volunteers, and then how is the church doing at fulfilling what it’s, what it’s, uh, says it’s there to do in the community, uh, where God is placed.
JimBo Stewart: That’s good. Hey, uh, this is gonna be a lot of work and I think in the 27 minutes that we’ve covered, [00:27:00] we’ve probably not solved everything for you. but hopefully, hopefully we’ve gotten the conversation started in some ways that you can think about it as a pastor, a leader, as as the church, and how to evaluate and, and figure out what to do there, and then how to create a culture that helps you actually accomplish what it is God’s called you to do and who God’s called you to be.