EPISODE #90 – HOW TO HELP A WOUNDED CHURCH MOVE FORWARD
On this episode the guys take a question from Replant Pastor, Christopher Lee regarding his work at Highland’s Community Church.
Q: How does small church, who has been hurt by past Shepherds, move on into the next season?
Ultimately, this is a question of trust.
- You have to build trust and then move forward-in that order. Trust is the currency of leadership
- Change moves at the speed of trust-and gaining trust takes time.
- Trust is gained in the context of relationship: at the bedside, funerals, counseling etc.
Seek to understand the trauma of the past-in order to understand not dig up dirt.
- Ask, “How have the last years been difficult for you as a member of the church?”
- Be aware that some may view you through the lens of their past hurt
- Empathize but don’t villainize previous shepherds
- Help them overcome their fear of you as a Pastor
People need to know that they can trust your Character and your Competency.
Check out the audio for more helpful suggestions from Jimbo and Bob. Thanks Chris!! We appreciate you and your work.
Take time this summer and address your Website. Our great sponsor One Eighty Digital can get your Church a website up and running in the right direction.
Show notes powered by Descript are an approximation of the verbal content, consult podcast audio for accuracy
[00:00:00] JimBo Stewart: Here we are back at the bootcamp with the golden guru of replanting is always the beautiful below average Bob Bickford. Yeah.
Bob Bickford: thanks. Jimbo. I’ve got to come up with some nicknames from you, but I don’t think with a name like Jimbo, you need any nicknames whatsoever? I think it’s just Jimbo, right?
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, yeah. That’s it. And you know, it’s interesting. The responses I get, I’ve done a lot of foreign missions and I have learned that Jimbo is a humorous name. Everywhere in the world. no matter where you go, except for the deep south, it’s it’s Jibo is a name that always gets a reaction. My favorite, I believe was in Kenya because in Kenya, in Swahili, the way you say hello is jumbo.
Bob Bickford: Yes.
JimBo Stewart: And so you would introduce yourself. And I would say my name is Jimbo and every time, no matter how big the crowd I was standing in front of, they would always laugh. And then in unison go jumbo, Jimbo.
[00:01:00] Bob Bickford: Yeah, I’ve been in Kenya as well. Jimbo that’s we share that in common.
JimBo Stewart: Okay.
Bob Bickford: I was, there in 2007. So you were what? Three 83 years old in 2007. Is that about how old you are?
JimBo Stewart: I think I was there in 2007.
Bob Bickford: Really. All right. Well, wouldn’t it have been something if we had been there at the same time,
JimBo Stewart: It was, it might have, we should probably set the figure, those dates out exactly. At some point. See if we were in Kenya at the same exact time.
Bob Bickford: We should, we should. I think that’s very worthy. That’s very worldly.
JimBo Stewart: Okay. No, I think I was actually there in 2003, not 2007. That was there 2003. and in 2004, went twice, but yeah, 2007, I was already a two time veteran by 2007. So.
Bob Bickford: that’s amazing. That is awesome. That is awesome.
JimBo Stewart: All right, man. Look, I’m excited, Bob, we, have a guest with us, a listener with a question, which is one of our favorite kinds of episodes to [00:02:00] do. And so, uh, we’ve got Christopher Lee from New Jersey and you said Highlands community church,
Christopher Lee: so another community church.
JimBo Stewart: Highlands community church. And so, man, we’re so excited, man, introduce us, our listeners to you and your church and share your question with us.
Christopher Lee: Yeah, so, uh, my name is Christopher Lee and my wife. She’s not with me right now, but she’s back at the house. The name is Kristen. So we are serving here in Galloway, New Jersey at Highland community church. We serve through an organization called village missions. Uh, so, but listening to you guys for a while, and one of the questions that I had for you was.
And I’m going to read off what I wrote so I can ask it exactly the way I asked it. I said, I’m a replanning pastor question. How does a small church who has been hurt by past shepherds? Move on into the next season?
Bob Bickford: yeah. Fantastic question. And, I think that is so true for our, for many [00:03:00] churches that are in need of revitalization and replanting, right? Somebody come in there or maybe it’s been a long time. Pastor they’ve had a lot of conflict and I think this is pretty true in Jimbo. You might be able to share this as well, but most churches that we do consultations for.
That have had a couple of decades of decline have had some crisis moment in their life, whether it’s, uh, a forced termination that’s taken place, or maybe a shepherd that’s not gently led the sheep or some kind of church split. And so that all of that career, a lot of trauma within the local congregation, that’s been my experience.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I would agree. I think that there’s almost always something and here’s what I would say, why this question matters. Even beyond that, if you’re doing a replant here, here’s one of the things we have to acknowledge. Uh, I, I laugh. I shouldn’t laugh at this. When you are replanting a dying church, you’re already wounding and creating trauma.
Bob Bickford: In addition.
JimBo Stewart: You are. I mean, if you think about, I mean, and [00:04:00] that’s why I shouldn’t laugh at this, but if you think about it, if. If, if you’ve been going to the same church for 40 years, and there is a way that you have always done things and you become emotionally attached to that, it is super scary and difficult for some new guy to come in and start changing a lot of things.
And so really, I think ultimately this question, Christopher boils down to how, how do we build trust? right. And that’s that’s would you agree, Krista? That’s kind of what we’re asking.
Christopher Lee: Yeah, so you’re you’re yeah, so exactly what we’re asking is how do you build trust and then, you know, move into that next season and then next direction of the church.
Bob Bickford: yeah. Christopher, how long have you been there at the church? You might’ve mentioned that in the introduction, but just to clarify again, how long have you been there?
Christopher Lee: Yeah, so I came in late February of 2021 and they were without a pastor since July of 2020, but having had [00:05:00] a bout four other pastors before me.
Bob Bickford: yeah. And those guys were there short short-term I’m guessing
Christopher Lee: uh, yeah, one guy was there. Uh, so village mission pastors. One guy was there 27 years of the last guy. He retired the last guy for years and it just, some situations unqualified him to remain in the position.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, well, man, I one, thank you for answering the call to go to, uh, the Northeast. And pastor churches where a pastor, a church, where there are not many churches often, and then also stepping into a difficult situation. So I just want to thank you for answering yes. To that call. And I’m looking forward to processing the, these questions.
So Jimbo, why don’t you lead us off in terms of how does a pastor in that kind of situation regained trust and help the church move forward?
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, And so one of the things you said, Christopher, that I appreciate is you said, how do we, how do we build the trust and then move forward? and, and I would say, [00:06:00] Man. I just appreciate that you put it in that order because that is how it’s going to have to happen. I, I can’t remember who said it first, but there’s a phrase I’ve heard a lot of times that trust is the currency of leadership.
in other words, this, this, we spend our trust in order to lead change. That’s the currency that it takes to, to make that happen. And so one of the things we say in leading change in a congregation is that change moves at the. Pace of trust. So I think that one of the first things we have to recognize is if, especially if you’re dealing with people who are, who have been.
trust has been betrayed. They’ve been let down, they’ve been hurt. you’re asking them to change things, man. At first it’s gonna be slow. we see unity as one of the heart cries of scripture, right? We see in the high priestly prayer. So what Jesus prays for when he says, how will people know that, uh, you are, my children they’ll know that your mind by this, that you, [00:07:00] love how you treat each other and love each other in Ephesians chapter four.
which, uh, is one of my favorite chapters to go, to, to talk about church revitalization. We see that, we must make every effort to maintain the unity of the body. So I would say before leading a lot of change, it’s going to take awhile to build trust. Uh, and so just recognizing that and not coming in and making a lot of changes real fast is probably one of the.
One of the wisest. I’m not even to say it’s not a step, but kind of your posture of understanding, man, this is gonna probably take a minute before they’re going to trust me. I was blessed that my wife is, uh, was a pastor’s kid growing up. And so she has become like my guide into this world. And, uh, and she teaches me a lot.
And one of the things she taught me was that. You you, you won’t gain trust in the pulpit. you’ll gain [00:08:00] trust at hospital bedsides, at funerals, doing weddings, doing marriage counseling, and those sorts of dust. That’s it’s those scenarios a lot of time when you, when you walk people through something as a lot of times where you’ll gain trust.
And I would say that’s, that has proven true in my experience.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, I liked that. and I think that that’s an ongoing work. That’s not just a one-step and done. Right. So, I think that that’s so important. One of the things I think is important is when you’re dealing with a traumatized congregation is I think you need to understand the story. behind the trauma.
And so part of that is like Jimbo mentioned your, your insight into the condition of the church and the experience of the people is actually going and sitting with them and asking good questions. Questions not to dig up dirt, so to speak or to have them relive the trauma, but questions that say, Hey, what’s been hard about the last several years here at the church.
[00:09:00] And to try to talk on that 60,000 foot level in terms of understanding, not the specific instances necessarily, but I think allowing people to go there if they want to go there. But I think that the betrayal of trust as a whole or that web. The crisis that occurred in the church. You need to understand some of the history of that because here’s, here’s what happens, everybody that experiences change and everybody experiences that new leadership they’re looking at you through that filter and lens of hurt.
Right? And so you might not mean to do something or trigger somebody in some particular way, but if you make a comment or you decide to lead in a particular direction, or if it’s even the right thing to do, that was similar to what the previous shepherd did or previous shepherds that did, that felt like harm to the congregation.
Those are sort of landmines that you just have to understand. Where they are and what contributed to him. So I think one of the things I would just recommend, Christopher’s sitting down with folks and just processing that, not to [00:10:00] Drudge up the past necessarily, but just to understand where their sensitive places are and where they might be hurt.
Christopher Lee: Yeah,
JimBo Stewart: thinking that it’s important to, uh, make sure you empathize with their pain. You hear them that they feel heard, but you don’t villainize anybody from, from the past, right? This is, it’s not your job to condemn any body or to, to, you know, if There are going to be moments where they may want, they may want to either, they might either romanticize the past and maybe they really like a certain guy.
And so they want to overlook. Things. And so try not to do that, but also they, they may feel very hurt. And so they may want to just bash somebody and just be careful not to ever villainize anybody. It’s, it’s never our job. We always need to be making sure we’re helping people move forward. and so pastoring them through their fear, pastoring them through their pain, but gently and kindly challenge them to kind of take some steps forward.
in faith and, and saying [00:11:00] things like, man, I hear you. And I recognize, how difficult that was. And I also want to recognize how scary, this idea of replanting must be for you, and, and change and leadership. And do you trust someone again? and I get that. And so here’s what I’d say is encourage them.
Say I I’m not, I would love for you to trust me, but here’s the deal it’s possible that I could let you down as well. But here’s what I know you can trust. I know that we can trust the word of God. Right? I know that. we can. And so. Create a process of leading primarily through the word of God. so, so recognize, listen, to understand, recognize their pain, recognize their hurt, recognize the betrayal, empathize without villainizing, but then encourage them to move forward.
Not in, Hey, you need to trust me because I’m the pastor. but Hey, here’s what we can trust is the word of God. And here’s what I’ll [00:12:00] commit to. I’ll commit to do the best I possibly can to lead this church through the word. And if I do that, will you agree to go with me and let’s do this together and let’s not stay in the past.
Let’s not stay in these things that have happened, but if the word guides us, let’s move forward and see where the word is taking us and use that as the primary form of change leadership.
Bob Bickford: I love that. Hey, Jimbo, permission to tell a story, to make an analogy.
JimBo Stewart: of course, absolutely permit permission of privilege required.
Bob Bickford: Okay. Her grade isn’t required to grade granted. So, so, uh, you guys have stayed at our house Jimbo, so you you’ve met her old dog Romeo. You’ve met him. And, uh, and this is true and you can Google it and you can, you can verify this, but the majority of dogs that are left at the pound or the APA that are not adopted are dogs that are dark or [00:13:00] black.
Right. And the reason being is because. They’re scary. People don’t know how to read them. They don’t know how to, like, there can be intimidating right there. That doesn’t mean they’re being dog, but it’s just, that’s kind of the association. So we, when we started inviting people over to our house, after we got our, our puppy, um, he was the friendliest guy.
Who’s an old guy. Now. He just kind of lays around as Jimbo’s kids. Just experience that when they were visiting in October. But you can see it when somebody comes in and they honor him, they, they pause and they’re like, whoa, wait a second here. Like. Is he, is he mean, is he kind, what if something comes to happen here, you know, and that sort of thing.
And we’re just like, he’s an old dog, right. He’s a friendly dog. And we just need to, to, you know, get some experience and some exposure to him. And once you’re around him, you’ll see that he’s a kind and loving person and, or not person, but he’s a dog. Um, so in the same way, I think. People are trying to check out the new pastor.
And so you’ve been there for [00:14:00] just a few months now, you know, a little while, and they’re trying to figure you out, right. Is Christopher A. Good guy? Is he a bad guy? Is he like, what is he trustworthy is a, how does he lead? Does he listen? You know? And so one of the challenging things is you, man, you are, you’re being watched all the time about. How you interact and how you walk among the people. And so I would just encourage you as much as possible, be around as many people in the, in as many different settings as you can, to let them know who you are and to let them know your heart. And to let them see your love for the church, your love for God’s kingdom, his word, and your love for the people. Um, because some people, when they’re wounded, they’re afraid, they’re afraid to get close to the pastor. They’re afraid to connect with the pastor again, because they’re not sure. And so part of that is overcoming a lot of the past in terms of what’s happened [00:15:00] that you have no responsibility or fault for, but your relationship with people and your exposure in your relationship with them in a variety of settings, I think would help.
Uh, diffuse any kind of preconceptions that they might bring into the relationship.
JimBo Stewart: well, speaking of your preconceptions, uh, you talk about, you know, the stereotypes of the dogs, the big black dog. Uh, I actually heard recently, Christopher and everybody can’t see this, but, uh, you, you are a bald man there, there are some studies out there that show that, that, that bald men are automatically perceived as more intense and dominant.
Uh, and, and so like, uh, you, you already have. A like this dominating intense feature. I mean, I’m not picking up that vibe. You seem like a real chill dude. Uh, but that’s what the research shows is that as a bald man, you already have [00:16:00] this like intensity to you
Bob Bickford: so are you suggesting like a hat or did he get like,
Christopher Lee: well, I use the word.
JimBo Stewart: Oh man. Own it. Own beat, look bald and be bold and be proud of it.
Christopher Lee: Well, my bald and bearded and big. So I got all the three BS
JimBo Stewart: we go,
Christopher Lee: the Bible. So I had a fourth one.
JimBo Stewart: oh, I’m sure we could come up with more.
Christopher Lee: No.
Bob Bickford: got a baritone voice, man is
JimBo Stewart: he does. big bald bearded men can come across so dominant. So no, don’t, you don’t have to wear a hat, but just be mindful of how that, how that could be, how that could be perceived. and so, uh, how, how was all of this kind of sitting with you so far? Uh, Chris.
Christopher Lee: Yeah, so it’s good. So, um, you know, I don’t know if this will help anybody or not, but, um, one thing is my wife and I’m realized too, is that, you know, we’re coming also out of COVID. So, you know, we had everybody locked down. So I think that plays a role. You know, with a lot of us are replanting or [00:17:00] revitalization, no matter the stages that will come out of COVID.
Uh, so with that, my wife and I was, so we have to come in here and immediately we got our star fellowship activities. I said, everything else can will come. But that fellowship piece really has to be there over time and over prayer, you know, God gave me this, um, you know, these words, I think I found him within scripture.
It says that we’re going to do life together. And we’re going to do life in Christ. And within I said that live together piece, that’s going to be the first and this is where I’ve been preaching and telling my congregation. I said, we’re going to do live together, but won’t be involved. We’ll be intentional with each other.
We’ll only get to know each other over coffee, over games. You know, whether we watched the Phillies. You know, beat up my nationals, you know, even it doesn’t matter what we’re going to do. We’re going to do life together and then we’re going to do life in Christ. And that is the discipleship aspect, you know?
So we, uh, we got strong going with our midweek, uh, study, uh, which my co elder [00:18:00] here has really been good. And he started that before I came. So, you know, I praise God for that. So, you know, more capitalizing on those things. We’re capitalizing on. Uh, just recently issued on 90 day challenge to the congregation to, uh, let’s read the new Testament together.
So we’re doing that life in Christ piece together. So I think over time, you know, that trust and those relationships will build, but one of my pastors back in Carolina said, you know, this is going to be at 12, 1824 month. Your work just to build that trust.
So that’s kind of where.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I would agree. I think that’s good wisdom that you have received there, uh, that life. I love that life together. You pulling that from Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Christopher Lee: Yes. Yes.
JimBo Stewart: there. I like that. so one of the things I think is important for us to understand is that trust is built by con by consistent display of your character and your competency.
[00:19:00] and, and so it’s, I think it’s, it’s good to know. People need to know that they can trust your character, but they also need to know that they can trust your competency as a leader that, that you, that you have a direction. The vision from the Lord like that, and you know where we’re going and you know, and the Lord has equipped you, to get us there.
And I think some of that is displayed. Your character is displayed and, and. And being caring and in your humility and an openness and a vulnerability and transparency. Um, and I think having your integrity, uh, B being a person of good integrity displays your character as well. But I think your competency shows in the skills that you have, the education that you have, the knowledge and experience and, uh, your credit, it gives you credibility.
And when we can bring a strong combination of character and competency, uh, [00:20:00] that’ll really help build trust over the long haul.
Bob Bickford: I love that duality of those components of trust Jimbo, because I think, uh, sometimes we’re, we’re going to be stronger in one of those areas than the other, obviously, but both of those, both of those areas in terms of. Your leadership building trust, character and competency are, are vitally important because you may have a character and people may love you, but you’re not leading them anywhere, right.
Or the way that you’re leading them is creating questions. And, and you’re nice. Or you’re, let’s say you’re, you’re a good shepherd, but when it comes to the hard decisions and the crises, you don’t have the skill and the competency to lead them, or you can be on the other side, you can always be making the right calls.
You could be staying on the right things, but you could be doing so without really. Coming across like a loving person or a caring person. And so there’s a blend there that I think that pastors are called to have both of those re and realizing that they’re going to be strong in one and maybe [00:21:00] deficient in another, in some respects, but then also here’s the beauty.
And I’m so glad to hear the critics for that. You have a, you have a co elder that’s there with you. And my encouragement to you is as you’re, as you’re leading there and as you’re shepherding, there’s other men. Uh, come to the work there at the part of the church. If you’re raising up multiple elders, then you’re going to have a stronger team overall that are going to be able to demonstrate character and competency as an entire group.
And, uh, and so I think that’s vitally important as well.
JimBo Stewart: Absolutely. man, just to recap a little bit of it, and then I’d love to hear anything else that you want to add or clarify Chris on the end there, it’s kind of a recap. We know that this is going to go slow, uh, like the wisdom that you’ve received, this, this is going to be a process of building trust.
And so spend some time sitting down, listening for the purpose of understanding, uh, so that as you listen to the congregation, you. That they feel, not that they feel heard, but they are heard and feel heard. Um, [00:22:00] and understanding that this is one of the things when we listen for understanding about things about the past, it’s important to make the distinction that hearing about the things from the past, give us explanations of what has happened and why we feel some way, but they do not give us excuses.
To misbehave or to mistrust or to not have faith. Uh, and so making that distinction for people of going, Hey, thank you for helping me that helps explain and helps me understand some things. Uh, but we do still have to move forward. And so making sure that while we empathize without villainizing. We are challenging people to move forward and not demanding that they trust you right now.
As much as that they trust the word of God and then be consistent in leading through the word of God. So that. They can take time to get to know you and trust you, but we can go ahead and jump now on some things, knowing, and I love what you talked about with a life together and life with Christ. I mean, we can jump now into that, [00:23:00] right?
We know that the word of God calls us to that. So you don’t have to trust me for us to take that step. We just need to trust and obey the word of God in order to take those steps. Encourage them to trust God in his word, be patient, pastor them through their pain, passionate them to their hurt and know that trust is built by consist by consistent display of your character and competency.
Chris, is that helpful? Are there any last thoughts you want to share? Uh, in regard to the, some of the things that we’ve said.
Christopher Lee: no guys you’ve been really, uh, you’ve been really helpful and yeah. You know, I appreciate, you know, and I’m just want to curse, you know, the pastors listening to this, like, you know, we’re, we’re in this together and you know, we’re in this for Christ and you know, Christ ultimately, you know, we know this, but he is our head and you know, where I’m want to encourage everybody to do.
And even myself at times, and my congregation, I preach this all the time is always entrance in the prayer closet because we can talk all day long. But so till we enter into the prayer closet, none of this matters. So that would be my encouragement for pastors. And I just appreciate you guys and your [00:24:00] encouragement.
Let me come on here as a one. I’m a fan. I just started text y’all question. And you saying, come on the show. And I said, you know, I was like a kid in a candy shop. Oh really? I couldn’t be Jimbo, Bob. Okay. Yeah. Why not? But now I appreciate you guys and, uh, you know, praying for him and your work is a real edification to me and I’m sure many others listening to you guys.
JimBo Stewart: may. And we’re glad to have you thanks for taking the time to come on with us. And thanks for sending us a question
Christopher Lee: That’s like you guys
JimBo Stewart: listeners. We’d love to do the same with you. And so if you’ve got questions you can, through our website, you can text us. You can email us, contact us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, whatever way works best for you.
We’ve got all those channels of communication open, and we’d love to serve you as you serve out there as boots on the ground.