What To Expect When Your Church Changes Pastors

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Introduction

One of the things that God has used me in over the years in ministry is healing wounded churches.

Regardless of whether or not this is your first pastoral transition or one of many, I hope that you will take what I am about to share with you to heart and then apply it in a relevant way to those that love Jesus there in your community.

Any time you have a pastoral transition it is a tough season for the body of Christ at a church. This is especially true for the Vineyard churches that I am now part of because they have not had a lot of experience with pastoral transitions since they are such a new movement.

Usually a Vineyard church is founded and pastored for a long season by one man that everyone naturally follows since he started the church. There is no questioning of authority since he established relational authority individually with each person attending as they started attending.

As the Vineyard is reaching its 30 year mark or so, many of the men who started and pastored their churches are retiring. They either did not raise up a replacement or sent qualified replacements to plant other churches or they only trained people to be church planters and founding pastors.

This has left a gap, both in our churches and in our leaders concerning the differences between starting a church and a pastoral transition into an established church.

Both our churches and our leaders have very little experience with the latter. I suspect this is not uncommon with other non-denominational or new organizations as well. 

Since I am a transplant to the Vineyard from the Foursquare denomination, I have a little more experience and understanding in this area.

The Foursquare denomination being almost 100 years old now has had to work through these issues. I personally had to work through them and learn from a few of my own mistakes.

Let me share from my heart concerning what you are facing and what challenges are in front of you.

Let me share some cautions as well.

Let me share the heart of Jesus concerning the hope and future that your church has as you navigate the rough spots on the river of God.

Pastoral Transitions

No matter who you call to be your pastor, things will never be the same. It is an impossibility.

Now I am sure you understand that in your head. Most of us do.

However understanding that in your head and accepting it in your heart is two different things.

Until you accept that this is truly a new season and a new day for your church your heart will try to lead your decision making process rather than discerning the will of God for this new day.

Expect the transition period to last for up to 2 years.

Depending on the love the people had for the last pastor, or founding pastor, this process takes a long while. People will talk for a long time about the former pastor.

They will compare the new pastor to the old pastor.

They will struggle with feeling disloyal to the former pastor if they get on board with the new pastor.

They will resist change.

They will complain.

This is just part of the transition process and it really has nothing to do with the new pastor as much as it has to do with the fact that they are mourning the loss of the last pastor.

You can expect up to 50% of the people to not survive the transition process and go look somewhere else to fellowship.

Either they will not be able to overcome the sense of loss at what they loved and the change that has taken place, or they will just not connect with the new pastor.

That is why you have to discern who “God has called” to be your new pastor, rather than find the most “qualified” man for the job.

If you have heard God, then you will not be moved.

If you made a choice based on man’s qualifications, you will quickly find a reason he is disqualified.

Find a man who is not looking to “own” the church but instead views the congregation there in your community as Jesus’ church and he is the under-shepherd.

One of the qualities that is valued in church planters is an entrepreneurial spirit. They take ownership of the new church and setting the vision.

This is great for starting a church, but in an established church it can be a nightmare because the previous pastor has released ownership of the various ministries to other people so when the new guy comes in, if he has the church planting mentality, he takes away that ownership and it causes dissension, strife, and hurt feelings.

If you are a leader in your church, be committed to the transition for the long haul. Even if you do not connect or see eye to eye with the new guy, stay committed until the transition is over.

Nothing will hurt your church more than to see divided leadership. Put the flock of God over your own personal agenda’s or needs. “A house divided against itself cannot stand”.

Unless it is an issue of moral failure or financial embezzlement which would be moral failure, stick with it until the transition is over.

If after that time you feel you cannot walk in unity, then quietly remove yourself from leadership but until that time, suck it up.

You called the man, you stick with him. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

Do not be that type of man or woman.

         

Thoughts?

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Pastor Duke Taber

Pastor Duke Taber has been a believer in Jesus for 35 years. He has been a pastor for over 20 years currently serving at Mid-Peninsula Vineyard Christian Church In San Carlos CA. and was formerly the secretary treasurer of White Pine County Ministerial Association. He is an alumnus of LIFE Bible College and Multnomah Biblical Seminary.
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