The most common tactic of a zealous pastor, which is the worst thing he could do, is to enter a revitalization work with an impatient conviction to change what needs to be changed within the first year or two. Of course, there is a need for change. Otherwise, the church would not be characterized as in need of “revitalization.” Yet, change must come slowly. Trust must be built. Sheep need first to feel cared for by the shepherd before they will move forward in such a way that is “different than they have ever done it.” It is not just about a slow change, but a change that must be well-timed.
In year four, we tried to slowly move our congregation to a plurality of elders. After, eighteen months of teaching through 1 Timothy and several in-depth discussions on the matter, I found myself with a congregation split in support and revolt over this issue. As I saw I was about to split the church, I stopped. I spent the next nine months saying nothing publicly, but used that time to ask those in opposition why they struggled so much with this clear biblical direction. It turns out there was a hang up on two things: The term “elder” (traditional SBC members did not understand) and a feeling I was pushing my own agenda, not God’s. Nine months later I presented the same idea and it passed unanimously. Why?
I made two changes based on the objections I learned. I changed the term “elder” to “pastor.” They identified a shepherd as a pastor. The other thing the Lord used that I did not realize at the time, was I stopped moving forward nine months previous when I could have rammed it through. I had the congregational votes. Yet, in holding back, I apparently revealed to the skeptics I did love this church and cared more about keeping the church together than ramming my own agenda.
The Lord in his grace, taught me that not only should I still move slow when bringing change, but as their shepherd I am to watch and listen to the people to see when they are ready for the change. Wait for the right time the Lord in his power and grace provides.
What are we to do while we wait? We teach, pray and love the people. When you sense yourself getting impatient for change in years 2-3 thinking this will never happen…you teach, pray and love the people. We continue in this faithful task until the “right time” comes, or the Chief Shepherd returns.