How does a pastor know when to make changes in his church?

wisdom-2Pastors who walk into existing churches are quickly burdened by needed changes to improve the church.  Where the challenge is for most of us is when and how those changes need to be brought.  If you are wondering how to choose those battles wisely, first receive this most excellent counsel I received as I entered my first Senior Pastor position at a church clearly needing change and revitalization:


“Preach the Word, sacrificially love those people, and do not change anything for a while.”

Now, having shared this invaluable counsel that should be applied first, here are 3 questions to ask yourself as you move to bring the change that is needed and how to do so with discernment and wisdom:

1) Is it biblical or preference? 

Whatever you wish to change, make sure you have a strong biblical argument to do so.  If you desire to change the structure of your church to a plurality of elders/pastors, or raise the commitment of all church members to gather regularly on Sundays together (Hebrews 10:25), those are appropriate biblical changes that should be pursued.  If you want to change which translation of the Bible to preach, the style of music, or remove the giant picture of a white, American, Jesus in your lobby, those do not possess as clear a biblical argument.  Whether it is biblical or a preference matters in how you bring change, and in many cases whether you should change it at all.

2) Is it the right time?

Just because a biblical argument can be made for the change, does not mean it is the right time to make the change.  So many young pastors walk into an existing church, make quick, needed changes because, “It’s in the Bible” and think nothing of shepherding a congregation through those changes.  Then they wonder why eighteen months into their pastorate, half the church remains and there is a general lack of trust and suspicion towards the pastor.  That’s because the new pastor was too busy figuring out what “had to change” instead of first loving and shepherding that congregation so they would later be receptive to the change.

3) Is it worth the possible consequences? 

Determine if the change can be taught as biblical, consider if the timing is right, then a pastor must weigh whether the consequences deem it wise and worth the risk.  For example, I would not split the church over a plurality of elders/pastors, or purging an inflated membership role in the first few years at a church.  Those are changes that can come later with good teaching and patience.  However, I would risk being fired over confronting a deacon found in open adultery, or an attack on the deity of Christ, whether the church was ready for it or not.  Choosing the right battles wisely involves whether you are willing to face the potential consequences of your decision as well as stand before God with a clear conscience.

This is a general template to follow as you determine the changes you desire to make and how they should be chosen and done.  Whatever you do, choose battles wisely as if you will be at that church ten years or more.  That will give you a different perspective and will help you be patient.

Oh, and one more thing.  If you are married, listen to you wife.  My wife kept me from getting fired a few times by her wise cautions about a few different things I was about to change.  Your wife is your helpmate and will be a particular help to keep you from doing something you might regret.  Listen to her.

Posted in Oversight of Souls, Training for Ministry

Revitalize: A Workshop on Church Revitalization (Morning before TGC)


Come join us for this important event the morning before The Gospel Coalition Conference.

To register go Here

Posted in Promotion, Training for Ministry

Newest podcast episode: Miscarriages

Miscarriage is a sorrowful, but all too common experience that calls for special pastoral care. Listen as Brian Croft discusses his own experience of a miscarriage, and how to care for others going through this loss. This episode address questions like…

  • What is it like to experience a miscarriage?
  • What do you say to someone who loses their baby?
  • How does a pastor and a church care for someone grieving this loss?
  • What does long-term care look like?

To listen click HERE

Posted in Oversight of Souls

How long should I preach?

pulpit-time-picI find many pastors, especially younger ones, are regularly wrestling with this question.  The pressure to answer can be self-imposed, or forced by those in your church who complain your sermons are too long.  The problem is there does not seem to be one right answer.

The answer to this question largely depends on the kind of pastor you are, the quality of preacher you are, and the kind of congregation you serve.  In light of this, here are 3 principles that might help you answer this question in your particular context.

A pastor should determine the length of a sermon…

1) Based on where your people are, not where you think they should be.

We should always challenge our folks to grow.  Yet, I hear of many pastors preaching sermons at a length they know is overwhelming the majority of their congregation.  The reason…to push their people to be able to listen to God’s Word for the amount of time the pastor thinks they should be able to listen.

Push your congregation to grow, but not at the expense of exasperating them by trying to make them something they are not.

God must do that work.  Preach faithfully, but meet them where they are.  Let God mature them to that place as your preaching causes them to long for more of it.

2) Based on how good and seasoned a preacher you are. 

I fear so many of us who love the Puritans read that they preached 1 – 2 hour sermons and think, “Hey, I want to be like the Puritans.”  The problem is many men who want to preach an hour, are not good enough or seasoned enough to preach an hour…yet.  I realize we are treading in subjective waters.  The point here is the necessity to honestly evaluate how good and seasoned you are as a preacher.

If you are in your first couple of years pastoring a church, your sermons should probably be shorter, more succinct, and simpler than you probably think or want.

If you are not able honestly to assess your preaching gifts and allow others to speak into your life to assess them with you, I believe you will have a difficult time determining what length your sermons should be that is most helpful to your congregation.

3) To leave your people longing for more, not less.

Every preacher has been there.  We can sense we are losing our people and we still have 10 minutes left in the sermon.  We want to make sure we give adequate time to the preaching of God’s word, but this principle to leave them longing for a bit more, is a good goal to pursue.  I would rather leave my people in a place where they wanted just a little more, versus exasperating them with too much.

Do not underestimate the discouragement that comes from someone who honestly desires a nice big glass of water and instead, got the fire hose jammed down their throat.

Remember, these are just principles.  Do not over analyze them.  Just take them and apply them in your context with your level of preaching experience.  Lastly, remember you are a shepherd of these people to whom you are preaching.  Think like a shepherd as you determine the length of your sermons.  Push them to grow.  Nurture them where they are now.  Then, trust that God will use his word and your efforts to find that balance every pastor should seek.

Posted in Oversight of Souls, Preaching

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