Originally published Dec. 2015
After this, I’m done with writing about churches for at least the rest of the year.
Anyway, this one is really where my heart is at- a church that needs refocus. Perhaps they’ve had an abusive pastor they’ve just let go, and need someone to come in and fix things.
Let’s say I was hired by (let’s make this tough!) a former Ruckmanite church. Their pastor steps down, for undisclosed reasons. I’m sure everyone’s going to want to tell me why, including a lot of gossip. Let’s not do that. If it’s something procedural, I’ll listen, so I don’t make the same mistake. But if it’s something personal, I don’t care. He’s stepped down, he needs forgiveness and prayer to restore him, and the church needs direction, forgiveness, prayer, healing…
….and they need it last Sunday.
Okay. Hit the ground running. (by the way, nobody knows where that phrase comes from. No, it wasn’t from airborne soldiers or hobos jumping off a train. If you have 12 weeks to spare, give either a try while pumping your legs like you’re running. And let me know, so I can sign both your casts!!!!)
That’s a sermon illustration you can use, by the way. It’s mine. Enjoy.
The first service I would undertake would depend on if I was the first Pastor they turned to after the crisis. You need to immediately get a prayer service. The church needs healing, and yesterday. forgiveness against any bitterness or hurt.
Where do you preach from? You’ve got a lot of possibilities. Forgiveness should be the first thing, and make sure you hit on the very real possibility that the church members may be the victims, Say this GENTLY and circumspectly. Don’t throw out, “Man, your old pastor was a jerk, huh?”
Instead, find a way to say it in the sermon like, “Sometimes in our best intentions, we often try the wrong thing. And we just can’t see our way out of it. How many times have your children done something dangerous, and you responded by shouting at them? In many ways, pastoring is like parenting. We sometimes hurt those we are entrusted to. As a Pastor, the first thing I should say is – i’m sorry. I know I will frequently do the wrong thing, just as you yourselves often do. I will sometimes respond wrongly. And I’m afraid, yes, I will indeed hurt your feelings, and very badly. And I’m sorry.”
Just the act of someone standing in the pulpit and apologizing may well heal the congregation right there.
Plan out a moment when you pray, with the congregation, that God heal the hurt among them.
AFTER THIS, I’d make a remark about “Those days have ended” and “That door is shut, to open a new one.”
Start emphasizing getting the church on track. Start talking about the Great Commission. Start talking about the church body coming together as one, putting their hands to the plow and not looking back, about the future of the church ahead.
I’d make the Sunday night service the Lord’s Supper, and emphasize about closed communion, that the Lord’s Supper is only for members of the church, and should be done on Sunday Nights from now on.
After this, it’s almsot like a church plant, except it’s got a lot more people there. Be prepared to delegate. There’s a lot of work to be done.
My second sunday, I’d tell everyone to bring all their Riplinger-Ruckman-Pearl books the next week. Preach about moderation, about sound doctrine, and explain some of the issues facing all of them. And encourage those willing to, to take all of those books, and place them in the nice trash can next to the pulpit.
There’s a way to be Godly, without all the other nonsense the Pearl’s write about. There’s a way to be Fundamentalist without UFO’s. CIA conspiracies, and Gap myths that Peter Ruckman teaches. There’s a way to be an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist and King James Only without believing in Scond Inspiration or any of the excesses of the “don’t use a strong’s concordance! He was a Methodist!!! EEEEEK!!!!” approach of Gail Riplinger.
Seriously, I think that following the teachings of all three in tandem can crush people’s self esteem, and drive people to emotional, if not mental, breakdowns. I mean, listening to teachers who taught excessive doctrines many years ago gave Harry Ironside a mental breakdown. Once he recovered, he did the right thing and turned into one of the great Christian writers and preachers of the 20th century.
Let the church know that, no… we are not getting rid of the hymns in favor of CCM. If your church has gone that route, you’re going to have a fight ahead of you. Basically, teach the worship leader about why CCM is wrong, and explain you’re going back to hymns only. When the church leadership balks, teach them. Ask them if they want revival or no? An essential Biblical truth is that you cannot get Church Revival without first letting go of the world. Church revival requires a sacrifice of anything worldy. Find me one revival in the Bible where the people were allowed to continue being worldly and idolatrous.
The attention of the church has got to be turned outward, and inward at the same time. “We’re going to go back over sound Biblical doctrine. I cannot heal and revitalize this church without addressing doctrine.” So your first year is almost dictated for you, taking everyone through a series on doctrine is essential.
Now, the Knox-Melton school of Ruckmanites like to preach expositionally. They love to drag the congregation slowly through the Old Testament, sometimes preaching on the same passage three weeks in a row.
Okay, that’s fine. But we’re a New Testament church. Any Expositional teaching PROBABLY should start in the new testament. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Sitting down with a Nave’s, A TSK and a Study Bible with lots of references in it, will give you the tools at your disposal to teach through the Old Testament at the same time you’re teaching through the New Testament.
These are some starter ideas. There’s more I could write on Revitalization, but it’ll probably have to wait until Next year.