Vision vs. Tradition: Leading a Church through Change

*Guest post by Joshua Crutchfield. Joshua is a husband, father, and the pastor of Trenton FBC. You can follow him on twitter.

My wife is an extremely creative and resourceful person. She can dress a room with a pair of socks, duct tape, and three spoons and make the room look extravagant. This type of genius does not come without disadvantage. For instance, one month, my wife rearranged and decorated our 120 square foot living room, three times. You may ask wherein lies the disadvantageI was the one who moved the furniture!

The Pastors Vision and the Churchs Tradition

More recently, my wife and I purchased a house and immediately she had a vision as to what she wanted each room to look like. The walls were bare and the paint was plain. She had a blank canvas and could carry out her vision as fast as her help would allow her. As pastors, we may not be visionaries regarding home makeovers but God has given us a vision for the church He has called us to serve. However, majority of pastors arrive at a church that has been in existence for some time and the walls are anything but bare. These churches have been around for over one hundred years and those who makeup the church have done certain things in a certain way just as long as the church has been in existence. As a result, the pastor, who is seeking to carry out the vision that God has placed upon his heart and revitalize the church he is pastoring, finds himself in very treacherous waters and must steer the church through the sharp rocks of stagnant tradition without sinking the ship and his ability to lead and serve the church.

The Remodeling Vision

When my wife and I first visited Trenton FBC, it was easy to see the correlation between the physical condition of the church building and the spiritual condition of the church. The windows were colored like Pepto-Bismol, the carpet was a sundried faded pink, the baptistery had an oddly painted scenic view, the pews were falling apart and there was a massive pipe organ that had not been played on for many years. It was clear that the building was in need of an overhaul, but who permitted the building to become such a statethe congregation. The church watched the buildings condition deteriorate, but that was the least of their problems. They had endured several spiritual hardships that worn them down, just as the building was worn down.

When God brought my family and I to Trenton, His vision was close to follow. The trouble was, I had only just arrived and those in the congregation had been there all their lives. How was I to lead a congregation who has enjoyed the condition they have been in for so long? Too many times pastors enter into a church with both guns-a-blazing, initiating change as they see fit without any consideration to the damage inflicted on the long existing congregation. The collateral damage done by the newly appointed pastor is often deemed necessary to carry out the Lords work and vision for the church, so there is usually very little consideration for the possible harm that can befall the flock. Often times, the result of such reckless leadership is that the church rejects the called pastor and his leadership, and sinks further into the problems they have grown accustomed to.

What Vision Should Create

While it is true that the pastor receives the vision from God and is responsible for carrying that vision out, he is also responsible for the church and leading the church to fulfill this vision. The vision should not create division. This mission will remain unfinished if the pastor isolates himself from the congregation by making aggressive changes without properly preparing and leading the church. There are a few things that vision should create within the pastor that can help keep him from any unnecessary collateral damage and enable the pastor to navigate the church through waters of change.

1. Vision should create patience

As God provides the pastor a vision for the church, this vision should create patience within the pastor. He should recognize that the church is the recipient of a longstanding tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation and that it has cherished this tradition, be it good or bad. The pastors vision is a process that will take time to carry out and will not be immediately fulfilled.

2. Vision should create humility

In many instances, the pastor finds opposition to the vision he is casting because of his own pride. The we are doing this because I am the pastor and I said so mentality will not squelch the conflict or lead the church to see the vision through; but rather, it will create a divergence from the vision and lead the church to revolt. As pastors, we must remain humble, knowing that God has given us the vision and will enable us to see the vision through.

3. Vision should create sincerity

As a pastor, no one can deny the passion, heart, and motivation we have to carry out Gods vision in the church. Many sleepless nights are had due to the anticipation and careful planning of this vision. However, if we are going to see this vision come to fruition, we must first show the church our sincere concern for them and their spiritual well-being and also that the vision God has for the church is for their good and that they can be a part of it.

In the beginning, when God created everything, He had a blank canvas. If anyone could fill emptiness immediately, it was God. However, His vision for creation was intricate and extensive and was carried out over six days and on the final day He rested from His work. Likewise, God did not rush His work in regards to salvation history. He has carried out His vision with patience, humility, and sincerity for a world that has been set in its sin since the rebellion in the garden. Pastor, do not allow the vision God has given you to hinder your ability to minister to the people God has called you to serve. Take the time to share the vision, teach the vision, and empower others to participate in the vision, and perhaps you may gain the support of the church you have been led to serve.

This entry was posted in Ministry. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *