Once, when I served on a church staff, my senior pastor shared the news with the church that he was being called to another ministry. Of course, I was happy and thrilled for his new calling, but in some ways, I also grieved. After all, I was losing a friend, a mentor, and a father figure. I knew that I would miss his wise instruction and counsel. Yet, a part of me also worried about the church, because I knew that things were going to be different. Needless to say, it was a mix of emotions for me, and I wasn’t sure how to respond!
Let’s face it: very few of us love unexpected changes. No matter what your role is as a church leader, it is important that you are able to respond to new situations in a Christ-centered way. But how does a leader recover from the sudden turn of events and begin this process? Here are 5 principles to keep in mind as you prepare yourself in order to respond to changes:
- Remember God’s character. Although you might be surprised by a change, God is never surprised. Proverbs 5:21 says, “For a man’s ways are before the LORD’s eyes, and he considers all his paths.” Along with being reminded of God’s infinite knowledge, don’t miss the fact that He is also loving and faithful, always present in times of need (Psalm 46:1). Leaning on God’s goodness, especially in the difficult times, is soothing to the soul.
- Pursue God’s wisdom. With any change, the threat of conflict is real, and often the first impulse is to go into “fix it” mode. Instead, consider a very important step: turn your attention to the Word of God. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:14a that in the midst of struggles, to “continue in what you have learned and firmly believed.” By spending time in God’s Word, you can have clarity and godly wisdom in the midst of change. This wisdom will greatly impact what you do for your next steps.
- Pray to God fervently. Along with seeking wisdom through the Word is the need to come before God in prayer. We are instructed to “pray constantly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), but sometimes we can find ourselves being impatient, missing out on the privilege we have in appealing to the Lord. Charles Spurgeon once said in his sermon, “Pray without Ceasing”, that prayer is “a most sweet and precious permit to the believer to pour out his heart at all times before the Lord.” The opportunity to pray fervently to the Lord is a delight for God, so spend time asking Him to lead, guide, and equip you to serve Him through the difficult times ahead.
- Seek godly counsel. God has given you a gift of brothers and sisters in Christ, and this gift should not be overlooked. Within the church, you will find wisdom, fellowship, love, encouragement, and good, godly counsel. Go to them! Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail when there is no counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”
- Communicate God’s direction. Do not underestimate the importance of communication. Whatever you do, it needs to be communicating clearly, appropriately, and often. To communicate effectively, it may take multiple methods and occasions for a message to get through. This is vital, because “the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18). A church in the midst of change can greatly benefit from your wise, prayer-filled words that come from the counsel of the Word and godly saints.
When we talk about unexpected change, it is not a question of “if”, but “when”, it will happen. Let me encourage you to prepare your heart now as it will help you respond with godliness and grace, building up others and helping the church reach others with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
FRAN TRASCRITTI (@frantras) pastored churches for over 23 years and he now serves with the Explore the Bible team at Lifeway.