A recent comment to this blog told a story that was too familiar.

the denomination sent us an interim pastor to serve us after our much loved pastor left. We were her 5th church in the 9 years she had been a pastor.

…She took a machete to every program in the church and left only the woman’s program intact, she insulted or emotionally abused half of the active members of the church (the church council was finally able to convince the denomination that we needed to fire her), she drove down the worship attendance by nearly 50% in less than a year.

When I was young, growing up outside of Oklahoma City, a developer told them the way to attract new business was to tear down the old brick and wood buildings left over from statehood days, and replace them with modern glass and steel office towers.  Trouble was, about the time the wrecking crews had hauled away the last of the structures,  the economy went south and there was nothing left to build new.

(A decade later, after only minimal tax revenue from now vacant lots standing empty, a different consultant said people were looking to rehab historic buildings, like the ones they had torn down.  The city turned its attention to the neglected warehouse district a quarter mile east and has made that its economic center.)

What I see too often in business and in churches, is that we follow the form of someone else’s visionary and tear down without a clear understanding of what needs to be preserved.  Or we remove an obstacle without a structure in place to rebuild right away.

In one church I was affiliated with, the music director thought the congregation had hired him, and refused to let the pastor fire him.  The pastor simply hired a replacement to make the stylistic changes the pastor wanted, which prompted  the sudden resignation of the incumbent.  Mission accomplished.  Except that the substance of the incumbant’s tenure was more important than the form.  10% of the members left, but that 10% included a third of the leadership and a quarter of the tithe.

If you think the way to restore a church is to fire or run off anyone that disagrees with the leadership, the likely outcome will be destruction of the healthy core without concurrent buildup of a healthy replacement.

The way to restore a church is to rehab the old and make it functional again.  The members who have gotten weary in their service need to be placed in roles  that value their contribution but don’t hinder the new growth.  Only then can you selectively prune away what needs to go.

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