Approximately 18 months ago, my wife started watching some HGTV home renovation shows. Approximately 18 months later, our home is totally renovated and I have a nice new mortgage. Moral of the story? Don’t let your wife watch home renovation shows unless you are ready for a long-term commitment.
One of the shows that my wife really enjoyed was “Love It or List It.” Okay, I admit it, I kinda liked it, too, and I learned a lot. For those who have never seen the show, allow me to explain the basic premise of the program: The show features “Designer Hillary” and “Realtor David” and a different couple each week that is divided over whether they want to stay in the current home or sell it and move. Hillary’s job is to remodel the house in such a way that the couple will choose to stay. David’s job is to persuade them to sell their home and purchase another. The drama builds around unexpected problems in the remodel and the visiting of various homes in the effort to persuade them to move. At the end of the show, the couple is shown their newly remodeled home and given their options – Will they love it? Or list it?
Perhaps a preacher is reading this blog and thinking, “I’ve about had it with my church. I think I’d like to ‘list it’ and look for better circumstances.” Or, perhaps a preacher’s wife is thinking, “I’d like to get out of this town and get away from Sister Sourpuss once and for all!” If so, you aren’t the first person to feel that way. In fact, considering that the average pastor stays in one church for less than 5 years, it is safe to say that a lot of people have felt exactly the way that you do.
I would not play the Holy Ghost and tell you it’s never the will of God to leave a place for another part of God’s harvest. Certainly, it often is God’s plan for many of His servants. It’s hard enough to know the will of God for your own life, much less for someone else.
However, before you put your ministry “on the market,” take a look around at what you have, which you might regret giving up later. One thing I have learned from watching “Love It Or List It” and from our own 6 month home remodel is that some creativity and hard work can often turn a “dead end” house into a “dream home.” Knock out a wall here, a fresh coat of paint there, some new flooring, some new fixtures and lighting and suddenly even the one who said at the beginning of the show, “There’s no way I’m staying here,” is saying, “Love it.”
Of course, I am not advocating changes that would be compromises with Biblical truth. I am saying that a few minor renovations and improvements might change your attitude about your ministry.
I. Consider, for example, renovations to your church PROPERTY. It may be time for some work nights at the church. Or even a fundraising campaign to have some things professionally done. Some new paint, new carpet, updated nursery equipment, improvements to the parking lot and exterior of the church, a new sign, new lighting in the auditorium – it’s amazing how some of these changes rally a church together, motivate involvement, and renew enthusiasm in the pastor’s heart for the work.
Don’t get me wrong – I know sometimes we have to make the best with what we have. We started LBC Wylie from scratch and have made do with all sorts of third-hand, second class stuff. And God blessed because we were doing what we could with what we had. Our property was a run down former Church of God that was just about falling apart. It took us a decade to get everything updated and renovated, and there is still a lot to do.
II. Or, perhaps the PROGRAM could use a little renovation. The services could possibly be tweaked some without compromising. Sometimes, we get into ruts. Some of our ruts are so deep they could double as Subway tunnels.
I’ll share with you two things that we changed over the last couple of years that I think were an improvement (which may sound simple to you, but which we didn’t do early on). A year ago we adjusted our Sunday School to begin with a Grand Assembly time at 10 am. It was a small change but I really believe it improved our Sunday School hour in many ways. There is excitement and enthusiasm. We start with a song, and I talk to the kids some as their pastor (many bus kids never see their pastor). I pray with them and they dismiss. It allows Sunday School visitors to stay together and meet the teachers in one place. It’s a small change but we like it. It was an improvement.
This year, we started a choir. It’s not a big choir in comparison to others but it adds a lot to our service. I was also concerned that we were not putting our best foot forward by having the kids separated in children’s church during the service. Visitors did not see our whole church, only the adults. I also wanted the kids to see their elders and learn to sing the hymns along with the adults. So, we now bring the kids in for the first part of the service and dismiss them with the choir. I get to introduce our children’s preacher to visitors and it has really improved our morning service as far as singing and enthusiasm go. You may think it’s a small change, but it really has been an improvement to me.
Perhaps the service could be improved in some way. We also recently started a small orchestra. Perhaps some Sunday School classes could be split or teachers moved to different classes. Perhaps you could start a Junior usher corp or a new soulwinning time or a new bus route.
III. Sometimes, God has to remove or replace some PEOPLE in the church. This may take time and it’s God’s work not ours. The fact is that many preachers want to “list it” because some Bro. Bigbucks or his wife, Sister Razor-tongue, is making life hard. The fact is that if you go somewhere else you will find they have cousins in a lot of churches.
We don’t like the term “backdoor revival” but the fact is that God sometimes multiplies by dividing and adds by subtracting. That’s best left in God’s hands. You’ll ruin yourself trying to do that yourself. But sometimes I have to admit it does absolutely work out for the best – if you hang around long enough. Who knows, Sister Sourpuss may get a job transfer to Bora Bora.
Of course, we are called to love the brethren and most pastors do. Some people make it hard, but try anyway. Perhaps God will change their hearts instead of their address. Or, perhaps He will change OUR hearts and help us to love people as He does.
On a positive note, God also might send some laborers into your harvest that will suddenly transform your ministry.
Pastor, take a second look at the church. You are the steward of God. Before you throw in the towel and list it, understand that God may have you there to FIX IT. Maybe, after it’s fixed, you’ll decide that you LOVE IT.
Thank you for reading. God bless.
March 25, 2014