Please don’t call a vitalized pastor until your church is ready.

Why? Because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

When your church is not ready and you call a vitalized pastor, the painful outcomes are predictable.

After the dust of conflict settles, my colleagues and I find ourselves doing rehabilitation coaching with that pastor and healing-oriented consulting with the church.

So please, when your church is not ready, don’t indulge in silver bullet thinking, believing calling a vitalized pastor will resolve your problems.

When your church is not ready, the reverse will happen. Your problems will become oh so clear, aggravated by the dynamic movement of your new vitalized pastor.

You are the same church you were before this call, yet now with a pastoral leader who’s poking the bear, so to speak.

So please, do us all a favor and don’t call a vitalized new pastor until at least four criteria are met.

  1. The dynamics that led to the previous pastor’s departure are addressed and sufficiently resolved.

It’s so easy to scapegoat the previous pastor, sending him or her off into the wilderness, heaping all our “sins” on the scapegoat who will carry them away.

Yes, the previous pastor played his or her part in your church dynamics, but he or she was only one player. The church dynamics remain.

When a church doesn’t do the work required to resolve these dynamics, it typically calls a pastor who’s the opposite of the previous one, hoping that will take care of their issues.

Though extremely common, this approach to resolving our unhealthy church dynamics is ineffective.

  1. Your church engages in realistic learning about the world we currently inhabit.

Our understandings of ourselves as churches and our communities as they really are lag behind the reality.

So, before calling a new pastor, engage in learning about the large-scale trends in our culture, which are relevant to being church.

Learn about the postmodern era. Investigate what’s happening closer up, in your specific community.

How do you know when this learning is effective? When your church is no longer indulging in nostalgia, hoping the cultural conditions that allowed for “success” will return.

That culture has gone the way of all things, making wishing for its return an exercise in futility. We actually do have to learn how to be church in this current world.

  1. The congregation counts the cost and makes its commitment to transformation.

The bottom-line is this: We are in a process of letting go and taking hold. We are being transformed by God through Jesus Christ. This includes the way we are church together.

This means we must be willing to give into God’s hands our church preferences and trust God to lead us forward.

When we enshrine our way of being church, we are creating idols, worshipping our preferences rather than God.

So, before even thinking about calling a vitalized pastor who will lead you into the land you know not of, count the cost.

Do we love God and neighbor more than we love our way of being church? This is not a fictitious question, nor is it insignificant. Going with assumptions about the answers won’t help. We really must count the cost.

Then, if you are committed to transformation, call a vitalized pastor to help you move ahead.

  1. Your church recognizes and accepts the new pastor’s arrival is not the second coming of the Messiah.

I wish we still lived in a culture where calling a sharp, vibrant pastor was enough to attract many new people to our churches.

Perhaps it’s still true for 2% to 3% of pastors and churches. But for the other 98%, the work of becoming faithful and relevant churches is actual work.

We, together with our pastors, are called to be the church in the world we inhabit. We can’t outsource this work to a new pastor. There’s already a Messiah, with no need for another.

So, please, until your church is ready, don’t call a vitalized pastor.

Sometimes, the pastor search committee is ready, while the rest are not. Sometimes, the lay leadership is ready, while the rest are not. Do the work it takes to ready your church.

By not calling a vitalized pastor until you are ready, you are helping the kingdom of God.

You are avoiding burning up a vitalized pastor who can partner with another church who is ready.

We will all appreciate this, avoiding the need for a pound of cure where an ounce of prevention is applied.

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared on the Pinnacle Leadership Associates’ blog. It is used with permission.

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