About 9 months ago we became the pastors of VOConn and around that time I wrote my latest blog “The Promises of God.” Taking over a church is a good reason to stop blogging for a season, but after a while you start feeling that urge to pick up your pen and bring an end to that writer’s block. During the last months a lot has changed and happened, and in the next blogs I will try to share some of the things we’ve learned and experienced.
People have said that starting a church is easier than taking over a church. I have to admit, I wouldn’t really know cause I never started a church and this is the first time taking one over. What I do know is, that when you are about to do something you never done before, it is helpful to ask people who did, and were successful doing it. After doing some personal research, listening to advice, and experiences, I applied 3 things that helped me a lot during the transition.
The first thing to do is getting to know the people, and allowing the people to get to know you. You do this by intentionally take every opportunity to spend time together. During those moments you will not only make memories and so creating part of your history, but it will also have a great deal of influence in how people will see the future of the church. In aiming for the future, we can not neglect nor ignore the past of the church and it’s members. The church’s condition today is a result of the past, and in knowing the history of the church we will have a better understanding of the present.
If the new leadership neglects the past, they might repeat the same mistakes that caused the existing problems in the first place, or they will stop the momentum that the church has, by not using the earlier successes they had. I have also seen that new leadership would ignore the past; you might as well tell the people you don’t care, cause that’s how they will feel. It becomes personal when we make them think that we don’t care about; the sacrifices they made, the tears they shed, the memories they have. Acknowledge and value the past, learn from the good, the bad and the ugly. Become “We” and prepare the people to move on towards their future, according to he original plan and purpose that God had from the beginning for the church.
The second thing we need to do is understanding the church’s culture. Culture either good or bad, has to be confronted carefully and wisely. We define culture by people’s beliefs, values, the way they think, talk, and do things. If the church’s culture is contradicting the gospel then it has to change, no doubt about it, but sometimes it simply challenges our own culture.
The developed culture within the church, is new for those that come in for the first time. Key is not to reject the culture by isolating yourself, in doing this you become an outsider, and outsiders don’t change a thing. Another form of rejection is trying to destroy the culture, making it look like everything about it is bad. You will become a foe to the people instead of their friend. People have the tendency to take it personal when you question their culture. It does not matter, how genuine your intentions are. Adopting to the culture seems very nobel, but is also not commendable, you will become somebody you’re not, and unable to bring healthy changes, because now you are part of the problem. The best thing to do is adapting to the new-found culture, by making the necessary adjustments to become an insider, without compromising nor losing your identity. Only as an insider you can make the needed changes within the culture, and you do this by teaching and bringing understanding about the changes that have to be made.
Finally the church’s city has to become your city. Get to know the city by studying its history. Discover your city by driving through it and to talk with its residents. In doing this I met some interesting people who truly care about their city, and like to partner with others that share the same feeling. Enjoy your city by what it has to offer instead of what it does not have. Care for it, love it and commit to it, and do not compare it with another city in a coveting way. You will start to see the potential more than the problems the city has. You can not change the city by yourself, even with the help of others it is almost impossible to change it in a life-time, but you can be part of it.
It’s has only been 9 months now, and we have many more ahead of us. During this time I believe we made some mistakes that made the transition rough at times. However overall it was a good and smooth transition, and we have to thank God for that, and the members of VOConn, the Church of Champions. An amazing group of people who accepted, and embraced us, and I know that together we will have a great future, reaching our city with the message of Christ.