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Understanding, Enduring, and Growing: Congregational Transitions

God writes His best stories in the bleakest of moments. 

Joseph in prison under Pharaoh.
Daniel in the lion’s den.
Christ on the cross at Calvary.

So why do we think all of the moments in the life of our church will be any different? Surely in this life we should expect to have trials and suffering, even with the best of intentions in following the Lord. Our churches will face difficult seasons, and it’s in these moments that we have freshly tilled soil for the Lord to plant seed and produce fruit.

It’s for seasons like this that we have created and staffed an Intentional Transitional Ministry here at Baptist Church Planters. Led by Scott Owen, this ministry arm focuses on helping churches build biblical unity and mission during the difficult times of transition.

What to Do While Enduring

In the middle of a transition, it’s important to build unity around an understanding of the present reality of the church’s health. We must recognize what has successfully produced fruit in the past while simultaneously assessing and addressing what needs to change in order to produce more fruit in the future.

There’s no magic formula (which is great because we don’t believe in magic anyway), but in our experience there are some foundational needs that need to be prioritized during transition:

  • Drawing attention to our dependence upon God through intentionally focused individual and corporate prayer
  • Consistent preaching to address specific needs for unity and holiness 
  • Pastoral/Elder care
  • Reconciliation between conflicting parties
  • Conciliation to prevent further conflict 
  • Increased focus on connection within the church
  • Shaping and communicating a vision for the path forward
  • Building unity and peacemaking ability

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Ephesians 4:3

The Goal: Churches That Plant Churches

Even if we do all the blocking and tackling that is required to endure and make it through a transitional time, the question remains, “What will we do on the other side of this season?” 

Every great story has a great ending, and simply surviving isn’t going to cut it. 

An often overlooked part of Louie Zamperini’s story, popularized in the novel Unbroken, is that after surviving adrift at sea and enduring horrific treatment in Japanese POW camps during WWII, Louie returned home to the US and quickly fell into alcoholism and depression before coming to know the Lord. All of that painful yet valiant endurance would have meant very little if he had squandered the rest of his life in fruitless living. It was the gospel of Jesus Christ that turned the story of Louie’s life into one of forgiveness, hope, and gospel-advancement. 

So it is in the life of a church. The goal is not to survive the challenge of transition and keep doing what has been done, passing the building on to the next generation until there is no one next in line. The goal is to glorify God by thriving during transition as Christ-followers individually and as a church body bear much fruit—and even producing an offshoot— a church plant!

Sadly, not every transitional story will end this way, but many have, and many more will, if we remain faithful to the One who works every part of every story together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

“Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Baptist Church Planters exists to help church leaders build healthy disciple-making churches, and our Intentional Transitional Ministry (ITM) is just one of the many ways we strive to do that. If you need support or resources to generate real and sustainable fruit in the life of your church, please reach out to us today. We’d love to help.

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