Last week I wrote about “new pastor revivals,” those wonderful seasons of new enthusiasm and excitement that follow the installation of a new parson in an old parsonage.
I mentioned that while it’s not usually a “revival” in the historic sense of a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit among a group of Christians, it’s a joy to experience, nonetheless.
Again, I’m assuming that you agree with me that pastors shouldn’t periodically swap churches in order for us to enjoy an endless string of new pastor revivals. Yes, I know that in some denominations this actually is the norm: every couple of years several pastors within a district or state trade places.
Without going to that extreme, there are some good lessons to be gleaned from the phenomenon of new pastor revivals. Last week I wrote about three of them:
- The power of a new voice,
- The importance of fresh enthusiasm, and
- The value of a faith-filled optimism.
Just in case you never see last week’s post, I’m going to re-iterate the last thing I shared. My own stubborn optimism is based on the words of Jesus about the unstoppable plan of God (Matthew 16:18) and the many places in the New Testament that imply that Jesus wants His Body – a glorious, powerful version of His body – within reach of every lost soul.
With that said, here are three more lessons we can learn from new pastor revivals:
The excitement of a fresh start.
An army veteran friend of mine has shared that among “lifer” military people, one of the agreed upon benefits is that by getting re-deployed, the individual has a chance for a series of fresh starts.
Former Moody Bible Institute President, George Sweeting used to say that “The secret of the Christian life is a series of new beginnings.”
Most pastors have heard that while there are benefits to the long, long-term pastorate, there are also blessings involved in being re-deployed – preferably by God – to a new assignment.
But we’re talking about churches today and there is a “church side” to this: When the congregation gets a new leader they get a fresh start because the new pastor doesn’t know about their past indiscretions or immaturity.
This is a very real and understandable thing. Who doesn’t love a fresh start?
In my interim pastorates, after learning everything I could about the church, I always tried to give everyone – even the people with the bad reputations – a “do-over.”
Can we replicate this without pastoral church hopping? Yes! Suggestions follow: (1) We can teach the gospel – with joy – in all its fulness, (2) We can use New Year’s, Good Friday and communion celebrations to emphasize the totality of our forgiveness, (3) We can get really good at forgiving and reconciling with each other, (4) We can obey the New Commandment (John 13:34,35) and love each other the way Christ loves us.
Even old churches, with old pastors, can get fresh starts!
The blessing of real repentance.
The Bible contains the perfect formula for the ultimate fresh start; it’s called repentance.
Take a concordance and chase this word around the Old Testament. You’ll see that, anticipating the cross, God promised His believing followers new hearts, new minds and new lives. After visiting Psalm 103, soak long in the New Covenant promises of Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36.
When you study the word in the New Testament, what you clearly see is that repentance is not some nasty experience akin to a spiritual root canal with no anesthetic; it is a sweet gift of God, delivered to the human heart by the same Holy Spirit who gives us faith (Acts 5:31, 11:18, II Timothy 2:25).
For church members with new pastors, it sometimes works like this: “I didn’t treat Pastor Last like I should have, but like the scapegoat sent into the desert, he’s gone, and I’m forgiven. I’m going to treat Pastor Next better.”
Can we replicate this without sending our pastor to Sinai? I think we can: (1) We can get extraordinarily good at “doing relationships,” (2) This means, again, getting unusually good at forgiveness and reconciliation, (3) We can have powerful assemblies in which we experience repentance, forgiveness and seek real, heaven-sent revival.
The blessed shedding of negativity and gossip.
Let’s face it: human beings have a “bent” toward negativity. I’ve written about that here. It is natural for us to be, as Vice President Spiro Agnew famously put it, “nattering nabobs of negativity.”
In our negativity we have an evil propensity toward gossip: saying negative things about persons who are not present which the hearer does not need to hear. I’ve written and spoken about this subject extensively, but my heart is still inclined to practice the sin.
Churches with new pastors sometimes – at least briefly – shake off the filthy garments of negativity, cynicism and gossip, in favor of faith, trust and speaking well of one another.
I think you can guess what I’m going to say next: There is no reason why we can’t repent of the former and embrace – with joy! – the latter, anytime. Like right now.