A few months back I read a book called http://www.crossway.org/books/church-planting-is-for-wimps-tpb/ "Church Planting is for Wimps" . It was about a young man who took over a dying church and all the struggles that they faced in order to turn it around. The reason for the name of the book is because he found out that starting a church from nothing would have been a lot easier. I can relate to him on that one! In 2007, I got the news while on vacation, that the deacons in our church had formed a coup against the then-current pastor. When I got back, they asked me to be the interim pastor and first candidate. I had no idea what I was getting into to put it mildly. If I could go back and advise myself I would tell myself: "keep your job and start a church in someone's garage if you want the easy route!" Four years later, our church is just starting to look like a successful church plant after being open for 6 months....only, we didn't have our opening service in January of 2011, my first time to take the pulpit was November 2007! Most church plants that were born in 2007 are way past us in every area.
Don't get me wrong, I am grateful for the experience and all that God has had to teach me. But reforming, revitalizing and reviving a dying church is much harder work than planting a new one. The only thing a church planter has to worry about is money and a building (I am being facetious here!).
So, if you are a young man taking a struggling or dying church, I want to tell you what you are in for! It only gets worse, before it gets better....
Be prepared for:
1. Prepare for curious visitors to come but never come back or return your phone calls
2. Prepare to lose about 1/3 to 1/2 of the people you already have within six months
3. Prepare to be disliked by a few of those who won't leave. (they're waiting to see how long you'll last)
4. Prepare for a spirit of apathy and defeat no matter how much you try to motivate and be positive.
5. Prepare for a few new people to join your church who see a struggling church as an opportunity to exert their own influence (You will be happy for ANYONE to join, and that's how they getcha!)
6. Prepare to be turned down by everyone you're trying to recruit from the outside to come and help you. (nobody wants to join a loosing team)
7. Prepare for people who will attend, but not join, not commit, and not help. They are like stray cats that found a broken down old house as shelter.
8. Prepare to be blamed for the church not taking off after becoming the pastor
9. Prepare to eventually lose your first wave of the few new people that you managed to get to stay
10. Prepare for months at a time of no visitors, low attendance. (I call this the doldrums)
If you're not ready to quit yet after about two years of this...there's more!
11. Prepare for people to come to your church who are actually there as salesmen from a pyramid network marketing company trying to find new clients
12. Prepare for phone calls from the local land developer to buy your property and turn your church campus into apartments
13. Prepare for gossip, slander and backbiting about you and your wife by some of those who you thought were your friends
14. All the while, prepare for little or no response to your preaching during the whole time.
15. Prepare to pick up a few people who are wonderful and who will stick with you all the way through the darkness! They are more valuable than gold in a bear market!
16. Prepare to learn heaps and heaps about leadership, and have your ecclesiology corrected over and over again as God teaches you how to give rebirth to a church that God wants to see flourish!
If you can make it through four or five years of this, you may be able to turn the church around if it doesn't absolutely kill you first.
At this point, I'm heading into my fourth year and the last six months have been the best I've seen the whole time. All I can say about it is that it is not of my doing. The first three and a half years have proven that whatever I do doesn't work, even when I'm doing it right! God will give the increase when He thinks you're ready for it and have been put on the anvil long enough.
So, if you want to do it the easy way, don't take a church that calls you with 25 people and an old building built in 1968 that hasn't been remodeled in 20 years. Just because you have a building that's paid for doesn't mean your worries are over. A monthly rent payment is much easier to deal with than most of those points I wrote above. It has been a great maturing experience for me and I am glad for it after looking back. But not everyone survives.