Talk about a case study in the work of renovation, Joshua following Moses is a good study. Every renovating pastor serves in the shadow of a former pastor. Unless you are a church planter, you will not be the first guy on the scene. We, like Joshua, follow the work of someone before us. From Joshua we learn timeless principles that can help us all kick-start a new work in an existing church. From the words of God to Joshua, we learn how to navigate the process of turning people around and focusing them back on their mission.
Six Steps to Starting a New Work
- Face Reality Joshua 1:1-2a
God was saying, ‘Moses is dead; I Am not!’ This is a critical first understanding. The first action you must take as a leader is to understand what is dead in the church. Don’t announce these findings right away – that time will come. Chances are they know it and don’t want to hear it, or they don’t know it and still don’t want to hear it. As a leader, you need to know it, but wait for the time to share it. The first thing you need to communicate is the overwhelming evidence that God is not dead. Preach, teach, remind, lead, communicate that God is alive. Preach on the power of God. Communicate over and over that as long as God is alive we will be too. Preach hard, preach long, and preach faithfully on the power of God in their lives. In other words, do the work of a revival preacher. Let them know that life changes, but God doesn’t. Let them know that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – and the church – is not dead. The time will come when you will present a plan of action to address what is dead. Until your plan is ready to be initiated, the church needs to develop a rock solid conviction that they are following the living God. A pastor is like a medical doctor that must diagnose and prescribe a remedy. While you are praying, studying and meeting with leaders, you can begin to slowly diagnose and prescribe where the church needs life. Diagnose the body. Discover the symptoms of sickness. Define what is healthy. Preach the powerful truths of God’s faithfulness. Prepare the people to go on an incredible journey of working with God.
- Move On Joshua 1:2b
Prayer, planning and preparation are necessary; but there comes a time for action. Do you recall Joshua 1:3? The promise was activated as steps of faith were taken. Steps of faith are steps of action. This is when you begin to call for action. The first step is always the hardest. Decide what the first step will be. Nonetheless, take a step.
- Don’t Be Afraid Joshua 1:5
Leadership takes courage. The hardest thing I have ever done is the work of renovation. Facing reality and taking steps of faith in a church body that believes they are okay is a tough work. There have been many weeks where I have wanted to run and hide. In Joshua 1:5, God guarantees three things: (1) His Person – “I will be with you,” (2) His Power – “I will not fail you,” and (3) His Presence – “I will not forsake you.” Joshua’s success was not based on his resume, but on God’s guarantee! Leadership takes courage. Paul encouraged Timothy not to be timid. Timidity is a disease. Timidity is contagious. Fight the battles in prayer. Enable and empower the people through worship. Equip them in preaching and in small group teaching.
- Stand Tall Joshua 1:6,7,9
If God says something once, it’s important. If He says it twice, it’s significant. If He says it three times in a mere three verses, it’s indispensable! Always take a stand on the Word of God. Never stand on your own opinion. I can always be challenged as a leader if I share my opinion; but when I share the truth of God’s Word, it silences the critics. Now, they will still criticize you as a leader, but they do not have a leg to stand on when you are rooted in the convicting principles of the Word of God.
- Stay Focused Joshua 1:7b
Notice God calls us to be strong, be courageous, be obedient – all the things we are not. Here’s the message: Don’t get sidetracked! If there is one encouragement I can give you that will make a huge difference in the work of renovation it is this: Stay Focused. None of us like to follow a distracted leader. There is one powerful way to stay focused: develop an annual plan. As a leader you should know the strengths and weaknesses of your church. Develop a theme, a preaching plan, mission trips, and local outreach events aimed at moving your church in one direction. The benefit of an annual plan is it keeps you on track. An annual plan has a goal; it defines what needs to be done and what should not be done. Focus is most needed when it comes to vision, direction and health.
- Enjoy This Joshua 1:8
Mission and celebration: they go hand in hand. The work will be tough. We will need courage. We will have tough business meetings and hard counseling sessions; but there is no reason why we cannot find moments of joy, provision and blessing. I love Joshua 1:16. It sounds selfish and self-absorbing to state that I like that verse, but here is the truth: when we pray, study, preach and give our everything towards bringing life to a church, it is a blessing when the people “get it” and agree to join you and help you! That feels good! Know this: each person chooses his or her own level of spiritual experience. Not everyone will follow. Everyone will not worship, pray, and see God move. Most of the New Testament contains letters from Paul to churches who did not “get it.” Yours is not the job of making everyone happy. When God blesses you with people who get it, celebrate and step out to start a new work.