Whose shadow do you have to walk in, pastor? (Pexels/Karel Matějka)

"That's not the way Pastor Bob would do it."

The church member may have meant well, but her words stung the new pastor. After all, he had been at the church for only three months, and he had already heard that sentiment expressed more than a dozen times.

He knew he would be living in the shadow of a legend. He just had no idea how big that shadow would be.

There are several succession situations for pastors that are often more difficult than others, I know. I hear about them almost every day. Here are five of the most common:

  1. The long-term pastor. If a previous pastor has been at the church 10 or more years, you can be assured the current pastor will hear many comparisons. Every pastor brings a new culture to the church. It often takes church members a few years to adjust.
  2. The church-splitting pastor. This pastor left mad. Perhaps the pastor was fired or left angry about something that happened in the church. Instead of finding another church in another community, the pastor decides to start a church in the same community. Church members follow the pastor. When the new pastor arrives, he often has to deal with hurting and angry members. Some of the members will actually have family splits over choosing churches. It's not a fun situation to lead.
  3. The moral failure pastor. When there is pastoral moral failure, church members are hurt. Some are angry. Many of the congregants don't know if they can trust a pastor again. The new pastor walks into a very difficult situation. He now has to pay for the sins of his predecessor.
  4. The omnipresent pastor. This pastor seemed like he visited every member every month. He was in homes. He attended all events. He visited the hospital 15 times a day. He counseled people every day. He went to funerals and weddings he did not officiate. He was the superman pastor. Except that his family suffered greatly. Except that the church suffered because he would never let go. He just enjoyed the attention too much. And now the remaining members want to know why the new pastor is not visiting them in their homes nine days a week.
  5. The oratorical pastor. The previous pastor could preach with seemingly unmatched excellence. His sermons were legendary. He had more downloads to his podcasts than the current pastor has hairs on his head. Comparisons are frequent and not flattering for the new guy. And downloads are lower by 97 percent.

Does this situation sound familiar to some of you pastors?

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Remember, your identity is in Christ.

Be comfortable in how God made and wired you.

You have nothing to prove in the comparison game.

Persevere.

This season of dealing with the past will fade into new opportunities that will cause members to look to the future with excitement and anticipation.

Thom S. Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources.

This article originally appeared at thomrainer.com.

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