I'm currently reading a very interesting book that details the magnificant failure of some of the leaders of some of our largest corporations. None of the failures are due to illegal activity, but all are closely connected to shortcomings of character. I can't help but find some parallels here with some church leaders I know.
One of the business leaders who failed did so because, in the words of a business journalist, of "his scorn for the family." Almost from the moment he became the CEO of this 160 year old company he began to fight its past and openly demonstrated his disgust for the culture and history of the company. Know any pastors like that? I do.
Some pastors are convinced they are called to a church to undo everything that has happened there before. They ignore the history; they ignore the positive things that have occurred in the past; and worst of all, they ignore the contributions of the people whose sacrifices have allowed the church to continue its ministries through the years. These pastor "leaders" are so lacking in self-awareness they are amazed when their ministry does not survive long, but they comfort themselves with the assurance that they were doing God's work and they will just shake the dust from their feet and move on to a more spiritual church that will appreciate their ministry.
A new pastor may identify several things that need changed when he or she begins a new ministry, but that doesn't mean that the pastor must first blast away everything that is already there. A church may have a number of problems to address, but that doesn't mean that everything has to be destroyed in order to effect change. There is great value in taking some time to appreciate the positive things that exist in every church and the people who made those things possible. To build on those strengths makes much more sense than to level everything and start over. Refusing to do that demonstrates great arrogance on the part of the pastor, and such arrogance is one of the common traits that each of these business leaders who failed shared with one another.
John Maxwell is fond of saying that a leader must touch a heart before he asks for a hand. There is great wisdom in that. It is a wonderful thing when a people trusts and loves their leader; it is an even greater thing when they know that their leader trusts and loves them. Take time to build relationships. Take time to understand the history of the church, its strengths and weaknesses, and the incredible people who have committed their lives to this local congregation. Make sure they know how much you appreciate them and their commitment to God and to their church. Then you will be ready to move forward together.