Replacement referees in the church

“Oh my gosh! Did you see that play? Green Bay should have won the game!”

Just about everyone was shocked watching the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks game finish on Monday night.

The reactions were swift and critical. Angry fans believe the replacement NFL referees — replaced by the regulars as of last night — got the final play wrong. For weeks, sports writers and fans alike lamented the replacement referees and their seemingly obtuse penalty calling… or lack there of. It seems these replacement refs didn’t get the job done. Or did they?

There certainly has been a lot of hyper criticism revolving around these refs from day one. Since the strike of the regular NFL refs, the replacement referees have been placed under a microscope. Every call, play, or touchdown has been meticulously examined, digested, and judged in the court of public opinion. Referees blow calls all the time, but we usually forget about those plays. Not for replacement referees. We’ll remember those.

In reality, the standard of expectation has been set unfairly high. Many fans are waiting for these refs to make a mistake. And when they do, the fans and sport writers are like a pack of wolves ready to devour them with criticism. Truly, most fans do not lie in wait for a ref to make a mistake, but that’s what America’s football watchers have been doing.

Believe it or not, replacement referees and new pastors or staff have a lot in common. New pastors or staff come and take a place sometimes held by a long standing respected person. Since the new pastor is different, many will not like the way he or she does things. The expectation of the new pastor by the congregation is high and can be higher than the former. Congregation members lie in wait for the pastor to make a mistake and then… bam! The pastor is criticized and judged to be unfit.

I have a friend who left the ministry because his church was still bitter about their former pastor’s departure that they put him under a microscope. He was like the NFL replacement referee who may have misjudged a play and folks couldn’t let it go. It was not a major mistake but because he is human, he made it. But, because he was not like the other pastor, he bore the brunt of the congregation’s misplaced frustration. This left him broken. He left pastoral ministry for good. The church? They kept going through one replacement pastor after another.

In life, sometimes we get a replacement referee. They have done the job before just not in this seating. In the church, we must not compare the former ministry of a pastor or staff to the current pastor or staff. They will make mistakes. And guess what? That beloved former pastor made mistakes too but you look pasted those because he was well liked.

Give the replacement refs in the church a shot. Don’t unfairly place them under a microscope. Get to know them. Offer grace and not a Monday morning quarterback’s criticism.

Alan Rudnick

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About the Author
Alan Rudnick has been featured on television, radio, print, and social media and serves as the Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Ballston Spa, NY. He has quickly established himself as a leader, blogger, and commentator in the areas of faith, Christianity, ministry, and social media. He is the author of, “The Work of the Associate Pastor”, Judson Press. Alan’s writing has been featured with the Albany Times Union, The Christian Century, Associated Baptist Press, and The Fund of Theological Education.

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