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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Taking the Pain Out of Pastoral Transitions

Pain Have you ever been part of a church that been rocked by a devastating change of pastors? It can shake a church’s foundation to the core. Here’s a typical example adapted from "The Elephant in the Boardroom: Speaking the Unspoken about Pastoral Transitions" by Carolyn Weese and J. Russell Crabtree. Can you relate to this fictional scenario?

Pastor Pete was a great pastor. He was well-loved by most everyone in the church, but Pete felt that God was calling him to another church. After much prayer and soul searching, Pete scheduled a meeting with the church board, announcing that he'd be leaving in three weeks. One party, five speeches and 10 boxes of Kleenex later, Pete was gone.

One week after Pastor Pete left, the church board met to try to figure out what to do next. No one had a clue where to find a person to provide temporary pastoral services, so they ended up hiring a retired minister just to fill the pulpit during the search process. Three weeks later, the board continued to try to understand the process for finding a new minister and learned that it would take about 18 months. Eight weeks later, the board received the resignation of the youth minister. Ten weeks later, the board received the resignation letter of the associate pastor, who was afraid that she would not fit in with a new pastor. Eight months later, the board heard that the search committee had a candidate ready to meet with the board. Nine months later, the board was informed that the candidate had changed his mind and wanted a larger church. Ten months later, board members started receiving angry phone calls from members that the process was taking too long.

Finally, a year and a half after Pastor Pete left, Pastor John began at the church. The board gave a collective sigh of relief. But when the new pastor arrived, he wanted to do things his own way. So he changed Sunday worship times and added a guitar. No one told him that the top three givers in the church didn't believe in pledging so when he preached a stewardship sermon about the evils of uncommitted members who refuse to pledge, he promptly lost about $60,000 of income in the church. The church started to get phone calls from members wondering why the new pastor was so out of touch with his members.

Does any of this church’s story sound painfully familiar? It’s a chain of events that happens over and over again in churches across America. There has to be a better way.

The announcement: "I'm leaving."
The announcement that a pastor or staff member is leaving is the start of this journey. The manner and timing of how you announce that a pastor is leaving is important and it must be handled with much care.

First, communicate with the church leadership confidentially. It is best to share with them as a group rather than leaking your decision to one or two key players. Your entire leadership team will appreciate hearing the decision directly from the pastor.

After the leadership team has heard the news, then communicate the announcement to the church. While there will be temptation to tell people individually, try to keep the decision confidential until shared with the entire congregation. People will have many different reactions; some will have a sense of disbelief, some may cry, there may even be a few subdued cheers. But one thing you want to avoid is having an entire group of people who knew of the decision before it was made public. This will just make people who weren't in the know angry--and they will find out.

Finally, set the departure date sooner rather than later. Tim Stevens, in his book "Simply Strategic Stuff ," writes, "Even in the best of situations, it’s very tough to end a staff relationship. We've developed friendships and experienced life together for years and years. But for some reason, God has taken our paths in two separate directions. It is always a temptation to draw out the goodbye process." A good plan would be to try to keep the timeframe from resignation to departure to between three to five weeks.

Before the search begins: define your plan
"We have to find a new pastor right away." That’s usually the first thing the leadership of a church thinks when their pastor resigns But before you even begin your search, there are a few things that you should consider as a board or search committee. First, if you have no one person (like an associate pastor, for example) that can help lead your church through this transition, you may want to consider hiring an "intentional interim" pastor. According to Paul Strahan, a pastoral ministry specialist with Lifeway Christian Resources, "Many churches without pastors need transitional pastors with experience, training and ministry gifts that assure high-quality transitional leadership. Transitional pastors are prepared to lead churches through smooth transitions, rough transitions and crisis transitions. They may serve effectively as a preacher, pastor and consultant."

There are online resources to help determine if an intentional interim pastor would benefit your church. Visit www.healthychurch.org, www.interimpastorsearch.org and www.lifeway.com (search for the transitional pastors program).

Second, consider some type of congregational evaluation tool to be sure that the pastor you look for is the pastor your church needs and expects. There are a few surveys that will help you find what your church needs in its next pastor. Visit www.covenantseminary.edu/PhilDouglass/ChurchPersonalityReport2.asp and www.churchcentral.com/nw/s/template/ChurchHealthSurvey.html.

The search: stick to your plan
Before you start your search, put in writing the exact things you are looking for in your next pastor. Much of this profile can be written from the findings of your congregational evaluation survey. The profile should be a clear and attainable description of the qualities and leadership style of your next pastor.

Make it your goal to get to know as much about each candidate as possible. Find out about their theological and church background. Meet their families. Get to know their personality. And most of all, measure them against your completed profile.

Check references thoroughly. Conduct a pre-employment background check. There is no excuse for not fully investigating your candidate’s past.

Don’t introduce your congregation to two or three choices and have them vote. A much better approach is to find the candidate your leadership thinks is the best choice and present that one person for approval. If that person doesn't work out, you can start the process over with another candidate.

Whatever you do, don't make a quick decision. Many times, tired search committees make a hire more to end the process than to hire a good pastor. Ask yourself, "Would we have hired this person six months ago?" If the answer is no, then you should probably keep looking.

As webmaster of Churchstaffing.com in Bryan, Ohio, Todd Rhoades has helped thousands of churches and individuals with their ministry employment search.

Recommended Resources

"The Elephant in the Boardroom: Speaking the Unspoken about Pastoral Transitions" by Carolyn Weese and J. Russell Crabtree,
"Church Staff Handbook" by Harold J. Westing,
"The Big Book of Job Descriptions for Ministry" by Larry Gilbert and Cindy Spear

This article can be seen in full at The Church Report Magazine. (Check out all the other GREAT content while you're there!)

FOR DISCUSSION:  How has your church done in this area?  Are transitions smooth or are they a mess.  Would having a pre-set plan helped in any areas in your opinion?  Please share...

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May 24, 2005 in Leadership Issues | Permalink

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First of all, a pastor who says God is calling him away and doesn't provide with a trained replacement, isn't following Biblical example. The job of a Pastor is to care for the flock, Jesus said to Peter, "feed my sheep". So, if in fact a pastor is feeling the call to go elsewhere, my question is, have you trained up someone to fill your place here? If not, then I would question that call in the first place. Are you just moving about different churches committed to destroying the congregations? Pastors, do the will of God and not your own will. the will of God is that His sheep are fed, not your pride, or your name as a pastor. If you are leaving a church that has no replacement, you are condemning that body to a term of suffering, and malnourishment if not starvation for the word of God. How then shall God then work in you when you will deny the work He has set before you?
I suggest to those of you who are suffering from this type of loss, find someone within your congregation who is able to teach and convey what the Bible teaches, and ask them to take his place. It will provide for smoother transitions, and it will keep the pulpit familiar to those who are involved.
That's all from me for now

Posted by: Jack | May 24, 2005 11:20:13 AM

Our founding pastor passed away in October of 03. The church was 28 years old and he had grown the church from 200 to over five thousand. He was a world renown preacher and respected all accross the country for his work with developing preachers and racial reconciliation. When he was battling cancer we (Elders Council) with his approval selected an assistant Pastor and also named him the successor in the event that the Lord called him home. Upon the death of our pastor our assisstant pastor auomatically took the helm and the church has continued to grow with nearly 1000 new members since October 03. I believe the key is stable leadership and a succession plan.

Posted by: G. Laine Robinson | May 24, 2005 11:27:29 AM

I have experienced this type of situation before when the Senior Pastor of our church announced that he was going to leave in 2 weeks time for Apostolic Ministry and he has appointed me (a part-time minister) to head the church.
There was a lot of uproar from the church leadership to the membership and things were really in disarray. I was initially moved by these noise for about 2 weeks but later-on I went to God in prayer and sought for His face, He told me two things (1) He said that I should concentrate all my attention on Prayers and Evangelism/Visitation and (2) He told me that none of these people called me and so I shouldn't mind whatever anyone of them feel, perceived or said.
After one month of concentrating on the things that God said, the church began to grow and brethren began to share testimonies of God's mercies upon them.
My encouragement to anyone passing through this is that they should listen to what God have to say and not what men feel about the situation, nonetheless we should be sensitive to the needs and the yearnings of our followers and exhibit uncommon love because there is no wound that love cannot heal.

Posted by: Julius Olutokun (Pst) | May 24, 2005 11:43:31 AM

No offense to the pastors here but this is the problem of a church not following the Biblical example of church leadership. Elders is plural. If a church is rallying around one person, they are in error and it would be expected that there would be major upheaval upon this person's departure. Again, the word "pastor" is used once in the New Testament in the context of spiritual gifts. You can find nowhere where it is listed as an official "office." Local churches are setting themselves up to have their lampstand removed if they give all the glory to one who happens to possess just one of the spiritual gifts--in this case teaching--and not to the Lord.

Where in the Word of God is it written that there is one church leader called pastor? Of course that scenario would be doomed for failure because it is not God's will.

Post 1 and 2 are both correct but they miss the subtlety here...God calls for elders, not "a pastor."

Posted by: S. Presch | May 24, 2005 11:47:20 AM

"No offense to the pastors here but this is the problem of a church not following the Biblical example of church leadership." As a pastor, I do not take offense but I think it is also a problem of pastors not following the biblical example. As "the pastor" of the church where I serve, I believe it is my responsibility to prepare people for works of service, and this includes the Elders. Whether I leave for another ministry or step off the curb tomorrow and get killed by a truck, it is one of my responsibility train the gifted and called leaders of our church to be prepared to lead when I'm gone.

Posted by: Rich Viel | May 24, 2005 1:26:09 PM

A pastor is an elder and ALL elders should be "able to teach". The "Interim" pastor should come from your board of elders. If they are not capable, why are they elders?

Today, the church has a tendency to choose elders based on status and recognition rather than ability to serve in the capacity of a "pastor".

The Great Commission commands us to make disciples... meaning, we as elders should be training up "new" elders to take our place or move on into other churches.

Here is a prime example of what is wrong in the church (taken from the article above):
Make it your goal to get to know as much about each candidate as possible. Find out about their theological and church background. Meet their families. Get to know their personality. And most of all, measure them against your completed profile.

Would this candidate fit the "completed profile":
RE: Letter of application for employment

Dear Sirs:

I understand that a position as pastor is open in your church and I would like to apply for it. I have some qualifications for the work, and this letter is an honest review of my past service in the ministry.

I am almost 60 years of age and have been in the ministry for about 25 years. I’ve never lasted very long in any one place, but once I did stay in one church three years. People say my health is not good, but I ignore these kinds of irritants and press on anyway, believing my ill health is actually an advantage to keep my big ego in check.

I’m a strong leader and have usually wound up in charge of everything I’ve ever done. I’ll be frank with you, I’m not always popular, and have been expelled from a number of cities where I ministered. But in every case it was because of a trouble-making opposition I seem to get everywhere I go. I just preach the truth and some people get angry when they hear it.

You may hear about the time when I confronted the highest leader in my denomination to his face -- in front of an entire church body. But he was clearly in the wrong and he backed down. It is that simple: I was right, and he was wrong. I spoke the truth, as I always do. And my truth won the day.

I have seldom been able to work full-time in the ministry, so I have usually had employment outside of my ministry to help support me. In some churches I received no salary at all, and occasionally my job even provided for paying the staff too, though that was not the average situation. Don't the idea though that I worked only with large churches. Most of the churches I've worked with were small, and all of them were able to meet in a house or small hall.

I am a good preacher and well-trained in Bible truths though I often preach longer than people think I should—sometimes for several hours. And you might hear that I have even preached all night at times.

I have had some success at church planting, though some believe my methods are wrong. What I do is enter a new city and find the local religious gathering. I attend there until I get an opportunity to teach or speak, then I show them how their doctrine is wrong and the doctrine I teach is correct. This usually causes a lot of division, and those who side with me generally split off the original group and with that core group I start a new church.

In case you follow up on my references you may discover some questionable events. So I need to give my side on these stories. Yes, it is true that I am guilty of conspiracy to commit murder. But that was before I accepted Christ. And it is true that because of several problems since becoming a Christian, I have been put in jail. But most of these were short stays, though I have just been released from a four-year stint -- two years in Caesarea and the last two here in Rome. But I’ve never given up on my faith—even as a convict. Yes, I have been accused as a trouble-maker but these are false accusations, the real trouble-makers are the Jews who keep following me everywhere I go stirring up trouble against me.

Spiritually I have had an incredible journey. Early in my ministry I had "another world" experience—which I do not even talk about. I heard inexpressible things. And you need not worry about a charismatic influence, for I am a hard-liner on that issue, always limiting speaking in tongues to a few at a time, and though I speak with tongues myself more than most everybody else, I never do so in public meetings.

I have always worked in a staff ministry, and usually expect a staff as normal. If your church can't pay them, I will figure out a way to have them work directly for me. My staff is generally loyal to me, in fact I demand it. In my first staff relationship, the senior member of the staff quickly recognized that I was more competent than he was, and he stepped down to the associate role so I could assume the leadership of our staff. Later that year the third member of our staff left abruptly walked out, but I thought at that time he was too soft for the ministry anyway. Eventually I lost my associate too when he tried to persuade me to bring that young fellow back on staff. I refused. He left and started another ministry, though we are still friends. I have been used to working with a large staff, but I admit that I've had a lot of staff turnover -- few of them stay very long. That's what multiplication is all about, though isn't it? As to my wife, I do not give any details other than I will be accompanied wherever I go not by her but by a physician, a faithful layman who has been with me for quite a while. He will be moving with me to wherever I go next.

There may be other rumors and accusations about me that you hear when following up my references Strong leaders have strong opposition. So, I wish to address these other rumors and reports directly to you as follows:

I can get along with church leaders, so long as they are not narrow-minded and legalistic.
I am not a church splitter. The only division I ever cause is where falsehood is being preached.
I am not a liberal on issues of behavior and keeping church traditions—though the Jerusalem headquarters ruled gentiles can't eat meat offered to idols, I have adapted that rule in the gentile churches -- face it, the headquarters is often in the business of protecting the old wineskins. I allow the gentiles in my churches to eat idol-meat, unless it would cause another to stumble.
As for legalism, it is true that I am an avid opponent of it and will do everything in my power to defeat these evil people who are enemies of the true gospel.
The single woman we stayed in that first week in Europe was a new convert and she had said, "If you consider me a believer, come home and stay with me." Besides, there were several of us anyway, and she had servants there too.
I did not use a new-age seeker-approach to reach the academic community. I merely started where they were—in a belief in an unknown God.
It is true that I stayed several years with one married couple never getting my own house, but that was on their invitation.
My involvement in casting out demons is not the primary focus of my ministry.
I do not have a "death-wish," and the only reason I refused to listen to the Christians about my plans to go back to the city where I was most opposed was because they were wrong in discerning the Lord's will and I was right.
I am not personally benefiting from my ministry and not making tons of money off of it—I do not even break even.
I did not even touch the big offering I have been raising for the last 20 years. I never transport the money myself and always have several witnesses hold it and take the cash to the project—I do not handle offering monies whatever you have heard from one of my former churches.
I hope you will consider my application.

Would your church hire this guy? Seriously, would they?

Yet, he wrote the majority of the New Testament in his own pen, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Your church would turn down the Apostle Paul in favor of your "completed profile".

Why? Because elders don't make spiritual decisions, they make business decisions and those decisions cost married couples their relationships, children their innocence and sin increases IN the church. Having an appearance of godliness but lovers of self.

Posted by: BeHim | May 24, 2005 2:39:07 PM

S. Presch,
Bible examples would be Timothy, Titus, Silas etc. People Paul appointed to lead the church. Paul wrote to some of these people about how to lead the church. Sorry Presh, you have not standing ground with claiming there is no need for a pastor.
Indeed the elders and the pastor of the church is to lead, however there is a need for a shepherd. Look closer at your Bible and you will see examples.
I would bet you are not a Pastor yourself. Got a few ideas that your Pastor will not listen to huh? Think you should lead. Am I getting close?

Posted by: Alan Ray | May 24, 2005 2:44:55 PM

Amen, Rich & BeHim!

Alan, it's best to go straight to the first appointed shepherd of the NT for our discussion and an accurate understanding of "shepherd." By direct, personal invitation recorded fortunately for all eternity at the end of the Gospel of John, Peter was asked by Our Lord to feed His flock if he loved Him. Here is our perfect example of Our Lord's idea of a true shepherd.

Peter then in 1 Peter 5 et al speaks of himself not as a "pastor" but an elder-- one of several.

If you wish to engage in further dialogue, it would be important for you to be more specific in your Scripture references for us to trace this notion of a single pastor in charge of a local assembly so that our debate may be grounded and more meaningful.

Posted by: S. Presch | May 24, 2005 4:42:14 PM

I just want to point out that there is much confusion about "Elders" in the church. That's because we don't often read our Bible with a Hebrew & Greek perspective, but rather an "American" perspective. But the Bible was not written in American nor in English (we must remember that).

There are actually several words in the New Test. translated "elder" in English. They do not all apply to the same people.

One Word "Elder" (as used in James 5) means "Older or spiritually mature". Thus, when James said to "call the Elders of the church to anoint them with oil and pray for them", he was not talking about the leaders of the church but rather people who are spiritually mature (hopefully that would include our leaders, but it is not limited to them).

In 1 Timothy 3 the word "Elder" is episkopos = "derived from a word that means one who sees ahead or sees the big picture; translated overseer. It was a word used in the Greek culture to refer to a head or chief shepherd who would oversee the feeding and leading of the flock."

Most people think we are to have a plurality of elders in the local church because the Apostle Paul (in the book of Acts) called for the "Elders" (plural) of the church of Ephesus.

However, you must remember that the Church of Ephesus had thousands of members. In that day they could not meet in a big building like we often do today, but they had to meet in houses. Not too many people had a house big enough to fit thousands of people, thus the church was divided into house churches. Each house church had an Overseer, thus comes the phrase "Call for the Elders (plural) of Ephesus."

At other times, the word "Elder" in the New Test. comes from a greek word that means "Leader", this word could apply to anyone who is leading any type of ministry (which should include our modern board members).

Deacons on the other hand are just "Ministers or servants" according to the greek definition. Anyone serving in a ministry position to assist the leaders is truly a "Deacon" in the true sense of the word.

Now, the Bible does not say that a "Pastor" has to be the Bishop (lead elder). That's why Paul refers to that person as an Overseer or Bishop. However, the Bishop should be a member of the 5 Fold Ministry Gifts as shown in Ephesians 4:11-12. As a matter of fact, it would be most preferable if there was more than one 5 Fold Ministry Elders in the local church working together (but that is not always an option in many churches today).

Posted by: Vince | May 24, 2005 4:43:27 PM

Vince thank you for the greek translation. It is most beneficial.

The point I'm most concerned with in relationship to this article is this ovewhelming movement to search for a "shephard" as the world would search for a CEO. This "should" be bothersome, shouldn't it?


Having to search for an interim minister.

There should be men "ready to teach". These episkopos (ie - Episcopalians) are those called, trained and ready. This is what an Elder board should be comprised of. I guess I'm shocked that so many churches have a problem. Are they not discipling? Are they not training people who are interested in ministry?

I've seen the movement towards getting people "plugged in" but if this were truly discipleship, wouldn't some of those "plugged in" be ready to teach? Should they be? What are they plugged in to and to what end?

I understand not all are called to be bishops but we are all called to be ready.

Posted by: BeHim | May 24, 2005 5:24:26 PM

Excuse me, I could not finish my last comment because I had to leave and pick my daughter up from school.

To continue......

There is not only confusion about Elders in the modern church but also about the 5 Fold Ministry leaders of Ephesians 4:11-12.

In the last 30 years it has been very popular to use the title "Pastor" as a generic title to apply to all 5 Fold gifts. I have had several times that guest ministers come into our church and people call them "Pastor" so & so when actually they are Teachers, Prophets or Evangelists.

Likewise, people usually refer to the Bishop/Overseer of a local church as "Pastor" when they are often not a pastor but rather an apostle, prophet, evangelist or teacher.

That would be like a plumber coming into town and the people there start calling him a mechanic. So, not to confuse them, he goes along with it and calls himself "Mechanic Joe". That might be ok for a while, but eventually people are going to come to him asking him to fix their cars. He will be frustrated because he is not equipped in fixing cars he's equipped for fixing toilets and sinks. Also, they will be confused and frustrated. Not only that, he will also be frustrated by people not calling on him to fix their toilets or sinks (because he is not given the opportunity to use his true gifts).

I see in Scripture that a church is usually to be led by a 5 Fold Ministry team with a leader who is Apostolic leading the team.

A true Apostle should be one who lays the foundation and casts vision and appoints leaders. I am convinced that most successful "Senior Pastors" are actually Apostles. That leader should surround himself with other anointed "elders" - prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher" These individuals could help the apostle develop ministries, train team members (deacons) and oversee those departments

Prophet - Assist with preaching and develop other believers in the body who have a gift of prophecy.

Evangelist- Recruit people in the body anointed for soul winning and lead an Outreach/Evangelism Team. He/she could also train all the members in the church for evangelism and soul winning (since we should all be doing the "work of an evangelist" ie- sharing the gospel with the lost).

Pastor- Could raise up and oversee a team in the church with providing pastoral care to the members (visitation, hospital calls, follow up, counseling, etc)

Teacher- Share in the expository preaching/teaching. Also raise up and oversee a team of Small Group leaders or Sunday School Teachers.

The problem is this: We have a lot of erroneous tradition to deal with as leaders. I have been at my current church for 5 years and have found it to be a great challenge getting the "Elders" to change their concept of leadership. They think their job is just to show up at a board meeting once a month to vote on new members or review a finance report. They do not always take their new leadership roles very seriously because they don't get "paid" thus it always takes a back burner to their "real jobs". Since I and my Associate do get paid, we often end up taking up the slack for the Elders who are not doing their jobs. I also find people in the congregation who continue to expect me to "Do" the work of ministry rather than "Equip them to do it" (Eph. 4:12).

But you examine any successful church with more than 300 people and you will find a church that is following the guidelines on Ephesians 4:11-16.

The key verse is vs 16 "In (Christ) we are fitly joined together by what EVERY joint supplies according to the EFFECTIVE working in which EVERY part does it's share, which causes GROWTH to the body for the edifying (building up and empowering) of itself (the church) in love"

Thus, when the leaders learn how to submit to one another in the fear of the Lord and make room for the others gifts; and when the congregation learns to submit to their leaders and follow the apostolic vision and the leadership of the elder who is overseeing their area of giftedness, then (and only then) will the church grow the way God intended!

Posted by: Vince | May 24, 2005 5:46:13 PM


Thank you for your complement & also for your input!

I agree that we should not treat finding a new bishop (sr pastor) like a business finding a new CEO.

But I think the problem is, too many Americans think of the church the same way they do their business and thus try to operate it the same way (of course there are others who want to treat the church as a Sunday social club and as a result it becomes very ineffective)!

I believe the only true cure for these problems is to re-teach the modern church about the 5 Fold Ministry Elders and start our leadership from scratch!

I won't be holding my breath for that to happen though (l.o.l.)

Posted by: Vince | May 24, 2005 5:56:03 PM

Vince, you are right about this worldly concept of CEO - it is a grotesque distortion of true leadership, is the reason why "corporations" fail, and ignores Matthew 23:8-11 and Matthew 20:25-28.

So why wouldn't you hold your breath? That is Our Lord's command so will have His blessing! The next Martin Luther to go down in history will be the one to lead the reformation of the ubiquitous, popular, yet unbiblical current church leadership models.

Each one of us needs to see which of the 7 churches we embody. Not one of us is immune from our fate in Rev 1-3. He's got great advice for every one of us.

Reformation starts with Godly disciples totally immersed in His Word, abiding in Him.

Posted by: S. Presch | May 24, 2005 6:18:09 PM

S. Presh,

Thank you for the input! You are right when you asked, "So why wouldn't you hold your breath?"

I guess I am just a little skeptical and frustrated right now because of my experience as a "Pastor" this past 19 years.

I believe many churches are in the "Lukewarm" catagory! Or like the Apostle Paul described to Timothy, "Having a form of godliness but denying the Power (dunamis - Acts 1:8) thereof."

Many Christians just want to "play" church (thus resulting in a shallow Sunday social event or concert with a pep talk). Then there are numerous others who want to create a great church "business" but do not want or at least do not understand the need for the Gifts of the Spirit.

Isn't it interesting that the Apostle Paul showed us that God put the church in a particular order: "First Apostles, second Prophets, third Teachers" (and then the other gifts following)?

I believe that many Christians have the right intentions, but are just ignorant of what the Bible truly says. But then there are others who are just spiritually lazy (including leaders).

If we were to truly follow the Ephesians 4:7-16 guidelines for the church it would require a level of commitment and accountability that most people are not willing to submit to today!

However, I am convinced that the "Glorious" church that Jesus is returning for is going to have to arise by dropping man made traditions & hiarchy and worldly principles and hype and yield ourselves completely to the Grace of God and the Power of the Holy Spirit.

But that will require something most people don't want "WORK" & true FELLOWSHIP (koinonia - "partnership & mutual participation and contributory help")!

Please pray for me, because that is the kind of church I am praying to be a leader in. I am tired of playing church with the lukewarm!! SO, will the TRUE church please stand up?!

Colossians 2:8-10 "Let no one cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit according to the traditions of men and the basic principles of the world and not according to Christ (the Anointed One & His anointing. For IN HIM dwells all of the fullness of the Godhead bodily and you are complete IN HIM"

Posted by: Vince | May 24, 2005 6:38:31 PM


Posted by: BeHim | May 24, 2005 7:17:22 PM

The best book I've read (other than the Bible - esp. Jeremiah when it comes to the challenge inherent the call) is "Leadership and Self-Deception" by The Arbinger Institute. It was good because it reinforced a basic biblical warning: the inherent danger and inclination in all of us, especially church leaders, to deceve ourselves. Conflict reaction/resolution, even restoration (Gal 6:1-2), needs to start there. Pastors and the churches they leave, or that leave them, need to start there.

As I look back over the past 13 of my 28 years in pastoral leadership, half of those have been "in transition". And I don't think that's a bad thing. Life in transition had helped me realize that followers of Christ live in the overlap of two worlds, this life and the life to come ("now/not yet" as they say, the D-Day/VE Day analogy).

Is it possible we have overstated what the Bible says about church leadership. The lines of pastor/elder (and the multiple Greek words for the latter) seem to blur some of our categories. Little is specifically told about how they are chosen and what they do. Mostly we have some selective statements about character and conduct. (The May 26 MMI article on the Hermeneutical Cycle is helpful here.) The rest is open for discusion, and somewhat up for grabs. We may not like that, but church polity is rarely as directly biblical as we would like to think.

Posted by: Larry | May 26, 2005 9:34:25 AM

I want to address the original comment on this post. It seems like we have gotten farther and farther away from that subject as we have tried to define the role of pastor, bishop, elder, etc.

My comment to the original post:

Where did the idea that only the pastor has the ear of God, and should choose his successor come from?

It seems to me that the decision of a successor to the pastor should be left up to the church as a whole, not someone selected by one person. Especially if the leadership style of the outgoing pastor is not what the church needs in a new pastor.

The outgoing pastor will tend to choose someone like himself to replace him, and possibly someone who would not be a threat to his ministry accomplishments at the church he is leaving.

If God can work through the pastor to select his successor, surely he can work through the church to accomplish the same purpose.

I have known of some rather large churches where the outgoing pastor named his successor, and guess what. That successor did not last very long at the church!

Posted by: Ed | May 26, 2005 9:36:16 AM

In response to Ed's last post:

I think the way a Pastor is selected is dependant upon the structure or denomination of the church.

In our Fellowship/denomination, the incoming pastor is not chosen by the outgoing pastor. In some cases the outgoing pastor may have "some" input, but only some.

When I left the last church where I was Sr. Pastor, I emphasized to the Elders and to the Congregation the Mission and Vision and goals (ie-foundations) that had been laid under my leadership and encouraged them to prayerfully seek God for a leader who would build on that and be graced/gifted to lead the church to the next level in that vision.

Also, the Regional Superintendent worked closely with the Elders in sending out a profile of the church to qualified ministers and reviewing resumes from those who were interested in the call.

The Elders then interviewed with a few different potential Pastors and brought in one to preach and meet with the members of the church. The congregation and first "candidate" did not feel they were a match. Thus, the Elders brought in the next "candidate". The members of the church voted and unanimously chose to call him.

This Pastor had a very different style than me. However, he has been very fruitful in the past 5 years to run with the same visionary foundation I led the church to lay and together they have taken the church to a new level and continue to flourish.

This was a "God-thing", because I didn't know this man and he knew nothing about me. But God's vision continues to move forward in that church.

I believe the #1 key is Prayer and a willingness to work together for God's vision (not our own)!

Posted by: Vince | May 26, 2005 10:35:51 PM

BeHim wrote:
"Here is a prime example of what is wrong in the church (taken from the article above):

Make it your goal to get to know as much about each candidate as possible. Find out about their theological and church background. Meet their families. Get to know their personality. And most of all, measure them against your completed profile."

Come on... none of these things are bad. Do you really think they are? Everyone always comes back and says the church is being run like a business or looking for a CEO. Let's look at each one of these statements quickly...

1. Make it your goal to get to know as much about each candidate as possible.

Any church that doesn't check out the references and get to know their prospective pastor is just foolish. You can say what you like, but background checks are not only common place these days, they should be mandatory. Like it or not, there are some unscrupulous characters with past sin and moral problems that are preying upon the church. It would seem to me that the antithesis of this statement would be, "Don't check them out-- hire anyone". Doesn't sound wise to me.

2. Find out about their theological and church background.

Again, important, not from a 'business' standpoint, but from a theological, unity, and fit standpoint. Churches are split right down the middle every week in this country from bad fits... from search committees who didn't do their homework; and from people who took a job knowing they weren't a good match to begin with. Pour over your prospective pastor's past church and theological background. It can save you much pain.

3. Meet their families. How can this be wrong? They will be serving in the church as well... plus, there is a Biblical standard for the family of an elder. Best to check it out.

4. Get to know their personality. Absolutely. Does your body (congregation) need a serious minded pastor; a light-hearted person; what about spiritual gifts. Again, not a 'business' decision to be made here, but a conscience decision to make a great match for the local body of Christ.

5. And most of all, measure them against your completed profile.

Absolutely... if you need an evangelist, don't hire a discipler. Again, not 'business' but matching things up within the body of Christ to acheive the best results.

Would I hire Paul? To be honest, if he sent the letter you included above... nope! And you know what... you might not choose Paul either, but God did! Just like he chose you and me, stupid as we are.

One last thing, BeHim concludes:

"There should be men "ready to teach". These episkopos (ie - Episcopalians) are those called, trained and ready. This is what an Elder board should be comprised of. I guess I'm shocked that so many churches have a problem. Are they not discipling? Are they not training people who are interested in ministry?"

Man, you hit it right on the head there. But (as the ChurchStaffing.com guy) I can tell you that 90% of the churches we work with operate with this deficiency. The growth and discipleship of individual leaders in many, if not most congregations is pretty pathetic. And, you're right, if the churches were healthy, then the transitions would be very healthy as well.

I still would encourage everyone to pick up a copy of the "Elephants in the Boardroom" book discussed here. It's a great read; and while you might not agree with everything in it, I think it's important to consider, if for no other reason to prepare your own church for transition.

Have a great weekend everyone... thanks for your input!


Posted by: Todd Rhoades | May 26, 2005 11:02:49 PM

Come on... none of these things are bad. Do you really think they are? Everyone always comes back and says the church is being run like a business or looking for a CEO. Let's look at each one of these statements quickly...

BeHime Responds:
I'll be more specific.
This is the MAIN area of concern:
5. And most of all, measure them against your completed profile.

Absolutely... if you need an evangelist, don't hire a discipler. Again, not 'business' but matching things up within the body of Christ to acheive the best results.

A completed profile is "business" and matching up to achieve the best results demands the question: What is the best results?

The profile will ALWAYS be a loaded system of thought on what MAN'S VIEW of the world is (business or otherwise). While if we looked for men who meet a Biblical profile (standing on truth even to death, not afraid to go head to head/toe to toe over the truth, etc), many times they would absolutely be passed over in favor for the man that looks, sounds and acts more "business like" (with a "christian" overtone of course).

Also, these subjects for the most part are all relative to one another too. Choosing based on "business" objectives can easily make room for the business man who is in fact an abusive leader.

The point is, choosing church leaders should be based on Biblical Princples, not business profiles. Number one way for a selection committee (or church for that matter) to know if the person is truly a man of God??? Hear them preach! Find out what they teach. Test them with tough doctrinal requests. Meaning, you ask them to preach/teach at your church about The Trinity or Salvation (justification, sanctification, glorification), etc.

There's a two fold problem, the selection committee (and the church for that matter) usually has no idea what to look for or how to look for it when the person speaks. Why? Because they are not properly trained.

So, in the end, it's "easier" to just choose them based on some equation of questions and answers from a profile, mission and vision statement (all business).

How do you change this in 90% of the churches?
True, Bible based Discipleship (not some 40 day christianity 101 - if it could even be considered that - book/study).

Essential Doctrines:
Virgin Birth
Son of God

Posted by: BeHim | May 27, 2005 5:06:35 PM

BeHim writes:

"The profile will ALWAYS be a loaded system of thought on what MAN'S VIEW of the world is (business or otherwise). "

Sorry, BeHim, but I think that's a jaded view. Why are you going on the assumption that a profile is NOT Biblically based; looking for biblical and spiritual qualities in a man or woman, rather than just "must work 6 days a week, 10 hours a day". I think you give absolutely no credit to those in our churches who are TRYING to do the right thing by matching the candidate's spiritual attributes to their congregations needs and personality.

That 90% figure that we're both throwing around (I don't know if that's true or not); but I think we both agree that training is the key (BEFORE the transition); but I still cry that a BIBLICAL profile match is still an important part of the mix.

Just wondering, BeHim... are you a pastor or staff member?; and have you had experience matching or not matching up to someone's 'profile' in the past? You seem to have some strong feelings on the subject; and that usually comes out of experience.

Just wondering...


Posted by: Todd Rhoades | May 27, 2005 9:33:07 PM

Todd writes:
I think you give absolutely no credit to those in our churches who are TRYING to do the right thing by matching the candidate's spiritual attributes to their congregations needs and personality.

BeHim responds:
Todd, this IS the point. Are WE the "match maker" or is God? How does God reveal His leader?

Todd writes:
Why are you going on the assumption that a profile is NOT Biblically based

BeHim responds:
Do you assume a profile is needed to locate/find a Biblical leader? Why?

Todd writes:
Just wondering, BeHim... are you a pastor or staff member?; and have you had experience matching or not matching up to someone's 'profile' in the past? You seem to have some strong feelings on the subject; and that usually comes out of experience.

BeHim responds:
Why do you wonder Todd, obviously I have strong feelings about MANY of the blogs (as do others here) do you assume I've had issues with all of them? ;-) touche!

Posted by: BeHim | May 29, 2005 10:14:38 PM

I think Todd's question is a fair one and Biblical to BeHim: What is your experience with this? Paul responds to such quires:

2 Corinthians 11

23: Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
24: Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
25: Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
26: In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
27: In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
28: Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
29: Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?
30: If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.
31: The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.
32: In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me:
33: And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.

Here is a Biblical profile:

Titus 1

5: For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:
6: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
7: For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;
8: But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;
9: Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
10: For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:
11: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake.
12: One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.
13: This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;
14: Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.
15: Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.
16: They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

Titus 2

1: But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine:
2: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.
3: The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
4: That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,
5: To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
6: Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.
7: In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,
8: Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.
9: Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again;
10: Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
11: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
12: Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
13: Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
14: Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
15: These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

BeHim I enjoyed the hypothetical letter of Paul going over his employment record. It convicted me of how to respond honestly regarding my whole record and is put together from Paul's letters, but it is one thing to preach it and another to live it when you are confronted to give an account of your own record.

Vince I really like your view of the Ephesians 5 approach to leadership.

Todd I do think you question is fair, but I don't believe your model is always Christ. Remember how Christ is treated in the congregations. They were filled with the love of the world and Jesus said their father was the devil and accused them of trying to kill Him. I think there are followers of Jesus out there who have been kicked out of their congregations for following Jesus. Congregations that love the ways of the world more than the ways of God.

Question Todd: Do you or anyone you know from the congregations you represent have resisted unto blood the striving against sin?

I do have a problem with the congregations of little faith here in America. We are spiritually probably the poorest churches in the world. Members who have tickling ears and want the power of the human resources department. Jesus said how hard it is for the materially rich to get to heaven. Yes they may know the Law of God in Human Relationships and keep it to a point, but are not willing to totally sacrifice their money and their life in following Christ. They hire pastors who say they don't have to its all by grace. This would be Biblical if Jesus had said that to the rich young ruler, but He did not. I will stick with Jesus.

Mark 8

34: And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
35: For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.
36: For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
37: Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
38: Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

Posted by: Harry Miller | Jun 6, 2005 2:43:14 AM

I have just completed my time as Pastor at a church, and these were my tenets:
1. I, the Pastor, would not leave until there was a qualified replacement. By qualified I mean having the background and ability to pastor the church -- not a person off the street filling in. I knew God would hold me responsible if I were to leave his flock untended.
2. I would leave the Church in top shape, well-organized, drawers cleaned, files in order, an administrative calendar stating what needed to be done each month, an up-to-date directory with names and addresses of current members. (Maybe churches should require a security deposit from pastors so they don't leave things in a mess! I have been the follow-up pastor that had to clean up the messes left by previous pastors, and it takes a lot of time.)
3. At LEAST 20 hours, ideally 3-6 weeks, of orientation between the pastor who is leaving and the pastor who is coming on board. There needs to be time to go over on-going pastoral issues, sticky wickets, where to get what. Pastor-to-pastor passing on of the baton is very important and Biblical. Timothy took over ministries from Paul in this manner.
4. A letter and announcement to the church stating exactly why the pastor is leaving. The church needs to know or else they will spend years puzzling over it.
5. Really leave. Otherwise people would call me complaining about the new pastor and trying to keep me involved in the church, which wouldn't be fair to the new pastor. I sent a letter to church members stating when I would be leaving and that they were to have no contact with me by telephone, e-mail, or letters, for one year so they could bond with their new pastor. (Of course people tested this and called, wrote, and e-mailed, but I did not answer the phone, and forwarded everything to the new pastor, with whom I have a great relationship based on our orientation time. He can call me anytime, as has. My role now is to support him as their pastor.)
I hope this is helpful. Lori

Posted by: Rev. Lori | Jun 7, 2005 8:53:50 AM

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