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Help! Our pastor just left

July 17th, 2012 at 6:00 am

Are you getting ready to serve on a Pastor Search Committee? Talk to those who have served before you and hopefully you will hear, “It was the most difficult task I’ve ever done in my life…  but I have never been more blessed in any service I’ve done for the Lord.”

Unfortunately, you might be just as likely to hear, “I never want to do that again . . . it was a mess . . . I left the church,” or other discouraging stories. So, here are some ideas about what your church can be doing so the interim period starts out well.

  1. Stay calm. Anxiety is not of the Lord (2 Tim. 1:7), but it is the dominant emotion in church members when a pastor leaves—no matter WHY the pastor left. Don’t rush to action. Quick decisions about what to do in selecting a search committee, or calling an interim pastor, often go astray. So, slow down. Instead, seek unity in the body and direction from the Lord. A few weeks of calling the church into a season of prayer can make a huge difference (Phil. 4:16).
  2. Seek guidance. Some churches find direction in their bylaws. Sometimes the bylaws don’t address the interim period, or they are too out of date to help. In any of these cases, however, don’t close the door to help from “outsiders.” Fear of the loss of employment, or of position, or of getting one’s way will tempt the “gate-keepers” to try and solve all issues on their own. They mean well. They love the church, and they believe they know what the Lord wants. But there are people at the BGCT who have no small amount of expertise in helping pastorless churches. Seek their counsel. They can speak from experience and point the church towards valuable resources (Col. 1:9).
  3. Seek God’s desire. Most pastor search committees will do a survey of the church members, asking them questions that will help develop a pastor profile, that is, a picture of what the next pastor should be like. Unfortunately, the survey results often mirror only the selfish desires of church members. The results can be totally disconnected from what the church NEEDS, and the pastor profile can be developed with no consideration of God’s will for the church. Finding God’s desire, therefore, must start long before the search team survey. It starts as soon as the pastor leaves. Seeking God’s will means praying to deny oneself and committing to following God, wherever He leads.

Interestingly enough, if a church commits to finding God’s will, they may be more open to outside help instead of doing things the same way and letting the “gate keepers” control the process. Sincerely seeking God’s desire should help the church to find God’s peace (Phil. 4:6).  These three steps work together in unity and need to be part of the search process from the beginning.

By Karl Fickling, director of the Texas Baptists Pastorless Church Team

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