Saturday, March 8, 2008

From There To Here

The faith journey from serving as an installed pastor to being an intentional interim has been an interesting one. Looking back, I can now see how many of my experiences over the 31 years of pastoral ministry have brought me to this moment. But over the last four years the pace of this journey has accelerated. Prior to four years ago I had never even heard of intentional interim ministry.

In April, 2004 the District Superintendent asked me to accept the appointment as pastor of First Wesleyan Church in Bessemer City, NC. Usually our churches call their pastors but this church had been through a time of conflict that resulted in the pastor and the entire lay leadership team resigning. In the absence of any local church lay leadership the District Superintendent informed the church that a pastor would be appointed to serve them for one year and that it would be me.

I spoke with a consultant that had worked with the previous pastor and lay leadership about the situation. He stated that the church needed an "intentional interim pastor". I asked what that meant and got my first exposure to the concept. I had no such training and a desire to be called as the installed pastor after the one year appointment was concluded.

We began to work the church through a "healing process" and to get it "back on track". Our efforts met with enough success that the church did call me to be their installed pastor. But as the months progressed three things became more and more clear:
1) the church really did need to work through the congregational self study part of the intentional interim ministry if it was going to be a strong and vibrant church again
2) my wife, Pam, had some chronic health issues with her lower back which were hindering her from serving as she had always done in the past in the role of the pastor's wife
3) as we researched what intentional interim ministry was all about, it became more and more obvious that my personality and giftedness were well suited to serve in such a role

Pam, my two prayer partners, and I sought God's direction from October, 2006 until February, 2007. At that time we all agreed that intentional interim ministry seemed to be the right thing to do. We presented the idea to the church's administrative board and gave them two weeks to pray over the idea. They were unanimous in agreement that the church and I move in this direction. When the presentation was made to the congregation it was enthusiastically received by the vast majority of the church membership.

So for the last year we have been on the intentional interim journey with this congregation. A journey that will conclude in 4 months. Only time and eternity will reveal the full impact of this experience. But the current evidence would indicate that the congregation is moving from a maintenance to a missional mindset. Four years ago, this was a congregation that was just showing up for "church" on Sundays and Wednesdays. During the last three months, congregation members have been involved in 12 mission or service projects that touched literally thousands of other people. While involved in these projects, our members spent an estimated 461 hours collectively in service to others.

In next week's blog I plan to share those traits and characteristics that seem to be most needed in someone serving as an intentional interim and where this faith journey seems to be going next.

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