– By Daniel Ausbun, First Baptist Church, Moreland
I’m writing this on Wednesday.
I’m watching moving men load a van. On Thursday, we leave early in the morning for Lexington, Kentucky.
On Sunday, Dec. 11, Broadway Baptist Church in Lexington voted to call me as their new pastor. My first Sunday is tomorrow. A new year, a new pastor. This is my final Pastor’s Corner.
I’ve been writing this column every other Saturday since June 2008.
I’ve been pastor of First Baptist Moreland since April 2005. What do you do when your church changes pastors? Unfortunately, many churches decline or remain “on hold” until a new pastor arrives. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Here are five things you need to do during pastoral transition:
First, you need to begin praying for your new pastor and your new interim pastor. God has a man He wants to lead your church. He has appointed a shepherd for your flock. The office of pastor is a biblical office for the local church (Ephesians 4:11).
When you don’t pray for your pastor, you’re telling God, “I don’t care about the person You placed over me to preach Your Word.” A pastor who’s not being prayed for is an unprepared pastor. The famous 19th century British pastor, Charles Spurgeon, would have hundreds of church members in a designated prayer room while he preached. Spurgeon knew the power of intercessory prayer.
Second, you need to examine your giving. It’s easy to say, “Well, the church doesn’t have to pay the pastor’s salary anymore, so they won’t miss my offering.” When you give, you’re giving to God – not “to the church.” The church is the only organization established by God – but it’s financially supported by His people.
Third, you need to examine your attendance. With no pastor, there’s less accountability. No one will know if you’re gone. Our ultimate accountability is to the Lord. He knows if you’re not attending.
Fourth, you need to pick up the slack.
Preaching, teaching, visiting – the ministry of the church shouldn’t cease when the pastor leaves. God can use anyone to advance His Kingdom, including you. Your church can actually thrive when the pulpit is vacant.
Before I came to First Baptist Moreland, the church was blessed to have a 14-month interim pastor, Searcy Jackson. Rev. Jackson led the church in beginning new Sunday school classes, purchasing two acres of land adjacent to the church, and preparing the church for a young incoming pastor. The interim pastor’s purpose is to bridge the gap from the former pastor to the new pastor. During this “gap” the church must continue moving forward, building excitement for the future.
Fifth, you need to examine and possibly update your church’s bylaws and constitution. The purpose of a church’s constitution is to clearly define and explain who makes what decisions and the process in which they’re made. Many churches unfortunately work on the two extremes with bylaws and constitutions. They either ignore it – or are ignorant of what it says – or they follow it so extensively it hinders the ministry of the church.
Churches need to follow their constitutions, but they need to follow their Bibles even more. If your constitution is a burden to the pastor and cumbersome to making decisions, it needs an update. Church business meetings shouldn’t be the most exciting thing at the church.
Folks getting baptized and new disciples developed is every church’s mission. At judgement, God isn’t going to ask us about our church’s constitution.
No pastor? No problem. Remember, if God called your pastor away, He’s going to call your new pastor to arrive.