11 July 2010

In the Mean Time: Being a Church Member between Pastors

The Pastor of my church, Dr. David Lowrie, recently resigned to take the pastorate of First Baptist Church in El Paso, Texas. Dr. Lowrie was an excellent pastor, a very good preacher who preached the gospel instead of the other nonsense that some churches have to put up with these days, and a good leader (he is the current president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas).

That means a couple things: we will have a mish-mash of fill-in pastors for a while, then, if we are a good little congregation, we'll get an interim pastor until a new one is found and called. According to some stats I've heard (second hand) that come from Nashville, a church should have an interim for 2 months per year that the last pastor was in residence. Since Dr. Lowrie was here for 9 years, that means, if we follow the rules, we'll have an interim for about 18 months. I'm hoping we can cut that short.

What do we garden-variety laypersons do in the mean time? In my experience, a group of us will use the excuse to leave the church for the next cool thing in town. Another group will pull strings and play politics and try to get involved with the pastor search committee and have some say in who the next pastor is. A few will just fade into the background and not really do much of anything.  Worst of all, a few will talk bad about people or things and cause some trouble.  As Kevin DeYoung said in his 2010 NEXT conference talk, the Church is the bride of Christ, so why are there so many people who want to *diss Jesus' girlfriend?*

Here's what I think (and wish) we would all do-

(1) We should pray daily for the man God has planned for our church.
(2) We should pray daily that the man God is calling to us will be gospel-centered.
(3) We should continue to serve where we've been serving.
(4) We should 'pick up the slack' in personal ministry where we see a need.

Here's what I think (and hope) we should NOT do-

(1) We should not be busybodies with the search committee and try to give input that isn't needed or welcome (those of us who prayed for the search committee know there's a reason God did not see fit to have us on that committee).
(2) We should not try to change the nature of our church in the interim time...God gave church leadership to pastors and elders, not laypersons.
(3) We should not gossip about the process around town.
(4) We should not give up on God in the process.

Our church has been struggling lately with the ideas of becoming contextual or relevant; mostly because we've seen a decline in membership (or at least, a failure to grow at the same pace as the community). This time is certainly promising in terms of providing an opportunity to re-focus on the gospel as our source relevance and method of contextuality. It can be hard to maintain continuity with guest preachers, but on the other hand, as we saw two weeks ago with Michael Kelley, we can hear some outstanding exposition of the gospel from folks we don't normally hear from.  My boss, Wayland President Dr. Paul Armes, spoke last week and did a great job.  Several of our staff members are also excellent preachers, so I look forward to the variety even though consistency is hard in the process.  [Update: Today (Sunday, the day after I posted this blog article) we heard from a former pastor, Dr. Charlie Price; and he did a great job...focused on the gospel and the kingdom, and not on fixin' our lives and other nonsense.]

I've been participating in the 10.02(b) virus prayer program for a couple months.  Every Tuesday and Thursday at precisely 10:02 am, my Outlook alarm goes off, and I stop what I'm doing to pray for workers for the harvest in our community.  The prayer time has morphed into praying for the search committee and the pastor-to-be as well.  I'm looking forward to what God is going to do in our church.

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