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Pastor Justasgood doesn’t measure up

COLUMBIA, Md. (BP)–Billy Bestofall, pastor of The Church of Everyone’s Dreams, announces his resignation and the congregation is devastated. They cry, have a farewell chicken dinner and start looking for a replacement. Soon Pastor Justasgood comes along and the church rejoices, starts new programs and the honeymoon is on.

But then members notice Brother Justasgood doesn’t do things the way Brother Bestofall did. He must not understand. Justasgood has a clear direction of where the church should go, but it’s not what Bestofall had envisioned. There’s trouble in The Church of Everyone’s Dreams.

Maybe, if the congregation had taken time before they called another pastor to evaluate where they were when Bestofall left and prayed together, seeking God’s wisdom on where He wanted to take them next, perhaps they could have been better prepared for Justasgood — and maybe even decided to hire Pastor Bestever.

Maybe they needed a transitional pastor.

Ken Jordan, missionary for church/minister relations in the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, believes using a trained transitional pastor can greatly benefit pastorless churches.

Unlike an interim pastor, a transitional pastor seeks to strategically guide the church through a process of introspection and evaluation. He provides focus and direction and prayerfully prepares the congregation to begin the next chapter of its life.

“It’s a more proactive approach that guides congregations through the process churches need to be prepared for the next pastor,” said Henry Webb, who leads a transitional pastor training team from LifeWay Christian Resources that came to the BCM/D’s resource center in April to train a group of more than 20 pastors from five states.

Retired after 28 years with LifeWay as director of pastoral ministries, discipleship, leadership and deacon ministry, Webb now works on the team with Roy Edgemon, also retired from LifeWay after leading the discipleship and family division for 25 years; Bill Hogue, past executive director of the California Convention and past director of evangelism for the SBC Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board); and Ernest Mosley, retired executive director of the Illinois Convention and past executive vice-president of the SBC Executive Committee. In seven eyars, the team has trained more than 1,000 men to be transitional pastors.

All churches can use transitional pastors, not just those who were struggling or had some sort of split, Webb said.

“Most churches, even if they’re healthy, can be grieving, hurting from the loss of the previous pastor and anxious about the future,” he said.

Ken Jordan wholeheartedly agrees. “I know of about 30 churches that have been served by transitional pastors over a period of time. Those churches have discovered that they have had the opportunity to bring closure to losing the last pastor and are prepared for the coming of a new one,” Jordan said. “They analyze their strengths, opportunities, weaknesses and threats as a congregation and they gain more momentum, creativity and productivity.”

Transitional pastors are trained to look at the church’s history, examine basic biblical principles for the church and guide the congregation to understand what God wants for their church and how to get there. He helps train the church’s pastor search committee.

Webb said transitional pastors make it clear from the beginning that they themselves will not be available as permanent pastor. Once the church finds the right person for that role, the transitional pastor transitions himself out so the new pastor can establish himself. The process usually takes at least nine months, Webb said.

Most men trained to serve as transitional pastors are retired or nearing retirement, Webb noted. They may serve a church in a bi-vocational role or full time. There are no guarantees that a transitional pastor will move directly from one church to another, no guaranteed steady income or insurance coverage, so it isn’t usually looked on as a full-time career. It is, however, a unique ministry where pastors can share their years of experience and training.

Upcoming training opportunities, costs and other information is available at www.lifeway.com/tp.
Sharon Mager is a correspondent for BaptistLIFE (www.baptistlifeonline.org), newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.

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  • Sharon Mager