My kids think I grew up in the Dark Ages; they are amazed when I explain that we survived before the internet was invented. But still, I’m a fan of modern technology. I remember one occasion when a cell phone would have reduced my stress level considerably.
My parents had traveled to a medical appointment 150 miles away, and they had planned to be back home around 6:00 p.m. However, the entire state was slammed with a massive snowstorm during the afternoon. Within a few hours, there was six inches of snow on the ground, with more to come. When 6:00 p.m. rolled around, there was no sign of my parents. At 7:00 p.m., still no parents. The same at 8:00 p.m.
You can understand the panic as a twelve-year-old boy begins to imagine different scenarios for why his parents had not yet arrived home. Their car broke down and they have frozen to death. They slid off the road and drove over a cliff. They decided it was too bad to travel, and I’ll be home alone tonight. All these options terrified me. With no cell phone to check on them while they were traveling, I had no way to calm these fears. It was excruciating.
Finally, around 9:00 p.m., I saw headlights pull into the driveway. Sure enough, Mom and Dad were home, safe and sound. The only thing my worrying accomplished was to ruin my evening.
It’s amazing how quickly we imagine worst-case scenarios whenever we don’t have all the facts about a particular situation!
Left in the Dark
As an Associational Mission Strategist, I wear many hats. One of those hats is to assist churches during their search for a new pastor. This often involves training the pastor search committee, consulting them throughout the process, and helping them deal with any unexpected problems that arise during the interim period.
Meanwhile, the congregation itself rarely knows that these meetings are taking place. In fact, they are often unaware of most of the search committee’s activities. The average person in the pew just knows that the committee is looking for a new pastor, and he wishes they would hurry up already.
When the congregation doesn’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, it’s easy to get worked up over imagined scenarios. A church member might begin to imagine that the Search Committee is lazy and not doing anything. They might imagine they are incompetent. They might even imagine the committee has ulterior motives and is intentionally trying to keep secrets from the church.
It’s hard to avoid filling in the blanks with your best guess whenever you don’t know all the answers. And church members who are left in the dark may be unable to fight that temptation, which will likely lead to unnecessary frustration, conflict, and division in the church during the search. Sadly, I have witnessed this scenario take place far too many times.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Churches can experience healthy transitions. But it will require the active participation of every member of the church. Not just the search committee or church leaders.
Why I Wrote This Book
Unfortunately, most church members are unaware of their role during the search. As I have worked with dozens of churches over the past 7+ years, I have discovered that nearly all of the books, articles, and other resources on the topic are written as a training manual for the search committee. Very few are written to help those in the pews during this season of transition. The Church During the Search is meant to fill that void.
My goal with this book is to help the church experience a healthy transition from one pastor to the next. To help them deal with the emotions of saying goodbye to one pastor and prepare to say hello to a new one. To provide a general understanding of the activities taking place behind the scenes. Most importantly, I want to show church members how they can honor the Lord in their attitudes and behaviors while they wait for their next pastor.
In order to do so, the book challenges the church to make six commitments during the search:
- Be prepared.
- Be informed.
- Be humble.
- Be prayerful.
- Be patient.
- Be productive.
The book is designed to be studied over the course of six weeks. Each week includes five daily readings that focus on one of the six commitments. It can be studied by individuals or in a small-group setting. A Small Group Leader Guide with appropriate discussion questions is included in the appendix.
My prayer is that this book will become an invaluable resource to help churches of all shapes and sizes experience healthy transitions of leadership. The book will be published by Aneko Press on January 1, 2021, but is available for pre-order now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and other major online booksellers. If your church or ministry is interested in a bulk order discount, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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