The Interim Pastor

by Tom Crews

One of the greatest opportunities for a retired pastor is to serve as an interim pastor, especially those who have had successful ministries. Far from being an effortless job or an unimportant position, interim service can be both challenging to a minister and life-changing for a church. Many times when pastors resign from a church, there are problems that need to be solved before a new pastor arrives. If these problems are not resolved, then the new pastor will be faced with them. He might hear several sides of the problems from different people and he could end up listening to the wrong people. When I retired and took my first church as an interim, I quickly learned that there was much division in the church. Some people had left, and others were not speaking. I knew the first thing I had to do was get the church into "one accord." It wasn't easy, but after six months, I saw the church come together and become a loving fellowship. I remember one woman said; "Brother Tom is going to make us love one another whether we want to or not"-and she was right. It was a blessing to see them grow. Each of the five interim positions I have held (which lasted anywhere from fifteen months to two years) had its share of problems, including financial issues. With God's help, we were able to see each of these five churches get out of financial trouble. One of the churches still owed a former pastor over a month's wages, and all bills were past due. The church was going to borrow several hundred thousand dollars because they needed new carpet, new pews, new windows, and other repairs. My advice to the chairman of the deacons was that the money should be raised, not borrowed. I will never forget the look on his face, but he agreed and then began asking how this could be done. I explained to him that the first thing we needed to do is get God in on it. Ten months later the church had new pews, new carpet, stained glass windows (which it never had before), a new ceiling, new walls, the entire front of the church remodeled, seventy new choir chairs, all Sunday school rooms repainted and decorated-and this was all paid for by raising the money within the congregation. It all began on a Sunday morning when I told the congregation that my wife and I wanted to buy the first pew and first choir chair, and I asked each of them to ask God what He wanted them to do. Thousands of dollars came in from people no one knew. God did it. Several years later one of the deacons said, "No one can figure out how it all came about. It was just a big miracle." I told him that we have a big God. I constantly hear preachers say, "When you take an interim position, just try to keep order and don't do anything until they get a pastor." This is not fair to the church. If you have had a successful ministry, take what you have learned, help the church get into one accord with one another, and help them solve their problems, regardless of what they are, so that when the new pastor comes, the church can grow and God can bless. If you just want to preach and have all the folks cater to you, interim pastoring is not for you. In April, 2004, I began my fifth interim position, at Hickory Valley Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn. God has so blessed in the past two years that when this church wanted to call me as its pastor, I agreed to drop the "interim" status. Now I am once again in a regular pastorate. I am enjoying my ministry and seeing what God can do. God called me out of the business world at age forty-four and from that time, I pastored the same church for twenty-three years. I am so thankful to God that He still allows me to serve Him. Nothing pleases Him more than to see His church in one accord, doing His work of reaching those who are lost, and believers loving and caring for each other. If the Lord should present you at some point with an opportunity to be an interim pastor, I encourage you to seriously consider accepting the job. Not only may you be blessed, but you could be used as a great blessing to those whom you serve. To God be the glory. Editor's note: Before God called Brother Crews into the ministry, he was a rising executive with Hormel Company.
2011 Disciple 155x50 2011 AMG 155x50
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