Spring 2015


Without It, Will We Perish?

An anonymous story

Ministry was good, even great, at the church. Community involvement was high and faith was being kindled. But something was still wrong. Faith EFC* felt a bit like a ship without a captain at the helm.

It wasn’t that members didn’t value their pastor’s biblical teaching. But they also wanted a sense that Pastor Pete (let’s call him) was leading them toward something. “It’s not that the ship was dead in the water,” one leader, Warren, remembers, “but where was the ship headed? What did our pastor sense that God was saying to him?”

When Pete had first arrived at Faith EFC a few years earlier, vision hadn’t been a problem. He had quickly introduced a personal vision and ideas for change. Probably too quickly. “He didn’t get to know the congregation before trying to initiate change,” according to another leader, Philip. “When his ideas were not immediately welcomed and acted upon, he became discouraged and it seems that he gave up.”

Pete, an introvert, then seemed to pull away from people rather than work to strengthen relationships and move more slowly with change. “When trust is waning between the leader and the leadership team,” Warren adds, “then the church can drift; the church becomes vulnerable to the next urgent thing.”

Faith EFC headed into a life-preserving mode as urgent thing after urgent thing captured its pastor’s attention. “By then he had isolated himself as a leader,” Warren remembers, “and did not seem to have strong relationships in the church.”

With concern for their church body and their future, Pete’s team began looking elsewhere for help—inviting outside consultants into the conversation about dreams for the future. Pete agreed to that help. Unfortunately, the hard questions that were needed to determine that visionary future proved too great a weight, and Pete resigned.

Both sides realize they’d made dangerous assumptions.

What might have prevented such a stark conclusion? Faith EFC’s leaders wish there had been a better fit from the beginning. No one realized that Pete saw himself primarily as a Bible teacher, not a visionary. And, admittedly, Philip says now, “unrealistic promises were made to him that did not accurately reflect the readiness of the congregation for change.” So both sides realize they’d made dangerous assumptions.

Now, Faith EFC’s leaders are working to uncover their vision for this church community before calling their next pastor. “We need to know where we’re going,” Warren says, “so it’s clear when God brings the new senior leader that we’re all going in the same direction.”

*Not the church’s actual name.