Where Do You Live as an Interim?

do you drive an RV?

People ask about where we live in our interim work. “Do you drive an RV?”

We don’t drive an RV. Here are our living situations at each interim. We’ve have had a good place to live in all eight locations. God and the brethren have provided for us abundantly.

  1. Eddyville, Kentucky. They had a house next to the building. We first told them we’d bring our clothes and computer. We asked them to provide everything else. They did: furniture, dishes, even forks, and spoons. After Gail and I discussed it, we decided to buy a mattress with a bed frame. That is the main piece of furniture we carry with us.
  2. In Hendersonville, Tennessee, we first thought we’d live in our house across town in Nashville. Gail said it would be difficult for her to be involved in ladies’ classes, visitation, and other activities. We rented an apartment about a mile from the building. With $300.00, Gail furnished our apartment with furniture from thrift stores. We didn’t know where and if we were going anywhere after finishing in Hendersonville. We gave our furniture away.
  3. When we went to Collegeside in Cookeville, Tennessee, we planned to buy more furniture. The secretary, Ginny Henson, asked if we would list our needs in the bulletin. Members could loan us what they had. We could buy the rest. When we arrived, our apartment was furnished. When we left, the brethren picked up their furniture and we went to LaVergne — except the Bill Harris who loaned two recliners gave them to us. He was through with them and they were better than ours in Nashville.
  4. At LaVergne, Tennessee, David Waldron showed us several apartments — some he and his partners owned and some others. We decided on one in one of his complexes. He said the only one in that size was the display apartment we saw. We could use any of the furniture in the display. They’d move and store furniture we didn’t need. They moved the beds out and we used the rest.
  5. In Maury City, Tennessee, the church had a preacher’s house on the same lot as the building. We borrowed furniture and left it when we finished.
  6. We went to Northside Jeffersonville, Indiana. Childplace children’s home joins the church property. On the back of that property, 0.2 miles from the church building, Childplace has seven houses for older people. They waved the age rule 😉 and permitted us to rent one of those houses while we were there. Brethren loaned us furniture and removed it when we left.
  7. Shady Acres Sikeston, Missouri was our next stop. Steve Turnbow and Mark Smith showed us several apartments, houses, and duplexes. We decided on a duplex. Again, brethren loaned us furniture for our use during our work there.
  8. We are now working with River Road church 1.5 miles from our house in Nashville. We’re sleeping in our own bed and using our own furniture for the first time in about twelve years.

In every place, with every congregation, our brothers and sisters have loaned, given, shared, and encouraged in every way. My standard answer when people ask how my interim work is going is: “I’ve never met an interim I didn’t like.” We didn’t have this worked out when we started. Every place and opportunity has shown us the Lord and our Christian family will provide our every need and more.

What questions or observations do you have about interim ministry?

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5 Reasons We Search with Our Eyes Closed

why do I ignore what I need to know to make a good decision?

Two questions I received last year: 1) Do preachers call you when they are considering coming to the church where you are an interim? 2) Why do we too often not seek “outside help” to gain a fresh perspective on a congregation’s situation?

Answers to the questions:

  1. Do preachers call you when they are considering coming to the church where you are an interim? Rarely. In twelve years working with eight churches, I can count on the fingers of one hand the preachers considering and being considered who’ve called. That’s been one of my surprises.
  2. My guess is preachers and elders fail to get “outside help” for similar reasons.

Why I’ve Failed to Call

  1. I didn’t want to take the time or spend money to get information that might be helpful. Professional people often charge for advice. It might cost to drive to meet with someone or pay them to meet with our group. Consultation may involve several hours. You can save money and time now by not getting your oil changed. Long-term, it may be a good investment.
  2. I already had my mind made up. My observation: when people check references or ask for advice, they want the person to assure them they’ve made a good decision. Few people who’ve called me checking references asked for the person’s weak points.
  3. I didn’t want to get confused. When I read reviews on Amazon.com, I get confused because most items have several 5-star and 1-star reviews. Which is right? Why can’t one person tell me what to do and relieve my anxiety? I think confusion is a good (necessary) step in decision-making. But confusion is uncomfortable and I like to be comfortable.
  4. I was embarrassed to ask difficult questions I needed to ask. To gain insight, I may need to know answers to embarrassing questions, then check answers with people who see it from a different angle. What if people are offended when I ask what I need to know? What if they ask me similar questions? What if they quit considering me if I ask hard questions? Maybe it’ll be better if I stay ignorant, hope for the best, and wonder why it often turns out unfavorably.
  5. I didn’t want to change the way I was doing something. If I get new information, I may have to work harder, get training in an area where I’m an amateur, or do something I’d rather not do.

Solomon’s advice for getting wisdom:

  • You get wisdom by working for wisdom as you work for money, and by searching for wisdom as you search for buried treasure.

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God (Proverbs 2:1-5, English Standard Version).

  • You need to talk with more than one person.

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety (Proverbs 11:14).

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22).

A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might, for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory (Proverbs 24:5, 6).

How can we encourage ourselves to get outside ourselves and look for someone(s) who might know more than we know?

Looking for a New Preacher with Old Preacher Present

old preacher will be gone in three months

Jerrie, Our present preacher, who has been with us many years, will be resigning in about three weeks. He’s agreed to stay three months after he resigns while we look for a new preacher. Is it time to start searching?

From my perspective, this isn’t the most healthy and helpful thing to be doing during this time. You said your preacher has been with you many years. He has many friends. His resignation will be a shock to most people. People will be sad. They’ll grieve losing their good friend and preacher.

One of the best things you can do for your preacher, the congregation, and the next preacher is to concentrate on saying a good farewell to your present preacher. The church will welcome the new preacher to the extent you have a time of goodbye and appreciation for your present preacher.

A doctor announces to a man and his wife she has three months to live. This isn’t the time for the husband to start dating. This is time for him to care for her, express his love and appreciation to her, to see to her every need and want to make her passing as painless and comfortable as possible.

After she dies, is buried, and he grieves for a sufficient time, it’s appropriate for him to think about seeing an eligible woman to explore the possibility of another marriage. Even though his wife’s death seems imminent, it’s too early to date. His next marriage isn’t as important as finishing his responsibility to his present wife. The happiness of his next marriage will depend on the way he shows his love to his first wife.

Can you imagine a man telling his dying wife in the hospital, “Honey, I’ve got a date with a good looking woman. If you’re still alive when we get finished with our date, we’ll talk some more when I get back.”

This is dynamically what happens when a church starts looking for a preacher while the present preacher is still working. They bring in a preacher or two to interview. People start getting excited about the possibility of getting this good preacher. They discuss which one they like the best. They wonder if he’ll select this church in his next move. They write notes, texts, and emails to tell him how much they hope he will be their next preacher.

They may even get so busy courting the possible new preacher they forget the going-away party for their old preacher.

The best model for parting ways I’ve ever seen:

Five Acts of Dying

  1. Forgive me.
  2. I forgive you.
  3. Thank you.
  4. I love you.
  5. Goodbye.

The gospel is: death, burial, resurrection.

Not: death, resurrection, burial.

What suggestions do you have for planned preacher transitions?

How Do You Put 1st Things 1st and 2nd Things 2nd?

listing, remembering, and doing important things

Have I forgotten something? What should I do first? I have more to do than I can do. What can I put off until tomorrow? Why can’t I remember what’s important?

I’ve studied, read, attended seminars, listened to recorded lectures, filled out time studies and exercises, and talked with many people about how to get the most from the time given me. I’ve learned “mustard seeds” from many.

Here’s my summary of fifty years of contemplation on this topic.

The Best System I Know

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, by David Allen.

Mr. Allen says the human brain isn’t made for remembering lists. His suggestion is get everything out of your brain and written: everything you need to do, learn, organize, file, and coordinate. Put items in “buckets.” Prioritize what you need to do and where you need to do it. Assemble tools you need to work.

List what you need to do today that’s most important. Sort in order of importance what needs to be done first. Send ahead what you should do tomorrow and beyond. Schedule tasks and projects to be completed by deadlines. Coordinate what requires cooperation from others. Start on #1. When you’re finished or completed what needs to be done today on #1, go to #2. What isn’t done today, plan when you will work on it until it’s completed or decide it wasn’t that important and delete it.

Tomorrow, repeat the process. I suggest reading David Allen’s book and using “mustard seeds” to help you do your important things.

The best system I know for time management: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, by David Allen. Click To Tweet

The Best App I’ve Used

I used OmniFocus for years. Price today is $39.99 for iOS. I don’t use an app for my phone and computer also. I have my phone with me all the time. The phone app is all I need.

After reading many reviews and contemplating the difficulty of transferring hundreds of tasks, I downloaded Things 3 last fall. Price for iPhone: $9.99.

Transferring was much easier than I expected. I cut from OmniFocus and pasted into Things 3. By doing it a day at a time as tasks came due at first and then working ahead later, I finished in a few weeks with minimal time — a few minutes a day for a few weeks.

What’s delightful to me is the ease of arranging what comes first each day. Unfinished tasks appear the next day. When I first get up, I have some things I do every day. I put my finger on the #1 task for the day and move it to the top. The same with #2, #3, etc. I can move each task up or down by moving it with my finger on the phone screen.

What I need to delay or delete, I do that. I move things to do next week instead of today, by sending them to the date next week. I won’t see them again until the day I want to work on them again.

I leave on my “Today” list what I plan to do today, in order of importance. I work on the first. As soon as I complete it, I delete it or move to the next time I want to do it. For instance, early each morning I do my daily Bible reading. As soon as I finish, I move it to tomorrow, to do again. For a weekly task, when I finish it for today, I immediately move it to next week.

I enjoy seeing the number of tasks reduce as I complete each one.

The best app I’ve used on my iPhone for organizing my tasks for the day: Things 3. Click To Tweet

When I prioritize well in the morning and only finish one or two tasks, I know I’ve worked on the most important things. All I can do is all I can do. I’ve spent time on what was most important. That’s better than spending all my time on #s 13, 26, and 53 and never beginning #1.

What’s been helpful to you in getting things done?

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Do You Want Your French Fries — Small, Medium, or Large?

we’re trying out when we don’t know we’re trying out

The elders of a well-known church wanted to talk with me about working with them. I was in their town on a program when they asked to meet. They introduced the subject. I was confused. They were talking to me about working with them as their preacher. They had a preacher.

I asked if their present preacher had resigned, was going to retire, or they were going to release him. They said they would keep him on. I would be the preacher. He would serve in other ways.

I inquired how he felt about that. They said they hadn’t told him yet.

That ended our conversation. I declined to proceed until they worked that out.

A year later, I was with the church in a similar program. Their preacher approached me. He told me the elders had discussed the arrangement. He said he’d be glad to work with me in that capacity and encouraged me to consider it further with the elders.

We agreed to meet in a few weeks in a town half-way between them and where I lived. We met for lunch and talked later in a local church building.

Two things ended my consideration:

  1. When we were ordering lunch, more than one of the elders struggled with ordering their meals: whether to have french fries and if they were going to have fries, did they want small, medium, or large? My anxiety was raised. If they have this much trouble ordering fries, how would they make more important decisions?
  2. As we talked about my responsibilities should I work with them, they were describing in detail how a former preacher did his work: in tasks and methods of carrying out the duties. I replied I’d do a radio program, but not exactly the way the former preacher did. I would write, but not exactly as the previous preacher did his writing. But they reaffirmed: task for task and method by method it was to be the same.

This former preacher had worked with them for decades. He was outstanding. He was a legend. When I was talking with them, at least two preachers had followed the long-tenured preacher. From my information, they were expected to perform as the famous preacher.

At the end of our meeting, I gave them my evaluation:

I appreciate the good meal and the opportunity to discuss this work with you. You have honored me by considering me. From what I’ve heard, you still want ___ _______ to be your preacher. He’s been dead several years. If I came to be your preacher, you’d be disappointed and I’d be frustrated because I’m not him and cannot be him.

They assured me that wasn’t the case. I suggested ways to accomplish some of the same goals using different methods. None of those were negotiable.

If they have this much trouble ordering fries, how would they make larger, much more important decisions? Click To Tweet

Observations

  • Be aware of what’s going on in any situation. We communicate about ourselves by words, actions, inflections, eye contact or lack thereof, body language, how we tip or neglect to tip, how we order french fries, and other ways. Those things mean something. If I don’t know and it concerns me, I need to do more research.
  • Many churches haven’t grieved the loss of a great preacher or adjusted to the ministry of a less than a good preacher. They’re still trying to compensate. Until that’s settled, it’ll be difficult to have a good relationship.
  • Many preachers haven’t grieved the loss of a great work, being fired, or being in an abusive relationship either in home or church. Until that’s worked through, it’ll be difficult to have a close, trusting elder-preacher relationship.
  • Words and promises mean little when words are contradicted by actions.

Many churches haven’t grieved the loss of a great preacher or adjusted to the ministry of a less than a good preacher. They’re still trying to compensate. Click To Tweet

What’s influenced your choice to work or not work with a church or a preacher?

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5 Frequent Problems in Churches

6 suggested solutions

Question by email: If you went to a church that was replacing a problem preacher or a church experiencing problems, what were the issues that were causing the disunity or problem? Maybe it did not result in the preacher being dismissed but you were the counselor to help find a solution. Your proposed solutions.

Causes of Church Problems

If people tell me their church is experiencing serious problems, my suspicions are:

1.

They are gossiping: repeating and listening to things about each other and others that aren’t helpful and encouraging. Passively hearing and repeating gossip are two sides of the same coin. Proverbs 26:20

2.

While they may be sound, giving right answers to some questions, they are sick (unsound) spiritually — rejecting and ignoring Jesus’ simple, but difficult, instructions for resolving conflict. Matthew 5:23, 24; Matthew 18:15-17

3.

Elders spend their meeting and ministry time on deacons’ work and don’t shepherd sheep. They have no conscious, detailed, written, and committed plan to know members, communicate on a personal level, or minister to individuals and families of the congregation. Their main self-imposed job description is “making decisions,” trying to make everyone comfortable by putting out fires, and attempting to keep everyone happy.

4.

Members rarely express appreciation to elders for their dedicated work.

5.

The concept of an ideal Christian by many is to have the right answers to Bible questions, not do bad things, and come to church some. While those may be helpful for everyone, that isn’t close to following Jesus’ description of discipleship:

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).

Solutions to Church Problems

Finding sources and implementing solutions to church problems are responsibilities of every member of a local church. If a situation is chronic and people are upset about it, it’s because everybody likes it the way it is more than what it would take to change it.

When a body is having a physical emergency, if the legs can’t walk or drive to the doctor, fingers need to do what they can and call 911. Get help. Don’t die blaming everyone else. It’s fatal. Click To Tweet

1.

Everyone: seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Matthew 6:33

2.

Elders: understand, teach, repeat, communicate, advertise, announce, and assure that each member of your congregation understands and can articulate the individual plan for your congregation to practice the Great Commandments and the Great Commission in your community and in the world. When you ask people what they do for a living, they don’t say, “Buy groceries and make house payments.” They need to do those things. But most have considered choices and evaluated opportunities and can tell you in two minutes or less how they make a living. Their answers: “I teach high school chemistry; I build houses; I’m a lawyer; I’m a truck driver; I’m a nurse.”

While it’s true our mission, in general, is to obey God and keep His commandments, my observation is members of active and excited churches can tell you what’s special about their congregation and how they’re doing God’s work. People know how God is working and how they fit into that plan in this congregation, in their family, and in the community.

3.

Elders: lead into a continuing, consistent relationship with Jesus by example and teaching — whether anyone follows you or not. It’s your choice to lead and do what God teaches you to do, regardless of whether anyone follows. Don’t wait until you know without a doubt the church will follow. Leading is your choice. Following is theirs. I notice when elders lovingly and faithfully lead with dedication and persistence, usually, the church will follow within twenty or thirty years. It took Israel forty years to enter the promised land. But with our technology and training, we may speed that up a decade or two.

4.

Elders: prayerfully and carefully communicate to your fellow Christians that gossip won’t be tolerated in this congregation. There’s a two-step plan shorter than Jesus’ three-step plan for resolving a destructive type of church conflict.

Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned (Titus 3:10, 11, NKJV).

I often tell elders: if you decide and announce that this church, following your example and leadership, will adopt the same rules for peace as God’s word, within six weeks of your announcement, one of your brothers-in-law and a wife of one of the elders with publicly gossip, either in the foyer or on Facebook, to see if you meant what you said. And your response will make all the difference in the peace or lack of it in your church.

5.

Members: repeatedly, individually and collectively, express to your shepherds your love for them and your appreciation for their work. You don’t have to agree with everything they decide and do. If they sin, with two or more witnesses, rebuke them in a loving way (1 Timothy 5:19, 20). But even if you don’t agree with every announcement and challenge, thank them for their work, over and over again. That’s your command and choice (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13). It doesn’t take a whole church to express gratitude for weak or strong working shepherds. One individual or one family can plan and have their own appreciation party.

I ask every congregation where I work, I ask, “How long since you’ve had an Elders Appreciation Dinner?” Many never remember expressing gratitude for the hours their shepherds invest in the congregation. Click To Tweet

6.

Leaders, and followers: “mind your own business” instead of waiting for the ones you’re blaming to get right first. Sometimes leaders follow followers and sometimes followers follow leaders. But everyone is responsible to the Lord for following Him, regardless of what others do. Joshua 24:14, 15; 1 Thessalonians 4:11

Regardless of title or position, when someone sets a good example, those who follow are blessed.

What suggestions for peace do you suggest?

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Questions and Answers about Interim Ministry

what you wanted to know but haven't asked

A college student interviewed me for a paper in one of his classes. Here is the result:

1. What is the purpose/vision of interim ministry?

Assisting preachers and churches in transition through effective training coming from decades of experience to navigate through the pain of loss to begin a new time of growth.

2. How did you become an interim minister? What inspired you?

Our Journey to Interim Ministry

3. I know you like rules, so what are some rules that you have for the congregation and yourself throughout this process? Beginning? Middle? End?

First three rules

Name memory rule

Communication rules

Criticism rule

Originality rule

Discussion rules I use the ones appropriate at the beginning of each group I lead: classes, Transition Monitoring Team, Search training, etc.:

4. How would you describe the difference between yourself, as an interim minister, and any other minister in relation to the congregation?

In addition to preaching and teaching, I lead several activities to encourage the church to think about where they are, where they want to go, and what kind of preacher they need now. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN INTERIM MINISTRY AND A FILL-IN PREACHER IS THINKING, PROCESS. Interim ministry is an interruption of things as usual and a challenge to think about who we are, what our purpose is, where we want to go, and how do we plan to get there. That takes thinking. I challenge mindless repetition of previous methods continually. Good preaching is good. Interim ministry works with the leadership and the rest of the congregation to encourage growth. I teach classes and provide workshops to impliment this.

5. Throughout your time as an interim minister, have you noticed any patterns that are common to churches you have worked for? Any growth patterns? Any consistent problems within the congregations?

Churches with problems allow, and sometimes encourage, gossip. This brings conflict. Proverbs 26:20 I discuss over and over Jesus’ instructions on resolving conflict. Matthew 18:15-17 When that isn’t followed consistently, people are hurt and there is polarization where Christians are talking about each other instead of to each other.

6. Please describe the overall transition process that you walk a congregation through during the interim.

I start or participate in staff meetings.

I lead a Transition Monitoring Team.

We do a self-study survey.

A group prepares a timeline of attendance and contribution for as long as they have records. It is put on a chart. We designate a night to discuss what we learn from what we see. A group assembles an introduction to the church and community to help prospective preachers decide if this is a church and community that would fit him and his family. They include opportunities and facilities for sports, education, shopping, recreation.

A group prepares a timeline of attendance and contribution for as long as they have records and the results of a self-study.

I have a day of training for people involved in the preacher search

You might like to look at the entire SEARCH page, either for this paper or future reference.

7. What are the main focuses/lessons that you preach/roles to do at the Beginning of the interim? Middle? End?

a. Begin with Luke 9:23, being a disciple of Jesus: Carving Ears, Cutting Out, Calling Angels, or Crucifixion. Are we the kind of congregation that will attract the kind of preacher we want? Seven lessons in this series.

b. How to Survive the Storm and Enjoy the Sunshine. Acts 6:1-7 Seven lessons on dealing with conflict in the church.

c. What Do You Do When God Is Late? Nine lessons on time — God’s Sovereign Time and Human Standard Time. One of the struggles of the interim is getting in a hurry to get a new preacher and “get it back the way it used to be.” We need to take the time to do the work we need to do.

8. How long is the average interim minister hired for?

My contract is six to eighteen months. In two churches, I stayed for nearly two years. We discussed that in the beginning. Both wanted to select elders before they began the preacher search.

9. In your experience, what is the biggest obstacle for spiritual growth in the church?

Insufficient spiritual nourishment, exercise, and rest.

10. Why do you believe that churches struggle to transition to a new pulpit minister?

Why do you believe that churches struggle to transition to a new pulpit minister? Click To Tweet

If the previous preacher has been at the congregation for a long time (five years or more), the people who liked him want another just like him. The people who didn’t like him want a preacher exactly opposite to him. There are none in either category. Part of the value of an interim minister is to allow enough time to pass that the previous preacher isn’t the standard for the new preacher — either positive or negative.

11. Is interim ministry scriptural? What scripture/scriptures are most cited as the “theme scripture” if you will?

I think of Hebrews 11:8, “And he went out, not knowing where he was going.”

12. Going along with #11, are there biblical figures who were interim ministers or something like it themselves?

Moses led the people of Israel through the wilderness to the edge of the promised land, yet never entered himself. The interim preacher isn’t the star. I’ve often observed it this way: you go to a church where one-third of the people don’t want to in the beginning and 100% of them are praying every week for you to leave as soon as possible (“Lord, help us to find a good preacher soon.”). John the Baptist was an interim preacher for Jesus. “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). My last sermon at each interim church is “Every Christian Is an Interim Minister.” Someone came before us. Others will follow after us. Our opportunity is to make it better to those who follow.

13. Have you found it to be difficult to build relationships with people knowing that your position is temporary?

Some people are hesitant. But that is true in long-term ministry also.

14. What do you do personally to prepare yourself for your ministry?

I intentionally try to learn from every experience, reflecting on Biblical principles. Every success and failure is an opportunity to learn.

15. This may be similar to #6, but do you have a sermon plan for the interim? If so, what is it? #7

16. What values do you try to instill in the congregation before the interim is over?

God loves His church. Jesus died for it. God loves this congregation. God will give us wisdom. We will survive and thrive as we keep our faith in God.

17. Like your practice of resigning with the hiring of a new elder, what other “radical” practices do you believe help in church growth?

Something that will help us think. One of the most spiritual things a person can do is to think.

Resigning with the change in the eldership.

Eldership funerals.

18. Which spiritual disciplines do you encourage/preach/teach most?

Regular, individual and group Bible study. Pray without ceasing. Think in parables. Jesus never taught without telling a story to illustrate. Mark 4:33, 34

19. Please explain your Accepting Criticism class that you teach and the purpose behind it.

It has been one of the most stress-relieving practices I’ve started. I went from being frozen in fear of criticism to loving criticism. I’m doing the best I know how. Anyone who tells me a better way to live, think, talk, teach, preach, rest, eat, exercise, manage money, or anything else does me a favor. If it gives me a new idea or tells me what I’ve been doing isn’t the best, I have an opportunity to think and evaluate. I can be harmed by criticism in two ways:

a. Rejecting all criticism.

b. Accepting all criticism. I need to think and evaluate — then after prayer and consideration, do what I think is best. When I welcome criticism, it neutralizes henpeckers — people who want to arouse irritation.

20. What are some criticisms that you have received throughout the years?

What are some criticisms that you have received throughout the years? Click To Tweet

Your wife doesn’t have enough different dresses for Sunday.
You preach too long.
I don’t like sermon series.
I don’t think anyone who is paid by the church should drive a red car.
A lady was upset because I didn’t visit her when she was sick even though she didn’t tell me she was sick: “I’ve been sick two weeks and nobody came to see me — not even the preacher.”
I don’t like the clothes your teen-age son wears. The colors are loud and the pants have too many pockets.

21. If you had a snapshot of the congregation when you begin your interim position and another snapshot of the congregation at the end of your interim period, how would you describe the differences in these snapshots? What are the important changes/points of growth within the congregation from the beginning to the end?

Two of the most rewarding were congregations where they had gone through a major split. One lost 50% and the other lost 60% of their members. When we first came, people left as soon as the last prayer was finished. They didn’t trust each other. They thought they could trust the people who left. But since they left, they’ve been calling them dirty religious names such as “liberal, unfaithful, change agents.” If those people were like that, what about some of the ones still here. Will they leave and do the same thing? After a few months, by establishing relationship guidelines, talking, and making commitments about how we will treat each other, people begin to stay longer, talk, and work together again.

22. Which congregations have you worked with in the past as an interim minister?

Eddyville, Kentucky, May 2007-August 2008
Hendersonville, Tennessee, October 2008-December 2009
Collegeside, Cookeville, Tennessee, March 2010-June 2011
LaVergne, Tennessee, August 2011-June 2013
Maury City, Tennessee, September 2013-July 2015
Northside Church of Christ, Jeffersonville, Indiana, September 2015-February 2017 Next, if the Lord wills,
Shady Acres, Sikeston, Missouri, April 2017-August 2018
River Road, Nashville, Tennessee, November 2018-???

23. What do you view as the biggest threat to the church and individual churches today?

Not studying God’s word with a view to individual application, regardless of the pain.

24. If you could give one piece of advice to someone looking to enter the field of interim ministry, what would you say?

Learn from every experience. Study Family Systems.

25. At the beginning of an interim, is there a foundation, so to speak, that must be set?

At the beginning of any relationship, it is good to talk about “family rules.” Family rules are usually unspoken, unconscious, understood, and contradictory. This means in many relationships, in regard to our expectations, we don’t think about anyone having different needs from us, we don’t talk about how we will relate, but when someone misses our expectations, we are offended and often punish the offending party. A better way is to talk about how we will relate, negotiate how we will respond to differences, and if we can’t live with the differences, don’t get tied to each other. The best time to get a divorce is before you get married.

26. Is there a core set of practices (I’m thinking like prayer groups or the elder & staff meetings) that you introduce to the church throughout this period?

I attend elders’ meeting and make observations, always with the wastebasket available (third of the first three rules) — if they don’t think what I say is helpful, they can throw it into the wastebasket. Weekly staff meetings consisting of Bible study, coordination, and staff development (reading a book with ideas of how groups work and discussing the principles).

What questions do you have about interim ministry?

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“We’ll Be Fine When We Get a New Preacher, Elder(s)”

what will it take to fix it?

I was sitting with a family during the surgery of a relative. They told me about their new preacher. He was great. He was preaching outstanding sermons. He was friendly. He was visiting. He was perfect! Then one person said, “I know we’ll be disappointed. We always are.”

You’re correct. That’s normal — if my expectation is a new person will solve all problems in our group. A new coach can’t do it. A new president can’t do it. A new boss can’t do it. A new preacher can’t do it. A new elder (or eldership) can’t do it. I’ll be disappointed and you’ll be disappointed.

A new stereo with the latest apps won’t make a junkyard car run great and get good gas mileage.

Filling a decayed tooth won’t repair a broken arm.

A heart transplant won’t cure cataracts.

All these adjustments may be helpful and a few necessary. But some or all won’t fix the whole.

A great new preacher won't fix everything. The key to letting the church grow is for every member to work as it should. Click To Tweet

If a symptom is chronic and you’re upset about it, it’s because you like it the way it is more than what it would take to change it. One person cannot make the church grow.

The best way to find a good preacher is to become the kind of congregation a good preacher would go out of his way to get to work with those people. Click To Tweet

If I’m waiting for everyone else to reach acceptable function (by my definition of acceptable) before I’ll do what I can, and everyone else has the same attitude, no one will grow and the church will continue to decline.

Joshua had the right approach:

Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:14, 15, NKJV).

  1. Here’s what you need to do.
  2. You may think what I think is the right thing is the wrong thing.
  3. You have many choices.
  4. You choose.
  5. Here’s where I stand.

My goal as an interim isn’t just to help the church find a good preacher. It isn’t in my job description to fix leadership or followership. My goal to help us all grow more into the image of Jesus so others may want to be around us and walk with us to the destination. 1 Corinthians 2:2

How can we be protected from false expectations?

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Why Don’t People Return After They Visit?

is it our culture or our rudeness?

Often I hear conversations about why many churches aren’t growing. Many blame our culture, materialism, or some other outside source. Those may play a part.

Let me relate something that happened to me less than fifty years ago, and less than 500 miles from where I’m sitting in Nashville, Tennessee.

I’d started preaching at this congregation a few weeks before this situation. I was the new preacher.

I was talking with a member in the foyer immediately following Sunday morning services. Another member approached and interrupted our conversation. They talked between themselves about where they were going to eat. The interrupter left. We ended our conversation. The person I was speaking to left.

A few weeks later, a similar situation occurred. I was talking with a different member. Here comes a fourth member. He interrupts. They discuss where they wanted to eat.

The person I was talking to said, “I want to go somewhere I can eat breakfast.”

The interrupter said, “I would like breakfast too.”

They agreed on a restaurant. Our original conversation ended soon. Gail and I left for lunch.

Both conversations were similar. In neither case did one of the four say, “Excuse me,” or “Would you like to join us for lunch?” Both times there was no malice on their part, no thought, and no shame. There was no followup. Not one of the four returned Sunday night and said, “What I did this morning was unthoughtful. I shouldn’t have interrupted. I wish we’d invited you to lunch with us. Would you go next Sunday?”

From every indication, this was their rule: “We go to eat together every Sunday. Please complete your conversation so we can get to the restaurant. You’re not invited.” Click To Tweet

I have no intention of quitting the church, becoming angry or ugly. But that’s not a good way to welcome your new preacher, new member, or visitor. Four different households — all prominent families, and leaders. They’re the ones who set the tone for the congregation. I would expect others to be less sensitive than those who lead.

This is a well-known congregation. They’ve been declining several years. What I heard for months after I arrived was how bad the world was and how other churches entertain, and we can’t compete with them.

This attitude thrived because everyone liked it the way it was more than what it would take to change it. Their Sunday-eating rule was so entrenched not one of the four leaders recognized how insensitive he was. Click To Tweet

That’s rude. If you treat your new preacher that way, you’ll do it to a visitor or weak member and then wonder, “Why isn’t the church growing? It must be our corrupt society.”

My Observations

  • Members follow their leaders.
  • The answer to our decline isn’t to entertain or wish others wouldn’t entertain.
  • People want to be valued, led, trained for meaningful service, challenged, and encouraged to serve in meaningful ways.
  • There are Bible principles to encourage us and attract others.
  • We are to follow Jesus and point others to Jesus.

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3, 4, NKJV).

How can we practice this “mind of Jesus” principle and encourage it in other Christians?

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Trip to Israel

May 20-30, 2019

Have you dreamed about visiting the land where Jesus walked? Would you like to see the traditional place where Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount and read Matthew 5-7 at that spot? Would you like to visit Jerusalem where Jesus often came and observe where He was tried, where He was crucified, was buried, and rose from the dead?

I have been encouraged and moved during the three trips I’ve taken. I look forward to traveling there in May 2019 with my family and would like to invite you to come along.

Dr. Rodney Cloud

Rodney Cloud has been to Israel twenty times. He has spent his life teaching the Bible, Hebrew, and Greek, and leading people to study Bible accounts in the places where they happened. He will be teaching during the trip, describing what we’re seeing, and giving us the benefit of his years of study and experience of traveling to Israel and participating in archeological work.

If you would like more information, please click on the picture or button below and read the itinerary and other details about this wonderful opportunity.

Olive Trees in Israel

More information — Click Here