Would You Consider Being the Next Full-Time Preacher?

I received this question:

Do churches ever want you to stay and be the next full-time preacher?

Good question. The best time to think about one’s response is before you start an interim work.

The answer to the question: Every church where I’ve worked someone(s) asked me to stay as the next preacher. Whether of sincerity or politeness, in every congregation, I’ve had several people encourage me to discuss the local ministry and become the next located preacher.

Response to the Invitation to Stay

I appreciate the compliment and invitation to consider. However, I will not stay as you next located preacher.

Why I Don’t Enter into a Serious Discussion about Being the Next Preacher

  • Contract. A part of every contract I’ve had since beginning this work thirteen years ago:

It is understood that under no circumstances will Jerrie W. Barber consider or be considered as the next full-time preacher for this congregation.

I was taught by the Interim Ministry Network that this was a key to an effective interim ministry. After more than a decade, I now agree with the principle. When a preacher resigns before he begins, there’s a completely different dynamic. You can’t get fired because you’ve already quit. You’re not trying to keep you job. You’ve already quit your job with an end date of eighteen months or less.

  • Age. I’m 75 years old. If a church is looking for a twenty-year commitment, 95 is old for a preacher carrying a full load.
  • Fairness. It wouldn’t be fair for me to be in the list of possible preachers. I’d have a huge home-court advantage over other preachers who’d like to work with the congregation. It’d be easy for me to campaign for the position since I’m in contact with the congregation, attend elders’ meetings, and interact with members daily.
  • Credibility. I state and repeat often, “I’m not here to be your next preacher. I’m an interim. I’m here to help you find a preacher who fits. I’ll be gone in eighteen months or less, according to the discretion of the elders.”

An incident occurred in an early interim (my second). I was shaking people out of the building after Sunday morning services. An older lady came to me, invited an elder to be in on the conversation, and asked this question:

Jerrie, I didn’t plan to like you when you came. Keith Parker is my favorite preacher. I didn’t want to like you. But now that you and Gail are here, I like you. For the past two weeks, I’ve been praying every day that you will be our next full-time preacher. Is it a sin for me to pray that prayer?

I told her it wasn’t a sin. 1 John 5:13, 14 says:

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him (NKJV).

John says God hears us when we ask anything according to His will. It’s OK to as God for anything if I want to do God’s will more than I want God to do what I told Him I wanted.

I continued, “I signed a contract and promised the elders before I started, ‘It is understood that under no circumstances will Jerrie W. Barber consider or be considered as the next full-time preacher for this congregation.’ It’s not a sin to pray for that. However, if God did what you’ve been asking Him, you’d have a lying preacher on your hands. I don’t know how you would deal with that.”

An interim preacher is an interim preacher with a time limit. I’ve found that liberating for the elders, church, and me to have that agreement at the beginning and comply with it.

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Jerrie Barber
Disciple of Jesus, husband, grandfather, preacher, barefoot runner, ventriloquist

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