Sunday, February 04, 2007

Interim Pastoring

The folks of the Immanuel Baptist Church of Nashville have called me to serve as their Interim Pastor. I begin with this morning's worship celebration.

God is good to connect me with this community of faith. Immanuel has served as a beacon of creative, progressive ministry in the city of Nashville for over a century. I will take the mantle of leadership during this season of transition from David George, who has served this congregation with intelligence and distinction for thirty years. A search team is already actively at work to find the pastor God has prepared for this fellowship, and I have every confidence this happy discovery will be made expeditiously.

(In the God's Small World category, David was ordained as a young minister by none other than the Trinity Baptist Church of San Antonio! It is instructive for us to remember that the ancient celebration of the "communion of the saints" means that all God's people of all ages and in all places are wonderfully and intimately connected, far closer than the vaunted six degrees sociologists say separate the human family on the planet at large...)

We are learning that the ministry of the interim pastor, particularly in succession of a long-tenured minister, is strategic for the health of our churches. Pastoral bonds with a congregation are deep and abiding. There are complex dynamics of grief that must be processed in pastoral leadership transitions-- even when those transitions are timely and appropriate. Mature congregations are seeing the need more and more for carefully planned and executed interim seasons between outgoing and incoming senior ministers, during which these myriad emotions and dynamics can be confronted, examined, and understood.

Even as Immanuel has called me, Trinity is wisely embracing this "best practice" in the call of my friend Randall O'Brien, Provost at Baylor University, as Interim Pastor following my tenure there. Reports of Randall's ministry are already universally positive, and Jana and I offer him and Kay our ongoing prayers and support as they lead that special group of Christians who convene at 319 E. Mulberry in the Alamo City each Sabbath!

As I look out the window in writing this, there is a blanket of snow covering the ground here in Nashville. This lovely Belle Meade neighborhood where Immanuel is located has been transformed into something storybook beautiful.

Reminds me of the imaginative promise of Scripture: "All things are becoming new."