Since August of 2008 I have had the joy and blessing of being the Interim Pastor of a church in Northwest Alabama.  Admittedly, I had always viewed the interim pastor position as one that was a glorified “fill in” till the church calls their next pastor.  I decided to take a different approach.  I wanted to be their interim pastor… with a purposeful focus to doing all I could under the Spirit’s leading to help the church get ready for their next pastor.  In some ways, the interim position can be one of the most beneficial to a church that is in transition between shepherds.  There are some things that only an interim pastor can do and say for the future good of the church.

Let me tell you a little about this congregation…

They were looking for, wanting, and needing encouragement.  Due to an unusual set of circumstances, their Pastor and Youth Pastor had left under a certain amount of difficulty the year before I came.  Then their Worship Pastor left under pressure not long afterward.  They had one ministerial staff person who was trying to handle everything in the church.  This made for a tense situation each time the church came together.

There was a lot of stress, pressure, and anxiety in the congregation each time they met.  This came from hurt feelings and disagreements over decisions and misunderstands in their recent past.  There was tension in the air just about everywhere you turned.  The faithful were attending… but there wasn’t much joy because of how the Adversary had wormed his way into the fellowship to cause disharmony.

At business meetings their hurt and frustration was expressed openly.  I can remember after attending my first business meeting (As an observer since I was interim), I called my wife and said… “I thank God I’m not pastor here!” And before you ask… I did tell the church what I just wrote… after God had brought considerable peace into His fellowship.

In short, this congregation… by their own admission… was in trouble.  They were close to having a major meltdown and they needed the Lord to step in and bring them out of the situation they found themselves in.

Now, consider what God did in the months prior to them calling their pastor (January 2010):

For a good number of people, God restored hope that they would again be a healthy congregation glorifying Him.

In many situations and cases, the Lord helped people take steps to reconcile with those they had previously been at odds with.

Quite a few were able to begin the healing process from the hurt they had experienced during the previous years as God revealed to them His love and forgiveness to them as individuals.

The church was able to put on the table for discussion and possible solutions problems that had taken place.  The church put together a team to suggest actions points regarding: What the church did well… What the church could do better… and What they’d like to see God do in and through them in the future.

People began supporting the church again financially as they had done previously.  As a result, the Lord used them to begin returning the church to a healthy place financially… in the midst of difficult financial times in the nation.

The Lord restored to His people His joy.  Worship again became joyful, celebrative, and encouraging.

The church seated a Pastor Search Team that recently called a pastor who will begin serving this coming Sunday (1/24/2010).

Now, if you will allow me, here are the joys I experienced while being blessed to be this church’s interim pastor…

God used this congregation to reaffirm His call on my life to pastor.

God used this congregation to heal me of deep wounds I had experienced in the ministry.

God used this congregation to encourage me and my family.

God used this congregation to provide for me and my family in ways I didn’t expect.

God used this congregation to show me He is still God and the gates of hell will not prevail against His church.

God used this congregation to introduce to me brothers and sisters in Christ that are now some of my closest friends.

God used this congregation to reaffirm and strengthen my love for His people.

God used this congregation to show me that there are sheep and there is wheat.

God used this congregation to point out in clear, unmistakeable terms that He is God.

God used this congregation to re-establish and restore joy in ministry, preaching, and teaching His Word.

Of all the churches I’ve served since I’ve been in the ministry, I have personally experienced more joy and blessing as an interim than ever before.  I am thankful to God for all the things He did and allowed me to have the experience of being an interim pastor. In some ways, being an interim is as important and significant as being the pastor of a church… at least it is from my perspective.

May God richly bless the people of MBC!