I have been serving as the interim preaching minister for Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tennessee, since January, my very first interim role. It has been a really fun and encouraging experience. The people of Englewood are so gracious and encouraging, and they are a fun people to preach to because they love the Word. My friend Ben Mandrell did a great work.
Last weekend, Englewood Baptist announced Jordan Easley (another friend of mine) as the next senior pastor. I am excited for both Englewood and Jordan and really believe the Lord is going to do amazing things there over the next several years.
In July, I will begin as the interim pastor of Clearview Baptist Church in Franklin, Tennessee. I am also still serving alongside one of my heroes (the infamous and no-longer tweeting Brady Cooper) as teaching pastor at New Vision Baptist in Murfreesboro. I preach 8-10 Sundays a year for Brady and love the staff and the church.
Enough with the personal updates… Here are three observations from my first interim preaching experience:
1. People really want to hear the Bible preached.
I have been reminded that when people come to church, they expect and desire to hear the Bible preached. They want to know what the Bible says, what it means, and how this impacts them. They can get commentary on the news elsewhere. Pithy statements to help them cope with life are available in a plethora of other places. But in a worship service, people come expecting the Word. And it is the Word that transforms them, that equips them for every good work.
2. The Church is much bigger than her leaders.
Pastors and other leaders come and go, and the church keeps going. A local church may struggle, but the Church will thrive. She overcomes and she will win. As leaders we come and go. In reality, we are all interim leaders. God owns the church, not us. Our leadership is really temporary stewardship. A local church will go on without us. While some may view this as sober and sad, the reality that we are a part of a movement bigger than ourselves is liberating and encouraging. A healthy church will continue the day and the week after you are gone—and this is a great thing!
3. Groups matter.
A church that has people plugged into groups, groups that care for one another and study together, is much more likely to stay healthy and connected through pastoral transition. The people are connected to one another and not merely to a great communicator who speaks each week. So if you want to build a church on your personality, on your ability to hold an audience, don’t worry about your groups. If you want to be a part of building a body that continues after you hand over your temporary assignment, then care deeply about the community that is developed beyond the Sunday morning worship gathering.