We recently lost our pastor who resigned under pressure after repeated painful conflicts over the past year or two. This is not the first time that this has happened in our church. We become very hopeful with each new pastor, but then things always seem to go sour. I am wondering, are we having bad luck in our choice of pastors or is there something wrong with us as a congregation?
After something of a hiatus in finishing my response to your question, let me offer some suggestions for discovering and evaluating the church’s “DNA.” You will remember that in response to your question, I suggested in Part I and Part II that it is helpful to think of the relationship between pastor and congregation as being like a marriage where both parties are called to work on their “unfinished business” once the honeymoon is over. Pastors have to look at character and competency issues, while congregations are challenged to look at their patterns of behavior sometimes referred to in a medical way as their “DNA.” “DNA” in this case refers to fundamental, inner characteristics of the church that determine its functioning at all levels.
The “DNA” of a church is often revealed in its stories. How did the church begin? Who have been the key players? What are the stories of success and failure? Are there stories that we have tried to forget? Are their stories that we need to remember? Often when a church is guided to look at a time-line of its history with a focus on key stories, there are patterns that emerge and give evidence of the “DNA.”
The fundamental, inner characteristics of a church are also seen when issues of power and authority are evaluated. Who holds the power and who is powerless in the church? How is this written into the church’s constitution, or held as sacrosanct in the unspoken rules and taboos of the church? Often these inner characteristics emerge when you listen to the places where there is “energy” in the church; where people get angry, anxious, sad, or even joyful; where people are open or closed, repentant or defensive.
These things are often hard to see when we have been living with a congregation for a while. Since your church is now between pastors, inviting in an intentional interim pastor, or a highly trained transitional pastor would be one way of bringing another set of eyes to the situation.
Bob Simpson at the BCM/D office can put you in touch with pastors trained for this kind of interim work. Along with that, there are trained consultants who have a specialty in listening to church stories and identifying areas where there is energy.
Ron Brown at the BCM/D office can put you in touch with consultants who can lead you through a church wellness evaluation and help you understand the meaning of patterns that you have already identified in the conflicted comings and goings of your recent pastors. Tom Rodgerson
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