There is an important question that should be asked whenever there is a pastoral change brought on by a forced termination. It is, “Who should be put in charge during the time of transition?” In the church’s policy manual or denominational bylaws there may be a well-thought-out procedure to follow. In most cases, the Church Council or Church Board assumes the responsibility of running the organization until a new pastor can be found.
Under normal circumstances this procedure is proper and wise. But when there is a forced termination, that is, when a pastor resigns under duress or is dismissed in a conflict, we should take a second look at who will lead in the time of change. It is my belief that all members who were involved in either side of a conflict should be set aside from leadership for a season. While this may sound extreme, let me explain to you why I say that.
Dismissal of a pastor is not a small thing organizationally, emotionally, or spiritually. The preceding months most likely have been filled with many long hours of controversy and tension for all involved. Some sort of investigation into sensitive matters will have taken place. Meeting after endless meeting may have consumed every ounce of energy. And in some cases public conflict is experienced. When it is all over the spiritual leader of the Church is forced to resign or asked to leave. This wrenching experience leaves the participants depleted and in shock.
When the pastor is gone and can no longer defend himself, many rumors and slanderous stories abound. Often they are promoted by those who want to take control of the Church for their own purposes. By representing themselves as knowing more than others they look like leaders. Once they gain control of the Church they seldom relinquish full authority to any future pastor.
Those who participated in the forced termination of a pastor should not be allowed to lead in the time of transition. If they are men and women who are power-hungry it would be dangerous spiritually to hand the reins of control over to them. On the other hand, if they are godly men and women who got caught up having to deal with sin in their shepherd’s life they will be emotionally exhausted, spiritually broken and will need time to heal. On either side of the coin you will discover that those who have been involved in forcing a pastor out of his ministry will not be the best candidate for leading the Church during the transitional period.
The godly saints need to recover and the ungodly should not be allowed to have positions of authority. A short term transitional team should be placed in charge made up of individuals full of grace and wisdom, tasked with the responsibility to take care of the exiting pastor’s transitional needs, discovery of the new minister and maintaining the integrity of the Church. When a new pastor is determined by the Church’s procedures, a new Church Board or Church Council can be installed.