Few things create more anxiety for a church than having to find a new pastor. Most congregations don't like to think about it, much less plan for it.."
It's inevitable, of course, that pastors eventually will leave – whether they move, retire or die. Being unprepared for that day can cause chaos for those charged with finding a new leader. It can create rough sledding for whoever gets the job. It can even endanger the stability of a successful church. In particular, megachurches built on the personality of a dynamic preacher are at risk when that pastor departs, say church consultants. Imagine Saddleback Church without Rick Warren, or the Potter's House without T.D. Jakes.
Many churches don't realize they're 'a heartbeat away from coming undone,' said J. Russell Crabtree, a church consultant in Ohio and co-author of The Elephant in the Boardroom, a book that encourages churches to plan for a smooth pastoral transition.
One of the best-known cases of a transition gone awry was at First Baptist Church in Dallas in the early 1990s. The downtown landmark at the time was the largest Southern Baptist church in the world.
W.A. Criswell, First Baptist's pastor for almost 50 years, announced that he was ready to step down. In November 1990 the church appointed Joel Gregory as his successor.
But within two years, Dr. Gregory quit, saying he'd been misled. He said he expected Dr. Criswell to step aside right away. Instead, the white-haired pastor hung around – and cast a very long shadow.
Dr. Criswell, who has since died, said at the time that he never promised to turn over the reins immediately.
Two years after leaving – and after divorcing his wife of 26 years and marrying a woman who'd worked at First Baptist – Dr. Gregory made headlines with a book, Too Great a Temptation: The Seductive Power of America's Super Church, which chronicled the power struggles at First Baptist
after you read all this, read this article about problems at a mega-church in New Mexico, that i've actually visited, and is part of my church affiliation.
Members of one of the largest churches in New Mexico are fighting to bring accountability to church elders who they believe are mishandling church property, misusing their authority, and covering up misbehavior.
Two groups formed after Pete Nelson resigned in February as senior pastor of the 14,000-member Calvary of Albuquerque, affiliated with the Calvary Chapel network of 1,300 independent churches, mostly in the West and Southwest. Nelson said he wanted "to pastor and lead a church and to be accountable to that local church." He was unable to do that with the "current structure" at Calvary of Albuquerque.
Nelson's sudden announcement on a Sunday morning took church members and staff by surprise. Nelson has not been in touch with the congregation or spoken publicly since he left. But it wasn't Nelson's disappearance that shocked them. Nelson's resignation letter, which was leaked to the press, alleged the church's former pastor Skip Heitzig was exercising behind the scenes control two years after he had left to pastor another Calvary church in California.
Heitzig had retained his position as chair of Calvary of Albuquerque's elders board, which included a significant number who did not live in Albuquerque. These were all loyal to Heitzig. According to Nelson's letter, Heitzig, as chair, forced off or blocked local church members from joining the elders board. Heitzig did not return calls requesting comment. Assistant Pastor Chip Lusko told CT, "I think there were some inaccurate facts in his resignation letter." However, he declined to comment specifically.
it gets worse. transitions are so messy, in any organization. the books mentioned in the DMN piece look good. there is another transition that appears to have gone well and that is at Willow Creek. how did they do it? Maybe part of it is here
“I’ve spent a fair amount of time researching what the Bible says about how the church should be led,” says Steve Bartz, who has been an Elder for 15 years and also helps other churches better understand the biblical role of Elders. “Looking at the New Testament principles of church leadership, a central theme is that the church needs to be led by a plurality of godly leaders.”
The key word: plurality.
“If you study the history of governments, corporations, and ‘religious’ organizations, the effect of the concentration of power in one individual can range from ineffectiveness to corruption and ruin,” Steve says.