Finances have become a recurring problem that intentional interim pastors must help the congregation solve. Earlier in my interim ministry – which seems to have begun shortly after Noah disembarked – this wasn’t an issue. But in the last several years I’ve served churches that were either started in or rapidly expanded during the go-go years of either the dotcom or the Real Estate expansion.
An interim pastor called to serve a congregation in financial turmoil can’t ignore the problem. Church finances becomes your problem.
The interim pastor’s task is to guide the church to the place where it is poised to fulfill its God-given potential. Leaving the church finances on sure footing is crucial. Can you in good conscience allow them to call a settled pastor – who likely has a family to support – knowing the church finances are precariously poised?
Interim pastor: construction manager in the desert
One approach I have found consistently helpful is to lead the congregation to interact with a passage in Exodus 39.
He made the breastpiece, in skilled work, in the style of the ephod, of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. It was square. They made the breastpiece doubled, a span its length and a span its breadth when doubled. And they set in it four rows of stones. A row of sardius, topaz, and carbuncle was the first row; and the second row, an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond; and the third row, a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; and the fourth row, a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. They were enclosed in settings of gold filigree. There were twelve stones with their names according to the names of the sons of Israel. They were like signets, each engraved with its name, for the twelve tribes.
After they spend a bit of time reading the passage closely, conjuring up images of what the ephod must have looked like, and estimating the current market value of the gemstones I hit them with the question that unlocks the treasury: “Where do you suppose they got those gemstones out in the desert?”
Eventually someone hits on the notion that these were among the treasures the Israelites plundered from the Egyptians during their hasty departure. This leads the way to a discussion about the fabulous amount of gold and silver that went into construction of the Tabernacle, the rich fabrics and other precious materials that went into the construction of Israel’s place of worship in the wilderness.
Interim pastor: point to God’s prior provision
This leads to an important principle about church finances that leads to transformation: God typically provides ahead of time everything needed to take the next step in his mission.
With a bit of patience, skill and wisdom this line of teaching leads to a genuine transformation for many in the church. There a change in their giving, but far more important is transformation in their thinking. They see the wealth entrusted to them for what it is, a temporary trust. They see themselves for what they are, managers rather than owners.
Does it work? Let me answer this way.
- First, this is true to the direct teaching of scripture, so it “works” in that sense.
- It worked for the Macedonian believers who gave so lavishly out of extreme poverty they had to be throttled back.
- It worked for the Israelite refugees who built a fabulously valuable tabernacle in the desert.
- It worked at one church where I was an interim staff member; they paid off over $1 million in debt during the worst of the recent real estate crisis
- It worked at a church where I served as the interim lead pastor that pulled itself from the brink of foreclosure
As an interim pastor it is your responsibility to lead a genuine transformation in how the people see themselves in relationship to the riches God has entrusted to them.
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