As we move past Memorial Day, the swimming pools open and the kids get out of school; summer is here. Schedules slow down a bit or get more hectic, depending on who you are. People begin to travel and weekly church programs become a little more sparse. Yet the work of one team at First Baptist continues strong; the Associate Pastor Search Team is not going on break.
While some of their work needs to remain confidential, I would like to assure everyone that the team considers their work of tremendous importance. They are fulfilling the mandate of a church-wide decision from last year. As you might remember, a group of church leaders (including the church council and diaconate) participated in a discernment process regarding church staffing in August 2011. They explored options and looked at other church models, entered a purposeful time of listening (this involved a 24 hour prayer vigil as well as small group discussions with various groups throughout the church) and examined the leading of the Spirit. The leaders felt that God was directing us toward the hiring of an associate pastor with major responsibilities in worship and outreach. This is in contrast to hiring a specialized staff person for music, youth, children, Christian Education or missions. As First Baptist no longer has the resources to hire multiple specialists for specific ministries, the leaders sensed that a broadly focused associate pastor would give the church the needed leadership to function as the people of God, carrying out the ministries of the church in the community.
In October, this decision was presented to the congregation in an evening meeting. The broader congregation affirmed the Spirit’s movement among the leaders. No doubt, this implementation of this model for church staffing will require adjustment. We will no longer have specific staff for particular ministries; we will have two full-time pastors inspiring, empowering and equipping teams to carry out ministry. The responsibilities for each pastor will be beyond one person’s capability if they were to do the ministry on their own, yet this approach enables the congregation to take ownership of various ministries. In many ways, the people of the church will be doing the work of the church; this is in contrast to the staff doing the work of the church.
The Search Team has been working with denominational leaders as well as reaching out to two seminaries and two Christian universities to discern God’s plan for the person to fill this position. The team has also interviewed Matt Headley, recognizing Matt as a strong candidate for the position. Please know that this team is giving due diligence to this process. The team may be prepared to make a recommendation to the church later in the summer. Please continue to pray for their steadfast work. As they discern the leading of the Spirit for the entire congregation, their work is essential for our health and vitality as a church.