One of the most valuable truths I learned is that every pastor/leader is an interim. Whether short or long term, every pastor/leader is an interim. Consider the teaching of Scripture. In the Old Testament Moses was an interim leader. So was Joshua. So was Samuel. So was Saul. So was David. Think of some New Testament leaders: Stephen, Philip, Peter, Paul, Timothy, John – all interims. It’s clear that God plants leaders for particular seasons, for particular chapters, simply preparing the way and laying the foundation for the next interim leader.
Think about your church or ministry. Unless you’re involved in a brand new church plant, someone was in your position before you and someone will be in it after you. And they all have at least one thing in common with you – you are interim.
There are many implications that flow from this reality – some for congregations and some for leaders. But I believe there are two that are most important of all. First, there is only one person, one pastor, one church leader who has not been, is not now, nor ever will be interim – Jesus Christ. He’s here to stay. That means it’s His church – not mine, not yours. Our interim leadership is subservient to His leadership. Paul stated it eloquently (1 Cor. 3:10-11 GNT): “Using the gift that God gave me, I did the work of an expert builder and laid the foundation, and someone else is building on it. But each of you must be careful how you build.11 For God has already placed Jesus Christ as the one and only foundation, and no other foundation can be laid.” All leaders – all interims – build upon the work of Jesus. The church, the ministry, is never ours. We do not own it or build it in our image.
Second, since we are subservient to Jesus’ leadership the most important part of our leadership is our relationship with Jesus Christ. If our leadership flows out of us and not out of a relationship with Jesus, we are not building his church. Therefore our most important times of our lives are those in which we spend time with Jesus. Perhaps that’s why I resonate with these words of Henri Nouwen, written about ministers but applicable to leaders as well:
“Ministers are to be living memories of God’s great deeds in history…” ‘Who am I as a living memory of God?’ The main question indeed is not a question of doing, but a question of being. When we speak about the minister as a living reminder of God, we are not speaking about a technical specialty which can be mastered through the acquisition of specific tools, techniques, and skills, but about a way of being which embrace the totality of life: working and resting, eating and drinking, praying and playing, acting and waiting. Before any professional skill, we need a spirituality, a way of living in the spirit by which all we are and all we do becomes a form of reminding…we must walk in his presence as Abraham did. To walk in the presence of the Lord means to move forward in life in such a way that all our desires, thoughts, and actions are constantly guided by him…This is what is meant by a prayerful life. It is not a life in which we say many prayers, but a life in which nothing, absolutely nothing, is done, said, or understood independently of him who is the origin and purpose of our existence.”
All our building must be on and for Jesus Christ. For when we are all gone, He will still remain. And the glory will be His.
From The Living Reminder by Henri J. M. Nouwen – as quoted in A Guide to Prayer, Rueben P. Job & Norman Shawchuck, (The Upper Room, Nashville, 1990), 139-140
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