Well, two of them at least.
Twice I’ve been called as the intentional interim pastor to churches that had been ill-served by the planting pastor.
Both churches were in financial trouble, on the verge of ruin, and in serious danger of losing their properties when I was called. Both churches followed a trajectory into trouble that were strikingly similar.
- In each case the planting pastor led the church into debt to acquire property.
- In both cases the church planter made an idential serious mistake: mortgaging the future on the promise of a financial “heavy hitter.”
- In neither case did the founding pastor stay long enough to insure that all the pledges were received.
- In one case the planting pastor departed, to be soon followed by folks who did not honor their pledges to the church.
- In the other case the planting pastor downsized the church by means of pastoral ineptitude, in effect driving off donors before their pledges had been fulfilled.
Here’s why I’m angry with both these guys. They left a bewildered group of folks in dire financial straits. They had to know that many of their supporters – the folks who pledged large sums – would leave when they left. After all, this is what happens when pastors leave!
Those who stayed behind, and those who later joined with them, weren’t party to the debt acquisition. But these hard working folks sacrificed and fought doubt and depression to honor the church’s obligation to the creditors.
Fortunately, one church emerged from the crisis the stronger for it. The other is still in process, but the future is promising.
Don’t pastors and church planters incur a moral obligation to stay for the duration when they lead a church into leveraged property?
Don’t they bear personal responsibility for the church’s welfare?
Shouldn’t a pastor – church planter or not – make a firm commitment to stay until the debt is relieved or until the church is on solid financial footing?
God bless those folks who stay behind to pick up the pieces. And may God stop the mouth of the next church planter who dares to say “We need to buy a place” without firm resolve in his heart to see it through to the end.