While perusing the stream of tweets that accrued on my Twitter account ( @judestjohn ) a few weeks ago, a particular tweet, in fact a particular word in that tweet, caught my attention.
The word I saw: interim.
And of course it caught my eye because I have recently become one. An interim, that is, not a tweet to be sure. More precisely, I have become the interim lead pastor at West London Alliance Church.
The tweet in question provided a link to a blog post by Seth Godin. I had heard of Seth Godin, knew him to be an author, and found the following description of him on his website:
SETH GODIN is the author of 18 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything.
The title of the blog post by Godin further intrigued me: The Interim Strategy. Now I was hooked. I proceeded to read the article. The article itself was neither a how-to manual for interims nor an Interiming-for-Dummies piece. Rather, it discussed the tendency of businesses to employ an interim strategy in spite of the conflicts that the interim strategy might have with the company’s long-term goals and mission.
Despite the seemingly disparate topic of the article to my situation of being an interim pastor, it nevertheless had some ideas that are very transferable and surprisingly biblical.
We say we want to treat people fairly, build an institution that will contribute to the culture and embrace diversity. We say we want to do things right the first time, treat people as we would like to be treated and build something that matters.
But first... first we say we have to make our company work.
We say we intend to hire and train great people, but in the interim, we'll have to settle for cheap and available. We say we'd like to give back, but of course, in the interim, first we have to get...
This interim strategy, the notion that ideals and principles are for later, but right now, all the focus and resources have to be put into the emergency of getting successful—it doesn't work.
This is helpful for me, for West London Alliance Church, and for churches around the globe. Churches in general, and pastors like myself, often feel an immense pressure to “be successful.” And that desire to be successful may tempt a church or a pastor or a parishioner to set aside a biblical mandate, even if only temporarily, for something more pragmatic that will bring success. That is a very dangerous thing.
Godin writes, “It doesn't work because it's always the interim. It never seems like the right time to stop doing what worked and start doing what we said was important.” And we might apply it to our church and to our lives by saying, “A non-biblical strategy that promises success doesn’t work because it is always the interim; it is always already-not yet when it come to the church. And it will never seem like the right time to stop doing what seems to bring success and start doing what is biblical.”
Godin concludes his discussion of business strategies by exhorting: “perhaps it makes sense to act in the interim as we expect to act in the long haul.” And that is what I plan to do; that is my interim strategy.
I’m not going to import some idea that could make myself or the church “successful,” whatever that means. I’m much more concerned about being faithful. Faithful to the Bible. Faithful to my calling. Faithful to the principles that have been the foundation of West London Alliance Church, a faithful body of believers. I plan to continue to deliver “as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve (1 Corinthians 15:3-5 ESV).” I’ll endeavour to continue “Making known the greatness of God” just as this congregation has done over the years.
Nothing new here. No cutting-edge interim strategy. Just faithfulness to the Word, fealty to the gospel, and fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.