What happens to a church when a pastor suddenly resigns or even dies? Many churches are not prepared for such an unexpected circumstance. This question particularly came to light in regards to the death of Pastor Zachery Tims of New Destiny Christian Center. The article in the Orlando Sentinel raises the question of what's next for a church, that was ill prepared to replace their charismatic pastor and leader.
Here is an excerpt from the OrlandoSentinel.com:
How the Apopka mega church responds will depend largely on whom the church picks to carry on the vision of Tims. Replacing a beloved pastor is difficult, made harder by the size of the church, and compounded by the circumstances of Tims' sudden death, said Phil Cooke, a California-based church-leadership consultant.
"The single biggest reason most of these mega churches grow so quickly is because the leader is a powerful and compelling personality. People naturally want to follow a visionary leader," Cooke said. "In the case of New Destiny, the intense focus on Pastor Tims during his life, and the questions surrounding his death, all indicate that finding a successor during a time of questions and uncertainty will be extraordinarily difficult."
Kevin Dougherty, a Baylor University sociologist, said what New Destiny is going through is what's ahead for the two-thirds of the 1,600 American mega-churches headed by the founder, who is often a dynamic and charismatic leader.
"This is something these churches around the country and the world are confronted with," said Dougherty, who specializes in researching mega-churches.
Tims, who was found dead in a New York hotel room at age 42, did not appear to leave behind a clear line of succession. His congregation, with an estimated 7,500 members, was a nondenominational church of his own creation started in 1996. It has no experience in picking a new pastor and, like many other churches, probably never anticipated it would need to do so, said Sheila Strobel Smith, an author and expert on leadership transition in mega-churches.
In older, mainline churches there are often a number of assistant pastors who have been groomed by the senior pastor to eventually take over. New Destiny doesn't seem to have that structure in place. The fact that Paula White — whom Tims considered his "spiritual mother" — preached the first sermon after his death is an indication that nobody inside the church had the stature or preparation to take over, Smith said.
"There was literally one pastor. For a congregation that size, that is very unusual," Smith said.
White told the congregation that Tims left instructions that after his death his church should take 30 days to recover, but on the 31st day be prepared to resume his work. Smith said it is likely to take much longer for the church to find Tims' replacement — a year or more. Cooke said it often takes five to seven years for a church to find the right replacement.
New Destiny owes much of its success to one man: Zachery Tims. Other mega-ministries became too synonymous with one man to survive his death. (read the whole article HERE)
If you are looking for a good book from a pastor who not only thought about his transition, but put a plan in place to help navigate the church through it, you need to read Pastor Bob Russell's book, Transition Plan.