Bradley N. Hill
Bradley N. Hill is lead pastor of Selah Covenant Church in Selah, Washington.
My contract as “intentional transitional pastor” or interim with East Bay Community Church (not its real name) had expired, and I was working on a month-by-month agreement. By the grace of God, the church and I had moved through five developmental tasks proposed by the Intentional Ministry Network. Healing had taken place, and a sharpened vision statement had been communicated. I was feeling affirmed by the church and knew that its leaders valued my expertise and contribution, as well as me as a person. Then one morning I heard the news: the pastoral candidate would preach the next month, with a congregational vote to follow on the same night.
It’s beautiful when the congregational system is humming along—the church is Spirit-filled, worshipers are bearing each other’s burdens, submitting to one another and rejoicing continually. When faced with major decisions, the congregation seeks the Lord and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. After prayer and copious dialogue, a consensus emerges. Or the congregational system hits a pothole. The decision-making process is accelerated or compressed for a decision that has huge implications for the life of the church; the issues raised are theologically profound and the consequences painful no matter what is decided. At these times, a congregation can see its unity shattered.
“How do we do effective evangelism? All our ‘outreach’ events are just another excuse for fellowship!” Our new associate pastor looked around at the outreach committee, but nobody answered him. He pressed his point. “I mean, how do we actually reach nonbelievers, not just believers?” Eventually a discussion got under way, and finally one idea stuck. Our town was known as a “jazz town,” with a couple of jazz venues that were always crowded. We hatched the idea of Jazz Night. We’d hire a name-brand jazz artist to play at the church, convert the sanctuary into a coffee shop atmosphere, put church brochures on the tables, be ready to greet people and then “let it rip.” What could go wrong?