True Confessions of an Interim

Jun 6, 2024

By The Rev. Dr. Carl Grosse

Once I was in a congregational meeting at a large church where they were discussing significant plans for their future. The church had just completed a year-long assessment led by researchers at McKinsey who were developing a new non-profit consulting portfolio. This church was a guinea pig, so the fees were far less than normal. The consultants had finished their work and submitted their recommendations, and now the congregational leaders were seeking feedback on the draft of their “Next Church” plan. 

Most of the questions were routine: “How will this bring in more young people?”, “What’s going to happen to our mission initiatives?”, “Other churches are doing [fill in the blank], why aren’t we?”, and so on. There were financial concerns, facility concerns, all very familiar. One of the people at our table must have seen me scrunch my face or something, and she asked if I cared about all this. I apologized and assured her that I did care. Since I wasn’t a member, I could only listen and I wasn’t hearing anything that really addressed the question of direction. These were all operational issues with no clear purpose other than keeping the organization going. Then she asked me what question I would submit if I were a member, and I thought for a few seconds and told her. 

She raised her hand and asked, “Where do you see the Holy Spirit moving in the world in a way that we in this congregation should jump in?” The question briefly caught the senior pastor off guard, but he recovered and said, “Thank you for asking that! It’s a question all of us should ask of ourselves, but I’ll give you my own answer,” which he proceeded to do. 

The congregation is still going, smaller than it was then and all the staff is different now. In my opinion, the consultants provided valuable insights and the leadership had some good ideas, most of which were ignored. One of the questions from that experience still challenges me: how do we as The Church clarify the Purpose? Anyone can trot out a verse or two, come up with a catchy slogan, and market the heck out of it. We can identify social, political, demographic, and all other sorts of trends and claim God is here or there. But how do we know where the Holy Spirit is moving, calling us to jump in?