The congregation of historic First Church was very optimistic when Grant was called to fill the hole left by Dr. R. S. White, who had led the church with a steady hand for three decades. The congregation chose the new pastor because he was well educated, personally warm, an excellent public communicator, and a capable organizational leader. He had a wealth of experience and a youthful enthusiasm.
Twenty-one months later, Grant unceremoniously resigned, leaving First Church and the pastoral ministry altogether. Physically exhausted, emotionally spent, and spiritually depleted, both he and his family had gone as far as they could go. Certainly Grant made some missteps, but to many in the congregation he represented everything wrong in the church. Some complained it was his preaching. Some said it was his leadership. Some identified it as defects of character. As one powerbroker put it, "Pastor Grant is a cancer, and it's time to cut the cancer out."
A predictable pattern
I refer to pastors like Grant as "Unintentional Interims." That's probably too euphemistic. In casual conversation we call them "Sacrificial Lambs." Like the substitute sacrifices of the Old Testament, iniquities are transferred onto one lamb that bears the wrath on behalf of the many.
It's a messy scene for anyone watching, and it's always profoundly painful for everyone involved. I have observed this phenomenon up close, twice: once I was the pastor who followed after the Sacrificial Lamb, and once I was the Sacrificial Lamb. In the latter instance, I followed a pastor who had led his church for nearly its entire 25-year history. He was a local legend. I did my best to hold on for a few years, but ...