Transitions: Seasoned Pastors Offer Experience
Transitions: Seasoned Pastors Offer Experience

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Transitions: Seasoned Pastors Offer Experience

Story by Jessica Russell
Photos by Micah Claycamp

This article about Poimen Ministries first ran in the Winter 2015 Issue of Calvary Chapel Magazine. The men serving in Poimen are experienced, longtime senior or lead pastors in the Calvary Chapel movement who step in to strengthen senior pastors—ultimately strengthening their fellowships. Many Calvary Chapels need help with the process of raising up the next generation of leaders as well as with transitioning from one pastor to another, in both good and challenging circumstances. For more information, go to poimenministries.com.

Bill Holdridge“Too many pastors are leaving the ministry,” reported Bill Holdridge of Poimen Ministries. “I know that the role of the senior pastor is an incredibly difficult and challenging calling and is getting more difficult all the time. In fact, this may be the most difficult period to pastor a church in the history of the U.S.”

After starting Calvary Chapel Monterey Bay, CA, and leading the fellowship for 27 years, Bill stepped down from the pulpit in 2006. Two years later he began Poimen (“Shepherd”) Ministries, which connects qualified pastors with churches or pastors in need of help. The eight experienced pastors (10 as of September 2020) who serve with Poimen travel to churches around the world to help existing pastors or to serve as transitional pastors for fellowships whose leader has left the ministry or passed away.

Calvary Chapel Shreveport, LA

“I always thought it would be cool to get a letter from Jesus like in Revelation 2 and 3,” commented Pastor Billy Spalding of Calvary Chapel Shreveport, LA. “Something to show you the places where you’re doing well and the places you need work. It’s difficult to be objective about yourself.” When his fellowship was reaching its 10-year anniversary, Billy received his own evaluation—his was 20 pages long, written by Phil Evans, a seasoned Calvary Chapel pastor.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:6

 

Men talking

Bob Claycamp (left), transitional senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Exeter, England, talks with a believer. Bob and his wife returned to America to become an assistant pastor with Calvary Church in Aurora, CO.

Phil Evans“Here in Shreveport, we’re pretty far away from other Calvary Chapels,” noted Billy. “Sometimes it can feel as though we’re alone on an island.” With his fellowship growing, Billy needed to make some important decisions. Phil added, “They had just purchased a new building but had only one part-time staff member. They just wanted somebody to come in and observe their ministry with a fresh pair of eyes.”

Phil spent one week with Calvary Chapel Shreveport to assess everything from bathroom cleanliness to pulpit proficiency. “I stayed with Billy and his family in their home. I was able to interact with the family and see how he was functioning with his wife and kids,” said Phil. He quickly noticed the volume of calls Billy was receiving. “The church phone was forwarded to his house. He would often be interrupted from talking with his wife or kids to take a call,” Phil remembered. Though Billy had already been sensing the need to hire a church secretary, Phil confirmed that and helped him decide where the money would come from and who would be best for the job. “It was a classic modern-day example of the apostles needing to appoint deacons in Acts 6. A pastor’s primary responsibility is to minister to the Lord, not for the Lord. He needs uninterrupted time in the Word so he can hear from God, otherwise he won’t have anything fresh to share on Sunday,” explained Phil.

Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:2-4

“Starting a church can be a lonely endeavor,” stated Billy. “It requires patience and perseverance. Our time with Poimen was an investment. To have the wisdom of a pastor who isn’t bogged down with his own church is invaluable.” In 2019, Dan Gillman took over as the church’s new pastor as Billy was called back to California.

Calvary Chapel in the Ozarks, AR

The night Paul and Cindy Lester left their fellowship in Arkansas to move to Murrieta, CA, to serve at Calvary Chapel Bible College, Bill Holdridge and his wife Sheri arrived to temporarily take their place. Paul started Calvary Chapel Ozarks in 1994 and led it for more than 18 years, making him the only pastor to whom the congregation was accustomed. “The next day was my first Sunday as their pastor,” recalled Bill. “When Paul left for Murrieta, I kept teaching right where he left off—in the Gospel of Luke.” Bill assured the people that their best days were ahead of them and since Jesus was the head of the church, He was in control and would find a replacement for Paul in His time.

People listening and sitting

Calvary Chapel Exeter congregants watch a video.

For the next eight months, Bill intentionally altered something about the Sunday service each week to show the congregation that change is okay. “A transitional senior pastor (TSP) is just like a senior pastor, but is not a candidate to be the church’s permanent pastor. The TSP teaches, performs all ministerial duties, leads, and oversees the board. He also signs checks and does whatever a senior pastor must do,” explained Bill. “While he does these things, he is either stabilizing a conflicted situation or setting the table for what is next.”

Jeremy FosterWhile Bill kept the fellowship functioning, he and the church board members prayed for a permanent pastor. Meanwhile, Jeremy Foster, a teacher from Calvary Chapel Bible College Europe in Hungary, was preparing to move back to the U.S. with his family. “We knew we were leaving in December, but we didn’t know where we were going next,” remembered Jeremy. That’s when Bill offered him the position at Calvary Chapel Ozarks. “It was pretty clear that the Holy Spirit was pointing to him,” Bill added.

When Jeremy and his family arrived in Arkansas in January of 2014, they received overwhelming love from their new church. “The Lord moves people from time to time, but there can be some trepidation in those left behind. They wonder what’s going to happen, is the church going to collapse?” Jeremy commented. “Bill gave them confident reassurance that it’s the Lord’s church. I had the privilege of walking into a loving church that is excited about change. It’s not that things were done poorly in the past; it’s just a new season.”

And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. Colossians 1:18

Three people praying

Pastor Bob Claycamp (right) prays for a woman after Sunday service.

The Calvary Chapel movement began over 40 years ago, and many founding pastors are ready to pass on their fellowships to a younger generation. “As we grow in age as a movement, there will be more pulpits that need filling and more churches facing transition. Poimen provides practical assistance to those churches,” said Jeremy.

Calvary Chapel Wichita, KS

Al JamesAfter the senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Wichita, KS, stepped down for personal reasons, Al James of Poimen stepped in. Al started and led Calvary Chapel Prescott, AZ, for 29 years before joining Poimen. “CC Wichita had been without a pastor for several months,” said Al. “The elders had valiantly tried to make it work, but they needed a pastor.” Al stayed in Kansas for 4 ½ months. As an experienced pastor, Al assessed the facility and initiated a major overhaul—physically refurbishing the grounds and spiritually restoring the people by pointing them toward Christ. “Everything from the front curb to closets, from children’s ministry to prayer services was evaluated,” he said. When the project was underway in 2010, he and the board selected Patrick Farrell, who was the assistant pastor at Calvary Chapel Old Bridge, NJ, to take over the Wichita church.

“When a church goes through a transition, especially an unexpected one, families tend to flee from the drama, and people who aren’t plugged in tend to seek calmer waters,” explained Patrick. Though some of the congregation left the church, Patrick noted, “Many mature folks remained, with their eyes on the Lord, not on circumstances.” And, he added, “We got to spend the first year really getting to know each other.” Because Al had already made many of the difficult decisions, Patrick was free to focus on building relationships in the church and repairing the church building which had incurred severe weather damage.

Patrick Farrel“My first summer here, I saw five-pound hailstones for the first time in my life. We get extreme weather here, and the roof of the church was damaged from these storms,” said Patrick. “There were dozens of major leaks—in the office and in the sanctuary—every time it rained. I, along with the congregation saw that as a metaphor for our spiritual condition—broken with holes that need filling. So we had the opportunity, every time we entered the building, to focus on our problems or on [Jesus] who can make all things new.” In the last four years, Calvary Chapel Wichita has revamped the former school building they meet in and has grown in their desire to look beyond their walls to share the Gospel. “Under stress it’s easy for a church to look inward and focus on survival, but when the body of Christ is looking up and out, that’s good evidence God is working within,” added Patrick. The fellowship has recently held a Vacation Bible School, participated in disaster relief in New Jersey, and sent mission teams to Haiti, Africa, and the Appalachian region of Kentucky.

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

Man digging

Bob Claycamp, now an assistant pastor at Calvary Church in Aurora, CO, helps refurbish the grounds at Wotter Community church near Plymouth, England.

Calvary Chapel Tri-State, OH

Rick SchuttePastor Ed Gaines of Calvary Chapel Tri-State, OH, was like a father to some, elder brother to others, and pastor to many, reflected Al James. Ed passed away in 2012 after a long battle with serious health issues. Rick Schutte, originally from Ohio, served with Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, CA, for 18 years before moving back to his home state. “I grew up in Cincinnati so I had been friends with Ed for 20 years. Whenever I would visit my family, I would see him.”

Rick had been serving as missions and prayer pastor at Harvest when Al asked him to take over the congregation in Ohio. Though Rick believed God was calling him to step in as the new senior pastor, he struggled with the thought of leaving Harvest, his grandchildren, and his adult children behind. “Jesus said that anyone who gives up family for His sake, He will give back several fold,” shared Rick. “If God is calling you, you have to go, or you’ll live with regret forever.” He decided to carry on his friend, Ed’s, beloved church.

So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.” Mark 10:29-30

When Rick had first arrived in Ohio, he rejoiced to see how loving the congregation was. “When the service is over, they will fellowship for hours,” he noted. “Some of the ladies are talking to people at their work, giving out tracts and invitation cards to church. Others are encouraging friends to listen to Bible teachings on our web page.”

Man painting fence by church

Pastor Bob helps paint a fence at Wotter Community church near Plymouth, England.

Since working with Poimen and becoming a senior pastor, Rick said that he has learned the importance of encouragement within the church. “Just like Barnabas encouraged Paul, Al encouraged me to take the step of faith and move here,” related Rick. Al added, “It’s difficult to take over a church. Paul gave Timothy instructions and then encouraged him to use his gifts. Pastor Chuck and Mike MacIntosh were helpful and kind, and they exhorted and challenged me when I was a senior pastor.” Al serves on the church board for both Rick and Patrick and continues to exhort them, now from a distance.

www.poimenministries.com

 

 

All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version.

© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.

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