Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Finding My New "Pestor"

Tomorrow is Kerry Doyal’s first “official” day on the job as our new Allegheny District Superintendent. He’s already hit the ground running the last few weeks as the looming public health crisis has left little time for a leisurely transition. Our pastors have all needed pastoring as our churches have all been going through a dramatic shift in ministry! Tomorrow marks the formal beginning of his ministry.

For the last year, it has been a great honor (and also a great deal of work!) to lead the district search team for the new district superintendent. I got to work closely with EFCA President Kevin Kompelien and Eddie Cole, the new executive vice president of national ministries. They provided us with amazing leadership, support, and resources throughout the process including the excellent assistance of NL Moore and Associates.

My job was to lead a team of gifted volunteers from around the district to organize prayer, listen to church leaders, construct an appropriate profile, and then interview qualified candidates for the position. Our diverse team consisted of three pastors (one solo pastor from a 128 year old Swedish EFC in a rural area (me), one planting pastor in secular and urban city church, and one associate pastor of a mid-sized church in the rust-belt) and also two non-staff church leaders, one a savvy business man with a church planting background and the other a Christian counselor and pastor’s wife. I truly enjoyed how our different backgrounds gave us unique vantage points to bring to the process and how the Lord brought all of that diversity into complementary unity through Christ and the gospel.

The hardest part was the interviewing. We invested copious hours of face time with some truly wonderful candidates many of whom we could see filling the role admirably. In just one week during the Christmas season we logged 14 hours of interviews!

I’m thankful that people were praying as we interviewed as the Lord gave us great unity in decision-making. At each successive round, our team was unanimous about who should proceed to the next level of interviews. In time, we settled on a final set and sent those candidates to Kevin and Eddie, who then interviewed them on the phone and then in person before making their final selection of Kerry, of which our team was fully supportive.

You can read about Kerry’s qualifications in the article the EFCA published about his appointment. It is clear that he embodies all of the things we were looking for and more.

Personally, I am thrilled and overjoyed that tomorrow Kerry will be our next Allegheny District Superintendent. Unlike his excellent predecessor, however, I am not planning to call him “Super” Kerry.

My nickname for him is “Pestor Kerry” because he will probably drive me nuts (at times) and not leave me alone. Kerry has the gift of being a pest, of seeming ubiquity of personal presence, especially online. Kerry loves to check on people, over-communicate, express his love and concern, be inquisitive (he calls it being “nebby”), drop in on your life, send an email, text, message, or call. He is sand in your shoe. He is a (mostly welcome) earworm. In my (mostly joyful) experience Kerry gets a hold of you and doesn’t let go.

I think in this particular season of ministry as a district family of churches, that’s exactly we need in a superintendent. We need someone who will not leave us alone.

As the pandemic hit in the last month and accelerated all of our need for at-a-distance shepherding, I was thankful that Kerry was coming on the job. Even though he will want to be with us physically (he and Robin look forward to visiting each one of our churches on site in the near future), Kerry is adept at staying connected to us in any way possible. He won’t be leaving us alone.

And in that, “Pestor Kerry” will be imaging our Great Shepherd who has promised to never leave us nor forsake us and Who walks with us through the darkest valleys with His comforting rod and staff (Psalm 23). We fear no evil because Jesus is with us.