To create a framework for a healthy search process, our Elders have been actively seeking advice from multiple sources such as the leaders and staff of other churches who have or are going through this process, Free Church denominational leaders, church consultants, and respected authors who have written on the subject.
Additionally, per our church by-laws, our Elders are now working to establish a search committee from within the congregation that will, practically speaking, carry much of the weight of the search process itself. This committee is expected to be formed by mid-January. More information will be posted here at that time.
In 1978, Pastor Mark started his ministry at First Free as the youth pastor. In 1982 through a God-orchestrated chain of events he transitioned into the role of lead pastor. Because of the faithfulness of God and the willingness of the congregation to sacrifice the resources entrusted to them, the church has grown spiritually and numerically, in the scope of its global outreach, the expansion of its local ministries and even the size of its physical facilities.
Many lives have been transformed into the image of Christ through the faithful preaching of God’s Word and God has blessed First Free financially to bring us to the place where we are debt free and positioned to reach more of Lincoln with the good news of Jesus Christ.
Pastor Mark believes now is the time to pass the leadership baton to the next generation. As he prayed along with the Elders it became clear that this was, in fact, God’s leading and that this is a good time in the history of our church to seek out a new man for the role of Lead Pastor; someone who can build on our current foundation and continue to move First Free and its future generations forward.
It is vital to note what is not changing. Our mission of introducing people to Jesus Christ and developing them into fully devoted followers and equipping them to reach their city and world is not changing. Our vision and core values are not changing. Our doctrinal statement and commitment to the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) is not changing. Our commitment to be biblically focused, to teach the Word, and to be an outward focused ministry with an emphasis on everyday outreach is not changing.
This is an important time in the life of our church and we want to provide as many answers as we can to the questions that will surface. Information will be provided on a regular basis in the upcoming months as we walk together through the process. Meanwhile, here is some initial information.
Q: Is there a timeline for the transition?
Of course, the timing is all in God’s plan, but we initially anticipate approximately 12 months for a process that begins with establishing a search committee and then identifying, screening, interviewing and recommending a candidate for the congregation’s consideration. Pastor Mark and the Elders are moving through this process very intentionally so there will be minimal disruption to our congregation and ministry and so we can take the time to find just the right person. To ensure this, Mark will continue as Lead Pastor until our next Lead Pastor is called and placed in active ministry.
Q: What are the priorities we are looking for in a new Lead Pastor?
A position description is being created now that will include further detail, but we can begin by saying we will look for a man who will carry on our First Free Mission and Vision and embrace the EFCA movement of which we are a part. We will seek someone able to connect with younger generations while seasoned enough to lead a large, multi-staffed church with a diverse congregation.
Q: Where will we look for a new Lead Pastor?
Taking advantage of our own denomination’s resources as well as other professional and ministry placement organizations, we will engage in a nation-wide search for candidates who might fit our criteria. Members of our own staff may also be included for consideration within that search.
Q: When a new Lead Pastor is selected, what is Pastor Mark’s new role?
In this full-time position, Pastor Mark will continue as a pastor on our staff further developing the care ministries of First Free: hospital visitation, visitation of those unable to attend church, and the equipping of others to assist with the caring ministries of the church. There also will be an EFCA component of this by helping with our denominational ministry caring for pastors in crisis. Additionally, Mark will allot a portion of his time to work with other regional churches in helping to develop their care ministries as well as offering preaching and teaching support when needed. This is consistent with First Free’s Vision to be an outward focused church seeking to witness and be a blessing beyond its own four walls.
Q: Will this change the status of other paid staff?
The Elders of First Free are committed to our current staff and their continuation as a healthy team and culture.
Q: How can the congregation be supportive through this transition?
Please pray for wisdom and discernment among our leaders and those directly involved in the search process. Pray for peace and unity as we seek to glorify God. Our adversary would love to disrupt the unity we have and confuse the process. Pray that we manage the transition well. This is an important time for the entire church and we want to demonstrate the power of Christ’s love as we celebrate the transition and look ahead to the future of First Free.
Q: What should I do when I have questions?
We are early in the process and there are questions for which answers are yet forthcoming. However, we didn’t want to hold back a beginning so, if you have questions in-between our updates, feel free to contact one of our church elders via email and ask your questions directly. We will continue to post updates as a position description is written, a search committee is formed, and as the search becomes active.