Note: This article was originally published in Leadership Journal, Fall, 1987.
THE PASTOR AS LIGHTNING ROD
written by Dr. Richard Bergstrom
In Steamboat Springs, the small mountain resort where I live, the highest buildings have atop them a series of lightning rods. One such building is the Thunderhead Lodge, atop Mount Werner. The lodge serves as the upper terminal for the famed high-speed, eight-passenger Silver Bullet Gondola.
As I paced the parking lot outside the condominiums at the base of Mount Werner on August 11, 1986, I was sure I wouldn’t see the completion of the gondola, which was being installed over the summer. But that wasn’t the only thing I didn’t expect to see completed. Following just twenty-one months here, I had resigned my church and was planning to leave the ministry.
Now, just seven days away from pulling out of town in a moving van, I was struggling with a continuing sense of God’s call to reach this mountain community with the gospel. Following an hour of intensive prayer, I climbed the stairs back up to the condominium where my family and I were staying for our final week of ministry. I couldn’t help but notice an ominous electrical storm brewing over the nearby peaks. It reminded me of the stormy nature of my ministry as I had attempted to lead a historic congregation through a process of revitalization.
Two Stormy Years
I had arrived in Steamboat Springs in October 1984, just in time for the ninety-fifth annual meeting of the congregation. My ministry at Euzoa Bible Church began with an innocent-enough question: “What kind of church do you believe God wants you to become by the time you are 100 years old?”
Euzoa was a church poised for a giant leap forward. On the agenda that evening were two items of monumental significance: The continuation of the listing to sell the 93-year-old facility, and the implementation of a plan to revise the constitution and administrative structure of the church.
I knew there were inherent risks in any process of change, but for a couple of reasons, I believed Euzoa was ready for those changes. First, five years earlier the church had made the decision to relocate, had purchased property, and had deposited $50,000 in the bank toward that goal. Second, it had been studying the possibility of a major overhaul of its administrative structure for the previous three years. During my candidating visit, I clearly stated my agreement with these new directions. I came with the obvious assumption that I was to lead the church through these important transitions. I had no idea of the problems I would encounter along the way.