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Thinking Out Loud … About Leaders

Posted on: August 3rd, 2016 by E-Free Lethbridge

It’s a day that I will never forget. Along with our kids, Connie and I had travelled here to be interviewed for the role of Lead Pastor. Tim Seim, a highly respected and deeply loved pastor, had served faithfully for the previous twenty years. And so considering coming to serve in the Lethbridge church was daunting.

Irwin Olfert chaired the search team, comprised of Paul Joss, Dennis Lindskog, Joanne Penner Herron, Linda Stromsmoe, and Tory Webber. After a casual “get acquainted” breakfast, they began a three hour interview. They were serious! It was obvious by the penetrating questions they asked.

After a welcome break for lunch the board (who were observers at the morning interview) came to the table with their questions. Chairman Tedd Walcott led the charge for the board “interrogation”. During the next three hours, no stone was left unturned. It was exhausting. Connie was honored to be present, and felt respected by being asked some of the questions.

After six hours of examination, it was apparent that this church was committed to find the “right” pastor. As we reviewed our experience on the drive home, Connie and I were struck with the level of visionary leadership coming from these men and women. It was apparent that they loved their church, and they were very diligent about their task. That’s how Connie and I were introduced to our church.

I’m privileged to have worked along side five visionary chairmen, all who remain in fellowship with us: Irwin Olfert (1998-2000) helped to transition the church after 20 years of Tim’s leadership. Ed Stromsmoe (2000-2003) navigated us through the building of the new Worship Centre. Tedd Walcott (2003-09) moved us from being church led to becoming board led. Rich Thiessen (2009-12) envisioned a church of 2000 and challenged me to that end. Sid Bergsma (2012-16) provided a steady hand of leadership through the last building project.

Each of these, along with their respective boards, have served us well. These five men stand on the shoulders of those who’ve served before. They each envisioned a better future for our church. They were clear on their role, and mine. They said to me, “defining the end goal is our responsibility, and yours is to discover the means to get there.” They resisted the temptation to become bogged down in the minutia of detail, but kept their eye on the big picture. They were consistently proactive, rather than reacting to circumstances. All of us have benefited from their “let’s try it” attitude. They’ve not been risk averse and that provides us with freedom to try new things. Above all, these leaders have understood their primary role to seek the will of Christ, the Chief Shepherd, and to direct us to that outcome. As a church, we’re the benefactors of great leadership. May the tradition continue!


Ian Lawson is the Lead Pastor at the Evangelical Free Church of Lethbridge.

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