As the spiritual landscape in the United States has changed, so has the need to address those changes in a Christ-centered, God-honoring way. Churches often find themselves in the middle of difficult transitions: pastors leave to care for an unexpectedly ill parent, sexual misconduct devastates a close-knit women’s ministry, or a car crash leaves a gaping hole in the pulpit. How churches navigate these complex transitional periods has a profound impact on their future vitality.
Dave Miles (ThM, 1984) saw the need to partner with churches during these transitions. With the support and wisdom of Dave Brooks (ThM, 1985) and Tom Wilkens (ThM, 1980), Dave developed VitalChurch Ministry. The ministry began as a team of transitional pastors, but their roles quickly demanded they become more than interim pastors. They became interventionists, prying behind the façade of transitional difficulties to expose chronic conflict, malpractice of authority, infidelity, long-term decline, the denigration of mission, deep grief, and legacies of inadequate governance.
When Dave and his team arrive at a transitioning church, they begin with a diagnostic assessment. The assessment is followed by coaching, which lasts 18–24 months. Every church is different. Their team asks four questions to get to the root of the issue.
- What are the real issues?
The issues on the surface—no worship leaders, an aging congregation, infighting—often conceal deeper problems. Too often, churches simply trim their weeds. Just like the only way to clear a yard is by pulling the weeds out entirely, churches need to find the roots of their transitional difficulties. What hurts, embarrassment, griefs, and confusion are keeping the dandelions alive?
- What are God’s solutions to those issues?
While more business meetings may solve an issue, VitalChurch is dedicated to God’s solutions, God’s way. The ministry is run by pastors, not consultants, so the emphasis is to love the church despite hurt, chaos, and trauma. They seek to bring the love of Christ into these transitions while addressing the systemic issues causing their difficulty.
- Who are God’s leaders?
VitalChurch is full of Intentional Interim Pastors. Who in the community is God calling to step in and step up to implement God’s solutions?
- What are God’s plans?
VitalChurch seeks to embody the gospel in their ministry; the gospel is what builds and sustains the Church. While strategic plans are important, nostalgia, business meetings, and a stellar worship band cannot revitalize a church. Being Christ-centered is the ministry’s number one value. Dave and his family lived in New York for twenty-seven years, but his ministry often led him to commute for two weeks at a time to pastor various churches and assist with worship responsibilities. As a result, he was rarely on site at the churches he pastored. This separation forced churches to orient their values around Christ, not the lead pastor.
For Dave, immersing himself in the Scriptures for four years at DTS was invaluable, if not life changing. He continues to use the exegetical method learned from Dr. Darrell Bock, and preaching courses taught him both how to declare God’s word and how to grow in that skill. The friends and colleagues he made at DTS, too, have been incredibly formative.
DTS gave him the foundational tools for an effective ministry. Seminary prepared him to be a life-long learner, a disciple of study, a deeply committed follower of Christ, and a supporter of the local church. These tools have extended beyond his ministry and impacted his marriage, friendships, and evangelism. Being a shepherd who intentionally steps into the middle of tangled, divisive congregations has been brutal at times. However, God’s grace and mercy continues to conform His people to the image of His Son. Dave considers himself privileged to serve as a transitional pastor with a firm foundation in teaching truth and loving well.