The job of an interim pastor is very much like the objectives of a Marine battalion taking a beachhead. The Marines are landed on the shore by the Navy, sometimes under heavy gunfire by the enemy. They endure the incoming barrage of artillery fire and persevere through mine fields in order to secure the beachhead for the Army who will occupy it. In church work, the interim pastor prepares the beachhead (i.e., the church), takes the flak (i.e., the criticism from opposition), and perseveres the mine fields (i.e., plods through the issues and conflict) in order for the Army (the new Senior Pastor) to occupy the beachhead. Interims are to make the job easier for the new pastor by redeeming any conflict to the glory of God, by training elders in the way of Scripture, by managing church staff for unity and effectiveness, and by tending the sheep so that they can be easily cared for by the new pastor.
Standing in the gap for another pastor is a high calling. An interim pastor is a special breed of marine, for he has to love and fight for people that he will eventually leave in the hands of another. His orders are from the Lord; his objective clear – make ready the congregation for the new shepherd. He is to confront the obstacles, reconcile the conflict, and bring peace to the congregation so that the ministry of the new pastor will start out on the right foot without having to deal with problematic people or consuming issues.
True interim pastors are transitional shepherds who are not candidates for the vacant position of senior pastor. An interim will become beloved by many in the congregation who will want him to stay on, but he must make it abundantly clear that his task is to prepare the church for a new man. Those who waffle and say they will be a candidate cause further conflict in the church and put the pastoral search committee in a difficult situation. Although he is to be enthusiastic in his ministry, he must be subservient to his objective. Once a new man is selected for the church, the interim must decrease and the new man elevated in the remaining time the interim has to serve.