While Pastor Zachery Tims’ death still remains surrounded by many unanswered questions, it’s revealed that Tims’ left instructions for his church if he should die. While the charismatic pastor was only 42, and his death was untimely, it is surprising that he would leave behind these instructions.
Tims, who was found dead last month in his New York City hotel room, was literally a one man show at the church he founded, New Destiny Church.
The problem with many of these mega-churches is that the charismatic preacher comes first, and the church is built around him, such as in Tims’ case. He was the only pastor in the New Destiny Church, so there was no line of succession when he died.
Tims’ started the church in 1996 and it was the man the church members followed, they joined the church because they were joining Tims. His enthusiastic preaching was what awarded the church the success it experienced through the years. According to the website Ministry Best Practices, the New Destiny Church doesn’t have anyone to take Tims’ place.
With its almost 8,000 followers, many who would crowd into the church on Sunday to hear Zachery Tims’ words from the pulpit, did not have any other preachers. Since it was Tims’ who made the church, what does New Destiny do now? A search for someone to take his place seems impossible; as it is a personality that is priority, other than the experience of preaching.
In case of his death, Tims left instructions that the church “should take 30 days to recover.” On the 31st day after his death, he wanted the church to resume its work. Phil Smith, a California-based church-leadership consultant, says that many of the mega-churches have become too synonymous with one man for the church to survive after his death. Does The New Destiny Church fall into this category?
Shelia Strobal Smith, an author and expert on leadership transition in mega-churches, said that, "There was literally one pastor. For a congregation that size, that is very unusual and for this reason the church is going to have quite a search on their hands."
Smith points out that Paula White, a woman who Tims’ considered his “spiritual mother” was the person who preached the first sermon in the church after Tims’ death, which is an indication that the church had no one from within the congregation ready to step up and take over.
The older main-line churches, even the ones with a fraction of the congregation that the New Destiny Church Boosts, usually has assistant pastors groomed and ready to take over in a case such as this, says Smith.
White told the church members of Tims’ instructions when she did the sermon after his death. While Tims asked that the church get back to normal after 30 days, Smith said that the New Destiny Church could feasibly take five to seven years to actually find the right person to replace Tims.
It is the charismatic personalities that make up many of the mega-churches and unfortunately, a church cannot be built on this alone, there is too much riding on one person. It will be interesting to see how the church proceeds and how long it will take to actually replace Zachery Tims, or if this is even possible.