"Hold-over" Churches - Why I don't believe in the concept
I have coined a new phrase. While I've never heard anyone call it this before, every pastor out there has experienced it. At some point, you have been a "hold-over" church to somebody, and I guess in effect, that makes you their "hold-over pastor." What exactly do I mean by this? Allow me to explain.
A hold-over church is one you go to until whatever you don't like about the church you call home is straightened out. (i.e. the pastor leaves and a new one comes) This is how it works...
Your pastor does something you don't like. The church leadership does something you don't agree with. Instead of working it out, handling as Matthew 18 would have you to, or (gasp!) submitting...planting yourself and growing through whatever the challenge is that is presented to you, you head to somewhere else to worship. You are going to just use this as a "hold-over" until things change in your previous church, which you pray to God happens sooner rather than later. But until then, you try to find somewhere else you deem "suitable." When you first go there, you might even throw yourself completely into the activities and the ministries of the new church. You will more than likely gush over the pastor who is "like a breath of fresh air.
Yes, a hold-over church is like a yummy snack that tides you over until you are ready for supper. In this case, the "supper" being things being turned around YOUR WAY in your old church, the new pastor coming in, or a new deacon board coming on, or whatever. Make no mistake, this "hold-over" church is a perfectly good church. It's not a second rate church, in fact usually people find a hold-over church to be somewhere they could very well call home for life. But they don't. Although they might even be there for several years, their heart is not truly there deep down inside. It never is when you have left somewhere else for ill motivated purposes. Here's what you do if you are doing a "hold-over"...
You get involved in this new church...become immersed in it... telling everyone how "refreshing" it is...how you are getting so much out of it, what an incredible blessing the pastors are. For that time, you really mean it. You may talk about getting healed...this new church is such a "respite"...an "oasis" after what you have gone through. And then "D" day as I call it, comes.
A shift in leadership comes in the "home church". The pastor you had a problem with resigns. A new one comes. Or, the old board steps down and a new one is elected. And suddenly, you feel "the call" away from the hold-over church, back to where you knew you were originally planted all along but just couldn't submit to the process. In your eyes, "the problem" of the previous church is gone so now you don't need a hold-over anymore, as much as you have enjoyed it while you've been there. So you say to your hold-over pastor, "Ta-ta! It was fun while it lasted!" All along you have led this hold-over church to think you are not just 'engaged' to them, but you've married their church family. You may have even pledged membership! But in the back of your mind you were holding out for a change. It was like a secret old flame from high school or college that you fantasized about in the back of your mind...possibly coming back into your life again and a relationship being possible.
So what does this process means for the home church and the hold-over church? When you refuse to submit to whatever process God is taking you through, the church you originally left hurts because they are losing a part of the family which always hurts. Someone they love doesn't worship with them anymore, and besides that, there is now a plethora of ministry "holes" left behind that they will have to fill by your absence. No fun.
And what does this cause the "hold-over" church? Well, you breezed in there claiming they were such a breath of fresh air, got involved in people's lives not to mention ministries and now they are going to have to plug holes left by you too. And it leaves the pastoral staff in this hold-over church feeling like a bunch of used up rags laying by the roadside that you just cleaned yourself up with for a while. They served their purpose when you needed them.
I don't agree with someone using a church as a "hold-over" until something they want to see happen happens. By the way, I've been on both sides of the fence. I've been the pastor that people are waiting to see leave - who have left to go to the "holdover" and I've been the pastor receiving the unhappy people who are coming to use me as a holdover. It's no fun either way! Nobody wins in this situation except for the person who is USING.
Some people will try to overly spiritualize this or justify this by talking about "seasons". There are "seasons" in people's lives where they will leave and come back. I DON'T BELIEVE THAT. The scripture states those who are PLANTED in the courts of the Lord will flourish. It doesn't say that those who plant, then uproot for a year or two because they didn't like the way the gardener tended things, and replant will flourish.