Profile: Jim Barber, president of the Society for Church Consulting
While Isaiah 26:3 has been significant throughout Jim Barber’s 43 years of marriage, the verse became particularly meaningful during the final stage of his corporate career.
It happened in 1989 when Barber was a manager at Honeywell, which had decided to get out of defense contracting. Jim played an important role on a team of coworkers that eventually created a new corporation to run that division.
That meant borrowing $165 million against the business’ assets to complete the spinoff. To convince lenders to support the transaction, New York brokers needed to understand every aspect of the business. Not only did the brokers work 80-hour weeks, they expected everyone associated with the project to do the same.
That meant an unending list of questions, recalls Barber, who has also been an executive pastor and now leads the Society for Church Consulting. While he never worked all night, several times he survived on a few hours of sleep.
“What sustained me during the difficult days was confidence that God knew the struggle I was
Jim Barber, president of the
going through,” says Barber.
“I had faith that he would oversee my involvement in the project and that it would eventually come to an end. The words of Isaiah 26:3 frequently comforted me during this time: ‘Thou dost keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusts in thee’” (RSV).
Times of transition
This peace stayed with him throughout his transition onto a church staff in 1995 and then when he branched out into church consulting.
Just as he was starting his practice in 2010, Jim had a meeting with Gary McIntosh, a board member of the Society. McIntosh referred him to Tom Harper, who was looking to hire an executive director for the Society. As Barber prayed and considered the organization’s mission, he felt led to take a step of faith into that role.
“I believed, and still do, that God was continuing to build his church (Matthew 16:18) through church revitalization and in part through equipping church consultants,” Barber says.
This kind of faith has been forged in the fires of adversity, which included deep wounds in the Minnesota consultant’s spirit inflicted by a church split.
It happened earlier in his Christian walk. After accepting Christ, Barber had been discipled by a leader from The Navigators; one thing he learned was the need to respect the local church. After joining one, he and his wife became active in Evangelism Explosion.
However, conflict later arose between elderly board members and the growth-oriented pastor. Investigating, Barber felt their concerns stemmed primarily from philosophical differences.
Without much warning, board members called for a business meeting and a vote to remove the pastor—who didn’t want to go. After insults and accusations between various parties at the meeting, the vote led to the pastor’s departure.
“This event hurt me deeply,” Barber recalls. “I felt like I had almost been ‘set up’ by God. We had obeyed him by becoming actively involved, only to have it pulled away from us by the unhealthy attitudes of others.”
While he got involved in another church, for several years his heart wasn’t in it.
A new starting place
Two factors helped bring Barber to a new place of faith, starting with his pastor teaching on the importance of serving others in ministry.
The other came from a deeper appreciation for Genesis 50:20: what Joseph’s brothers intended for his harm God meant for good.
“I chose to have that perspective about the church split we experienced and have continued since that day to see the good God intended,” he says. “I believe that my calling into ministry and what I do today to help His church, is the good God intended.”
Eventually, Barber found his way into direct service; his church invited him to become a staff member and he departed from the business world. The move coincided with enrollment in seminary, where he would earn a Master of Arts in theological studies.
During 15 years as an executive pastor, Jim experienced another profound biblical encounter.
Earlier, Barber and his wife had made a substantial financial commitment to a building expansion. They acted on 2 Corinthians 9:10, which talks about God supplying seed to the sower and increasing a harvest.
Ten years later the church had entered phase three. Despite $2 million in pledges, they needed another $1 million to build.
During his sermon the following Sunday, the senior pastor mentioned the need for additional gifts. Although that sparked nervous laughter, Barber clung to the promise of 2 Corinthians 9:10.
Within a week, members of two families (who didn’t know each other) came to see the executive pastor and express their willingness to help. Each one contributed $500,000.
Such God-led incidents are why the church consultant maintains such a strong belief in the Bible informing all kinds of leadership.
“For Christians, it should be the starting place for how we define character,” Barber says. “And, the way we lead people, interact with them, motivate them, and hold our convictions about where we’re trying to go and how we will get there. When faced with a decision, it’s not only about your morality and ethics, but your values and to what degree you are living to serve yourself or others.”
An experienced freelancer, Ken Walker devotes much of his time to ghosting, co-authoring and editing books and blogs. He edits material for several contributors to Biblical Leadership. A member of the Christian PEN (Proofreaders and Editors Network), he has co-authored, edited or contributed to more than 60 books. You can see samples of his work or ask about his services by going to http://www.KenWalkerWriter.com or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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