The project chronicled a twenty-month transition period in the life of the American Baptist Churches of Greater Indianapolis. The churches traversed an interim period, following their executive minister’s retirement, into an extended transitional period. The extended time allowed the Board of Directors to redefine their mission and reinvent the region with a renewed understanding of what it means to be the Body of Christ.
The theology of place – Indianapolis, Indiana was an important element in understanding the urban context. A retrospective of fifty years provided a frame around the previous four executive ministers’ contribution to the region mission. The two most recent office holders provided the researcher an opportunity to interview each of them and gain their perspective on the legacy they created and the impact it had on the contemporary region ministry.
A literature review provided the foundation for a definition of transformational, incarnational leadership and applied missiology. An analysis of five scriptural leadership roles supplied metaphors for the executive minister’s job description. Reflection on Baptist polity framed the process by which leadership is selected and granted authority to lead.
The decision making process of the Board of Directors was examined to understand the dynamics during the interim period that led to their vote to discontinue a search for a permanent executive minister and contract for a three-year transition period instead.
Throughout was a juxtaposition of transactional leadership with transformational leadership. The praxis of incarnational leadership was manifest in the ways Dr. Sarah Hallstrand was engaged in sharing power, enabling others to take responsibility for program development and be accountable for the results. It is premature to draw conclusions about the long-term effects of the transition period. The anticipated results were a new vision for the region’s mission and ministry, improved communication, an applied faith through practical mission projects, and renewed focus on the mission and ministry of the local church. The initiatives that worked and those that failed were highlighted and analyzed. It was likened to building an airplane while flying it. The mantel of leadership was passed to an executive team instead of an individual. The lingering question is whether the team model developed during the transition period will be embraced as the permanent style of transformational leadership.