Rev. Tara Beth Leach, Senior Pastor of the First Church of the Nazarene in Pasadena, California, will be a plenary preacher at the 2019 National Festival of Young Preachers in Atlanta, GA.
Rev. Leach lives with her husband Jeff and their two young boys, Caleb and Noah, in Sierra Madre, CA. She spent 12 years from 2004-2016 working in various ministry roles, including associate pastor, youth pastor, women’s ministries pastor, and teaching pastor. Since May 2016, she has served at First Church of the Nazarene Pasadena, affectionately known as PazNaz, as Senior Pastor, the first woman to do so.
She says, “My situation is probably unique being that this old historic church has always had 40 to 60-year-old white guys, and all of a sudden hiring a 34-year-old female was quite a whiplash for the church.”
Rev. Leach’s hire was controversial.
“We lost 600 people out of the gate just by my presence here. We’ve lost more this year. People who say, ‘Well, I’ve studied the Bible and I don’t agree with it.’ And then there’s the factor of people saying its not a gender issue, but it really is a gender issue. So that’s really hard that people don’t name it.”
She has used her experience to help other women in ministry and to help both men and women see women’s role in the church in a new light.
“Being a voice for women in ministry is another area I feel called to steward. I do a lot of writing and speaking on that, but at the same time, I also look forward to the day when I no longer have to talk about it. I didn’t go into ministry to talk about women in ministry, I went into ministry because I love Jesus and I love the church.”
Last year, Rev. Leach published a book, “Emboldened: A Vision for Empowering Women in Ministry.”
“I wrote the book to help women and men catch a greater imagination for women’s role in the church. I think the bride of Christ in North America has an anemic imagination. And my prayer is that this book would nourish the imagination of the reader to help them say, ‘Wow, we’ve really been selling ourselves short. We’ve been holding back women. We can do better. We can embrace the spirit of Pentecost, we can embrace Mary the proclaimer of the resurrection, and here are ways we can do that.'”
Two and a half years into her role at PazNaz, Rev. Leach spoke about one of the greatest challenges for new pastors.
“I think one of the greatest tensions that new pastors have to live into is how much to change and when. Because you’re damned if you don’t change and you’re damned if you change too much.
That balance comes about through listening to the congregation, helping people feel understood and heard, and making sure all generations are represented at the table. And then when it comes to change collaborating together at the table about what that change looks like while still clinging to the core values of the church.”
She also offered advice for other first-time senior pastors.
“What I’ve observed with some really young pastors is that they get in the pulpit and they want to come guns blazing and be prophetic and call out the church. But what I would say is how can we do that but meet people where they are and bring them along incrementally. The reality is, at the end of the day, these are people made in the image of God. Yes, we need to repent as a church in North America. But how can you lead people pastorally through seeing just some of the blemishes.”
What is one thing she hopes Young Preachers will take away from her sermon at the 2019 National Festival?
“To have a greater love for the church. I see a lot of young preachers and people who are really frustrated with the church. To them, I want to say, “Yes. I know. It’s hard. But we can’t give up on the church, we need each other arm in arm.”
Register now for the 2019 National Festival of Young Preachers!
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About Tara Beth Leach…
Tara Beth Leach is the Senior Pastor at First Church of the Nazarene of Pasadena (“PazNaz”) in Southern California. She is a graduate of Olivet Nazarene University (B.A.
Youth Ministry) and Northern Theological Seminary (M.Div.). She is a regular writer for Missio Alliance and has contributed to other publications such as Christianity Today, Christian Week, The Jesus Creed, The Table Magazine, Reflecting the Image Devotional, Renovating Holiness, and most recently a chapter in The Apostle Paul and the Christian Life: Ethical and Missional Implications of the New Perspective with other contributors including N.T. Wright, James D.G. Dunn, Scot
McKnight, and Bruce Longenecker. Her chapter is entitled “The Symphonic Melody: Wesleyan Holiness Theology Meets New Perspective Paul.” Tara Beth is also the author of the Beacon Hill Press book, Kingdom Culture and the InterVarsity Press book, Emboldened.
She has two beautiful and rambunctious children, Caleb and Noah, and has been married to the love of her life, Jeff, since 2006.