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If you have an issue with Bloomington's Eastview Christian Church, take it to Mike Baker. That guy in the auditorium named Gary York isn't in charge anymore.

But if you need a consultant on leadership and board dynamics, York might be your man.

The language hasn't quite found the word to describe when a 60-year-old leaves a long-time job on good terms and charges head-long into a different professional pursuit - in this case, as a principal for a consulting firm called Logicboard Inc.

For lack of a better word, York, at 60, has "retired" as Eastview's senior pastor after 31 years. Celebrations are today at the 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. services. He intends to work full time for Logicboard, which helps boards and executives take complementary roles in governing churches, not-for-profit groups and companies.

For Eastview, there will be no surprises - except for whatever the church has planned today for York. Baker has been the appointed successor for most of the decade, and he has been involved in a slow transition for two years from associate to senior pastor.

Baker led the 2004 building expansion campaign and he's preached half of the Sundays for the past two years. At 42 years old, the past 11 working as an Eastview minister, Baker says with a degree of levity that not only is he ready but "20 to 25 years seems doable" for him as senior pastor.

Eastview has long advertised itself as "not church as usual," so people should expect as much in its way of changing pastors.

Some pastors stay on to an end, sometimes bitter, and they aren't typically in the congregation when a replacement arrives. York knows of one pastor who retired and then started a competing church in the same town.

York feels he goes out at Eastview's highest point.

Attendance is running about 3,600 a week. Christian service projects are rolling. Across the street at Airport Road and Raab Road, there are house lots for sale - out there in what used to be the middle of Creation, back when people used to question why the church was building there.

Thus, York notes, it's a good time to leave, while he's at a peak and Baker has momentum.

"June 1, it's his gig. I think I'm OK with that," York said recently. "I've done it in stages."

The conversation started as a contingency plan in case something happened to York. In 2001, York, the elders and Baker announced that York would retire in five to seven years and that Baker would replace him. Working with the elders, Baker said, it was decided that Baker should lead a building program as of 2004 and that he should ramp up his preaching schedule - but stop at half the Sundays.

Also as part of the transition, the leaders supported each other in all conversations. Baker said he would re-steer any conversation that contemplated which of the two would be a better pastor.

Although Don Green teaches church leadership and administration at Lincoln Christian Seminary, he cannot quantify how common Eastview's transition model is, except to say it's very rare. Such statistics aren't readily available if kept at all.

Ironically, Green believes the Eastview model is the best possible for a church, if executed properly.

For the church, new leadership isn't a major departure, and no energy is spent on a new search, transition to an interim pastor or establishment of new leadership.

To succeed, said Green, incoming and outgoing pastors must see the church as much larger than themselves, clearly express roles in transition and be above pettiness. He thinks the two Eastview leaders achieved this.

In short, he said, they possess the requisite humility.

"That is a real key to it," said Green, who has known York since college and who is a cousin by marriage. "In the leadership circles, it's called servant leadership."

In the community at large, York was known for defending evangelical positions on social issues. But his ministry has meant more than talking about homosexuality as a sin.

His eyes light up and his throat tightens a bit when he reports that 200 families use the church food pantry and that the Christmas outreach involved 1,200 boxes of food, 2,200 gifts for children and the donation of 1,500 new coats. That's not good enough by York's measure. Alleviating physical suffering, devoid of Christian teaching, is empty to him. The crescendo of the Christmas season, he continued, was 96 baptisms at the Christmas Eve service.

York gets even more charged up by topics that might draw yawns elsewhere - stuff about leadership characteristics and a study called the "Elephant in the Board Room." Ideas on leadership types put a jolt into him as he leaves his bed at 5 a.m.

In his own case, he believes the Holy Spirit imbued him with leadership, though he was a little bashful and not very academically inclined.

On his first anniversary at Eastview, he led a push to get 1,000 people to church for the weekend - and then started making that number the goal for every week.

Eastview leadership gained his increasing interest even as retirement neared. In 1999 and 2000, the staff and elders hired Peoria-based Randy Richards to consult on how to make the staff and board work together better. York said he and Eastview office administrator John Martin loved the results and befriended Richards, leading to the partnership.

Their Center for Leadership Excellence has a half-dozen clients and now has a full-time principal in York and a new name, Logicboard. The other two principals still have second jobs but intend to join full-time upon retirement, he said.

Here's the stated premise: Among 1.4 million U.S. not-for-profits, plus churches, private colleges and companies, selected board members tend to be managers by profession. Few companies train board members, who need to learn a different role. Logicboard teaches board members how to be fiscal managers who hold executives accountable without meddling in daily management affairs. Board members should be macro-managers with "visionary leadership."

York, Martin and Richards enacted the model while board of trustees members at Lincoln Christian College and Seminary, where Martin and York remain trustees.

York cannot foresee how big Logicboard will become. Being a semi-introvert who grew up to head a mega-church, York knows better than to set limits on his next undertaking.

At church, Gary and wife Janet will remain active in a small group - 80 percent of Eastview adults belong to one - and York anticipates being involved in service of some kind. Maybe, he said, he'll join Janet as a greeter at the door.

If Baker asks for advice, he'll give it privately, York said. He added that if he thinks Baker is making a mistake, he'll probably let him make it.

And if Baker's message or policies at Eastview somehow put him at odds with church member York? York said he'd go talk to Baker. Baker's the senior pastor now.


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