Leadership, Transitions

Our Time Is Now!

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Every person and organization goes through a period of transition. We are facing one in the organization I serve.  As part of that pending transition, I have been nominated as one of three candidates to lead the next chapter in our district’s story.  What is different about our election process is that it is nothing like the last presidential campaign, thank goodness.  There may be a temptation to go out and campaign and gather a following.   We don’t get to design yard signs and cool campaign buttons. Nor do we come up with catchy campaign slogans like, “In your Heart, you Know he’s Right.” – Barry Goldwater.  Or Jimmy Carter’s, “Not just Peanuts.”

But that is not how our process works. It is not about catchy slogans or impossible promises of prosperity, nor is it a popularity contest.

Like a congregation calling its next Shepherd, it is a process bathed in prayer.  Prayer by the nominees asking for God’s will and the insight to discover His direction for His Church.  Prayer by the congregations seeking God’s will in determining His choice to shepherd our district.  The only thing that resembles the presidential campaign is that in March votes will be cast and a nominee will be elected.  It is not about shifting power from one side of our divided church body so that one gains an upper hand because it is not our church anyway, it’s God’s.  It is a time of spiritual discernment.  We have five months to spend time in prayer and seek God’s will for this little corner of His kingdom.  While our future leader is uncertain, it is secure, because God is directing it.

It is a time to celebrate what God has done while we look to the future.

Our leader, President Dan P. Gilbert will complete his time of service, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the grassroots missional movement that God has started under his leadership. However, as the old saying goes, “All good things come to an end.” With that transition comes uncertainty.

Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion applies well here: “Everything continues in a state of rest unless it is compelled to change by forces impressed upon it.”

Our district has had twelve years of steady and consistent leadership.  With this pending change, we could be feeling this law in very uncomfortable ways right now. The world around the church is changing at a rapid pace, and it is pressing hard on the church. Those forces have the body of Christ on edge and trying to decide what direction to go next. When a transition is forced upon you there are two natural roads to choose:

1) Cautious and fearful:

hunker down in the bunker and wait for the threat to go away or get tired of fighting.

Or

2) Confident and hopeful:

adapt and come up with a big, bold new approach to address the changes that the organization needs to take.

The church needs to find an improved way to do things to better connect with the society around them that has no intention of just going away. Over the next few weeks, I will share my observations about what the church can do to adapt. The message remains the same, but the approach and delivery system for that word can and does need to adjust.

Bunker Thinking

On June 4, 1783, at the market square of a French village of Annonay, not far from Paris, a smoky bonfire on a raised platform was fed by wet straw and old wool rages. Tethered above, straining its lines, was a balloon 33 feet in diameter. In the presence of “a respectable assembly and a great many other people,” and accompanied by great cheering, the aircraft was cut from its moorings and set free to rise majestically into the noon sky. Six thousand feet into the air it went — the first public ascent of a balloon, the first step in the history of human flight. It came to earth several miles away in a field, where it was promptly attacked by pitchfork-waving peasants and torn to pieces as an instrument of evil! – Today in the Word, July 15, 1993.

This story above illustrates just how hard it is for people to accept things that are new and foreign to them. I often get the sense this is where the church is today. We see the world around us changing, and we want to get sticks and attack the strange new things we see around us and label them as an “instruments of evil.” Now while there is plenty of stuff to be concerned about, everything is not evil. What makes things evil is the way they are used. Hiding in a bunker does not address the real issue.  It may make you feel safe, but the threat is still there, and the danger is real.

The church is threatened by the changes happening all around it. The church and mainline denominations are unsure how to relate to society in this strange new post-Christian world. One popular option is just to have a “this too shall pass” approach to the changes. “If we just wait this out, we will be ok.” If we just cut ministry down to the barebones and ration out the gifts of God, we can weather the storm. Is that really what God called us to do? Or does Jesus point us to trust in Him for the needs of tomorrow? Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on? Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Matthew 6:25ff

 God did not give us a Spirit of Timidity

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time…” 2 Timothy 1:7-9

Transitions are scary.  They create anxiety.  These times cause us to want to run and retreat, but God calls the Church to be bold in its witness to the world. We hold the keys to the kingdom. We don’t face the threats and uncertainty of tomorrow alone, we have behind us the power of Almighty God. Now is the time for church leaders to lead our people into the mission field which is right at the doors of our churches. It is time for the church to love those who are broken right outside our walls. It is time for the church to be bold in its witness, and hopeful in regards to carrying out the mission God has entrusted to His people.  We should be energized by the challenge ahead because the world has never needed the church more than now.   At the same time, we are uncompromising in the purity of our confessions because that is the foundation of the life-saving message of Jesus Christ.  The world is ripe for the harvest.

 

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Leadership, Transitions

Three Steps to Lessen the Pain of Change

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“Any change, at any time, for any reason, is to be deplored.” The Duke of Cambridge (late 1800s)

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians passed on from generation to generation, says that when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. Our modern bureaucrats, however, have a whole range of far more advanced strategies such as: Buying a stronger whip. Finding lighter riders. Harnessing several dead horses together to improve performance. Arranging an overseas visit to study dead horses. Reclassifying the horse as living impaired. Rewriting the performance requirements for dead horses. Providing additional funding to improve the performance of dead horses. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position. What a shame when churches behave like that! – “How to Flog a Dead Horse.” Author Unknown.

Change for churches is problematic.  When considering any change, you want to be prepared for the opposition, even flat out hostility and insurrection.  One solution to overcoming change is to invest more time and energy into strengthening relationships during the period of the transition. For any organization, stakeholders would soon fix a dead horse than admit the horse is living impaired and it is time to replace the old horse.  The old horse is comfortable. Stakeholders have become attached to the old mare.  Yes, it may not work like it used to or at all but dang nab, it is our dead horse. The goal of this post is to help you minimize the pain of change in your organization.

 

Lesson One: Circumstances will get sicker before they get better

First, know that any change to an organization is like death for many impacted by the change. No matter how well you try and prepare people with realistic expectations, major change means that life for the group will be different.  Even if you have planned for all the possible bumps in the transition road things will get worse before they get better.  During this transition, you will lose some of your best and most dedicated people.  You will fray friendships and strain relations.   This change will cost you, but do it because it’s an investment in the health and effectiveness of your organization.  Nothing worth doing is ever easy, it comes at a high cost, with the potential for high rewards.

Lesson Two: Change will require buy-in by the entire ministry team.

With my first congregation, I came out of Seminary with guns a blazing.  I was young, energetic and a visionary.   In the last six months I had prayed, studied, done research and I knew without a doubt just what direction this urban church needed to go.  So, at the council meeting, I laid out this bold new agenda.  And it went over like a black, lead balloon.  I forgot one critical step in the vision implantation process, I expected this change to happen but failed to gain buy-in by my volunteer ministry team.  Unless you like being the Lone Ranger any change requires collaboration from the entire ministry team. If all stakeholders aren’t in, they will either become disengaged or undermine the preferred future you are leading the organization to.  It is possible that you can effectively change some ministry programs without this buy-in, but the change will not be a lasting one. In three years the organization will be in the same place, however, the leader may not be. Frustrations will grow and any future changes will be more difficult as the trust in the leadership would have eroded.  Start with the end in mind. Lock arms with your ministry team and plan for the long change road ahead together. Transition begins with building deep trust with all stakeholders. Guard relationships during this phase.

 

Lesson Three: To Make Lasting Change you must change the Culture.

Thomas W. Lloyd said, “Culture beats strategy.” Some attribute the quote “Culture eats strategy for dinner,” to Peter Drucker, but experts say that doesn’t sound like Peter Drucker. None-the- less the point of both quotes is that if you don’t address the culture of the organization, nothing you attempt will survive.  Culture will always win in the end. Changing culture takes at least three to five years.  Leaders, you are the primary culture creators by the values you hold, the stories you lift up, and the behaviors you model. When attempting to change the culture there may not be much fruit for at least 18-24 months.  Hang in there.  It may take at least three to four years before you uncover lasting fruit.  Once culture change occurs you will experience transformed programs, a revitalized organization, and people with a clearly defined sense of purpose. All in all the change is worth it.

Congregational Life and Ministry, Transitions

Three Critical​ Steps In Leading Organizational Transitions

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Life is about transitions.  Whether that transition is from diapers to walking, from High School to college, or more life altering from dependence to independence. And the final crossing over, from death to life.  Each evolution comes with a certain uncertainty and fear. Leaders in those moments of change face a test of their leadership skills.  Your leadership range is measured by your ability to empower and equip others for the next horizon, the next chapter of the organizations’ story.

I remember years ago witnessing a leadership meltdown.  The elected leader was now in control of a large million-dollar non-profit organization.  As the new head got into office, he discovered that the former chief financial officer used some creative accounting practices to balance the books.  While the practices weren’t illegal it gave the impression that the organization was healthy.  It wasn’t, it was hemorrhaging money and had been for years.  The new CEO discovered this right before his first meeting with the stakeholders.  As I recall that meeting, the CEO had this awkward deer-in-the-headlight look about him.  He appeared overwhelmed by the situation in his first six months of leadership.  He overacted.  He panicked and fired executive staff who had nothing to do with the current or previous financial situation.

It was a turning point for the new CEO and the organization.  It sent a clear message ‘we are doing something’, but are we doing the right something?  Here is the message being sent.  “We are cutting services while demanding a higher level of commitment from our customers.” Situations like that will challenge organizations to find a resolution.  A crisis will occur in every organization’s life cycle however, leaders need to be clear about desired outcomes and the company’s mission. In this post, the question is, how do you prepare your organization for the next chapter of its journey?  From the real-life story above that did not happen.  That transition was not smooth or even well thought out.

There are three keys was to ensure you as a leader help pilot your people into the next chapter.

  1. Focus on Building Character

9 While they were crossing, Elijah asked Elisha, “What should I do for you before I’m taken from you?” Elisha answered, “Let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” 10 Elijah said, “You have asked for something difficult. If you see me taken from you, it will be yours. Otherwise, it will not.” 11 As they continued walking and talking, a fiery chariot with fiery horses separated the two of them, and Elijah went to heaven in a windstorm. 2 Kings 2:9–11 (GW)

Elijah’s career ends when the prophet was picked up by a Holy Uber transport. Elijah is taken away in a windstorm accompanied by a fiery chariot.   Before Elijah takes this final ride, Elisha, who had refused on three separate occasions to leave his side, saying, “I solemnly swear, as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not abandon you.” Now he requests a double portion of his spirit.  Elijah basically responds that is not mine to give, but it will be if Elisha sees him as he is taken up.  Elisha watches him until he disappears, and then tears his clothes in two and takes up Elijah’s mantle. And the mantle is passed from one great prophet to another.  Often, there is a major drop-off in the quality in the succession.  It has little to do with abilities but more so character.  Solomon had greater wisdom than his father David but he lacked the king’s character.  One of the key roles a transitioning leader plays in championing the next horizon is to find staff with high character.  Before you turn over the reign and empower the next group of leaders, make sure you are building character in your organization.

  1. Build Character through relationships

Think ahead to your next question, and how exactly do you build character?  You build character through relationships.

6 Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here because the Lord is sending me to the Jordan River.” Elisha answered, “I solemnly swear, as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not abandon you.” 7 Fifty disciples of the prophets stood at a distance as Elijah and Elisha stood by the Jordan River. 2 Kings 2:6-7 (GW)

Bible scholars believe that Elisha served Elijah for six years before Elijah was ushered into heaven. During this time, a test of the strength of their relationship was placed before Elisha. It is apparent that due to his age Elijah’s final journey was near. Elijah three times told Elisha to stay behind, but each time his successor refused to leave his side. While others were watching from a distance, Elisha wanted a close-up and personal view of what God would do in Elijah’s life.  Elisha was rewarded for his perseverance with a double portion of Elijah’s spirit.  The character of Elisha was formed through that six-year relationship.  Relationships like this take time.  Character formation then takes time.

  1. Have the right outcomes.

Finally, to help shape the next chapter in your organization you need to focus on the right outcomes.  Are my settings of the outcomes God-directed and kingdom oriented? One important lesson I learned early in ministry is that you don’t control people you control outcomes.  Trying to control people is pointless and frustrating.  Your goal in ministry is to create shared ownership of the vision and mission that will lead to the kingdom expansion many of us are seeking.  To be clear I am not talking about numeric growth, the Holy Spirit controls that outcome.  However, if you expand the number of people who are involved in carrying out the mission and vision you will expand the reach and impact of the ministry.

Transitions are hard to manage but I pray these three steps give you the tools to make that transition a little smoother.

Devotional Message, Psalm 23, Transitions

Are the Needs of the One Greater Than the Needs of the Many?

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“He brings me back.” Psalm 23:3

 The Camden, Maine Herald ran two photos on the same page: one of Camden’s board of selectmen and town manager; the other of a flock of sheep. Unintentionally the captions were reversed. Under the picture of the sheep the caption identified them, left to right, as town officials; the one under the photo of the city fathers grouped around a table read, “The Sheep Fold—naive and vulnerable, they huddle for security against the uncertainties of the outside world.” —Down-East[1]

Shepherds in the Holy Land, when asked to describe how sheep operate, have said that once a sheep knows that it is lost, it tries to hide under a bush or rock and begins quivering and bleating. The shepherd must locate it quickly lest it is heard and killed by a wild animal.

The psalmist, King David, provides some insight here to one of Jesus’ most popular yet misunderstood parables.  The parable is of the lost sheep.  It will add to our study of the Good Shepherd.  One thing about the parable that is often most misunderstood is, why would the shepherd leave the 99 to go after the one?  Isn’t bad stewardship?  Do we just count that as collateral damage?  If you struggle with this logic, you are thinking like a human and not like the divine.

The Background of the Text

Jesus is addressing this set of three parables to the self-righteous Pharisees, who believe they are so right with the Ancient of Days that they have no need for a savior.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

So, he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 1

Why Does the One Matter?

Here is where the next and most important lesson about sheep comes in to explain Jesus’ odd mathematical calculations.  Once a sheep is lost it becomes so traumatized that it is unable to walk and must be carried back to the flock or the village. Unaided, the lost sheep cannot find its way home and will most certainly become the victim of a predator.   That is the same fact that awaits the sinner who is lost and outside God’s sheepfold.  He/she cries out to be found.  The sheep may not even realize it is crying out, but the Good Shepherd hears that plea for help.  He sees it in the choices the sheep is making.  The shepherd hears it in the prayers of desperation that are prayed in their hour of deepest need.  And just like actual sheep, the lost soul’s only hope is the Good Shepherd who will come after us and hopefully find us, pick us up and carry us back to safety.  There are two critical actions the shepherd must take.

The shepherd must come after the lost sheep, which in itself is a costly endeavor for the Good Shepherd to come rescue it.  The Good Shepherd has to lay down His life on Calvary’s cross and then three days later pick up that life again.  He does this because a price must be paid by the shepherd to restore the lost sheep to the flock.  That is why when any lost sheep is restored there is rejoicing in heaven, because the cost for each sheep is precious.  God desires all lost sheep be restored.  That is just how valuable the sheep are to the Good Shepherd.  Now you see why Jesus will drop everything to go after the one.  The one matters to God.

[1] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (pp. 1533–1534). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.

 

Other posts on Psalm 23.

https://revheadpin.org/2017/05/18/do-you-know-any-shepherds

https://revheadpin.org/2017/05/25/still-waters-runs-deep/

https://revheadpin.org/2017/06/07/how-to-navigate-the-valley-of-death

 

Congregational Life and Ministry, Transitions

Do You Have the Support System to Change?

lightstock_184709_small_byrene_haneyA little boy told his mother, “I’d rather have a million friends than a million dollars.”   “Why?” his mother asked.   “Well, I figure if I get into trouble, they ought to be able to pitch in at least a dollar apiece to help me!” -Kent Crockett’s Sermon Illustrations

You need to learn to appreciate the wisdom of children. When people desire to undertake a major change in their lives, you need three key ingredients.  So far we have covered the first two in the previous posts.

You need to have:

1)    The desire to change.     

Sometimes what facilitates the change event is a negative motivation.  It could be a health diagnosis or a catastrophic event.  But whatever it is, usually rocks your world.

2)    The courage to change.

Once you are properly motivated to change, now comes the critical next step of taking that leap of faith.  You can walk right up to the edge of the modification cliff and fear will prevent you from ever jumping.  Fear of failure or even worst fear of success can stop that change dead in its tracks.

3)    The support system to change.

No matter how good your intentions and how motivated you are, you can’t do this alone, you need others to encourage and support you.  Even if you don’t believe this, God realized this early on in creation.  Back in Genesis 2:18 “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”  Here is how one women put it.  God created man and realize immediately he needed help, so he created woman.

The most significant benefits a healthy support system provides for you in the change process are:

Prayer

Before you undertake any modification in your life you need to bathe that change in prayer.  Find out God’s will for you in this process.  And encourage your support system also to pray for you.  Before I embarked on this new writing endeavor to do a Bible Study on “Healing Race in America.” (A quite ambitious title and task I might add.) I called upon a small group of people and asked them to pray for me.  Pray that I would not lose heart.   I ask my prayer warriors to pray that I would not lose courage, yet remain grounded.  I know what temptations Satan would put up.  So, I wanted a trusted group of prayer warriors bathing me and the writing in prayer.

Encouragement

I also asked a different set of supporters to be there to encourage me.  There will be moments when I hit a writing wall, and I need to push through those moments.  I know that for me when someone tells me the task is impossible I love to prove people wrong.  I have people who are there ready to provide a holy kick in the pants when I prepare to quit.  And a pat on the back when I need that.  These are people (my wife, Miriam and a dear friend Kevin) who know me as well as I am know myself.  They know what motivates me and what demotivates me.  They are my heroes.

Champions

You also need people who will be your champions.  That no matter what happens they are there for you.  They are there when you hit a wall.  When you get rejected and when you fall short of your goals.  No matter what happens, they point you back to God and help pick you off the floor.  Through good or bad, thick or thin your champions have this unwavering confidence in you.    While most change is not easy nor pleasant, it is often necessary.  I will leave you with these words of wisdom.

“There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse; as I have found in traveling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position and be bruised in a new place.”  Washington Irving G. Collins, The Magnificent Mind

Other posts in this series:
https://revheadpin.org/2016/09/29/do-you-have-the-desire-to-change/
https://revheadpin.org/2016/10/06/do-you-have-the-courage-to-change

Transitions

Do You Have the Courage to Change?

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“Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.” Thomas a’Kempis.

I am completely okay with change. But there are some conditions I need to add to that statement. I am ok with change so long as the change does not take me out of my comfort zone, that change is not going to impact my life in any way. This shift cannot demand me to have to be bold or courageous. And finally, the change cannot create any anxiety in my spirit. If you can promise me all those things, then go full steam ahead with your disruption in the universe.

I find it interesting that so many who are critical of others who resist change. But place the options in front of them and their attitude changes. Why is that? Why is change so hard for us to adapt to? It could be that most change initiatives fail. DeAnne Aguirre, a change expert, says that fifty-four percent (54%) of all change initiatives fail. With that “great” rate of success, we feel defeated even before we go down the change road. Today I hope to help you find the tools needed and the courage required to achieve success.

My natural inclination is to give you some tried and true business principals. Figuring that will assist you to making those necessary changes. But as I sat here at the keyboard what hit me was a verse from Jesus. It is found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

In Luke, it reads, “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9:23-24

Where Does the Courage to Change Originate?

Why did this verse hit me? It is possible that no change in your life will be more complicated that changing your entire mindset about God’s mission. Jesus has just explained to his disciples that he was going to, in his words,“…suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” What a kick in the gut for his followers. What kind of leader goes out and gets himself killed? Who wants a leader who displays weakness as opposed to strength? That was a titanic shift in thinking. But Jesus did not stop there. He now goes further and requires His followers also to embrace weakness. “Take up your cross. Give up your life.”

In other words, “Are you willing to put to death your wants and your desires?” Are you man or woman enough to take up this challenge? Do you have the courage to change? To be able to make any significant change in your life you have to put to death some old habits. You have to willing to kill that thing in your life that holding you back. It takes strength that is outside of our being. If it were easy, you would already have accomplished that change you are seeking to make. So, something to think about, do you have the courage to embrace weakness? Are you ready to let go of whatever it is that is holding you back? Because only by being willing to lose your life will ever be able to save it. And here is a bit of comfort for you, you don’t take this journey alone. The Son of God is there with you every step of the way. Let go.

Other posts in this series:

https://revheadpin.org/2016/09/29/do-you-have-the-desire-to-change/

https://revheadpin.org/2016/10/18/do-you-have-the-support-system-to-change/

 

Transitions

Do You Have the Desire to Change?

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“Some people will change when they see the light. Others change only when they feel the heat.” Unknown.

When I hear the word change I break into a cold sweat; my heart begins to race, and my anxiety level hits code red.  Nothing inside of me has any desire to do anything differently than what I am comfortable undertaking.   Change implies that whatever I am doing now needs to go through a radical redirect.  What part of that sounds like fun?  I like consistency; I love the status quo.  The status quo is comfortable.  It is familiar.  The status quo is maybe outdated. Possibly no longer relevant, and may not even be working but to be honest, I am ok with that.  Change is scary.  Change is unpredictable.  Change is often painful.  Change requires lots of work. Why do you think I look more like Kung Fu Panda than Terry Crews?

This series on change will lay out for you a simple, three-step process needed to make a change in your life.  To be honest the steps are simple the change is not.  So here we go.

To change you need to have to answer three fundamental questions.  Over the course of the next month, this series I pray will empower you to make whatever change God is placing on your heart.

  1. Do you have the desire to change?

About two years ago I went in for my regular health check-up.  The doctor runs the blood work, and usually, the numbers were somewhere in normal range.  Not this year.  The numbers came back that I was a Type-2 Diabetic.  That hit me like a ton of bricks.  I knew that life would never be the same.  I know people who have lost limbs and died horribly from this disease.  I was devastated.  I told my wife the results and God bless her she went into research mode.  And she discovered that there was a way to treat this without medication, but here is the kicker it would require a radical lifestyle change.  I went back to the doctor armed with this new found knowledge.  He said, “Yes this is a possible solution, but you would need a ‘Biggest Loser’ type lifestyle change. Nothing in your past says that is possible.”  Wow, what a kick in the gut.  One thing my doctor didn’t know about me was I thrive, even excel, when people tell me it is impossible.

I now had the desire to change.  I went into deep change mode.  Changed my eating habits and found some friends to compete with for weight loss.  One of my top strengths is competition.  And through the power of God working through my beautiful wife and great friends.  I lost 75 pounds and got numbers in range.  When I went back for a follow-up with my doctor, he said, “not only are your numbers lower but you are not at pre-diabetic levels,” they were somewhere in normal range.

Diabetes was a negative motivator.  But there can also be positive reasons that will motivate you to change.  You could find something in life that speaks to your soul in such a way that you would make the tough choices necessary to make that dream a reality.

Don’t be this guy when it comes to change.

Openness is essentially the willingness to grow, a distaste for ruts, eagerly standing on tiptoe for a better view of what tomorrow brings.

A man once bought a new radio, brought it home, placed it on the refrigerator, plugged it in, turned it to WSM in Nashville (home of the Grand Ole Opry), and then pulled all the knobs off! He had already tuned in all he ever wanted or expected to hear. Some marriages are “rutted” and rather dreary because either or both partners have yielded to the rutted” and rather gloomy because either or both partners have to change.” Homemade

Whatever direction you choose, realize that there are moments in time that you will need to make a change.  You need to find that inner strength to make those changes.  My inner strength is grounded on my faith in the might and power of God. The changes I need to make in life are far beyond my ability and power, but nothing is impossible for my God. He had the capacity to turn a heart from Him to one wholly committed to Him.

Other posts in the series:
https://revheadpin.org/2016/11/22/do-you-have-the-character-to-lead
https://revheadpin.org/2016/10/18/do-you-have-the-support-system-to-change

Transitions

How to Effectively Orchestrate a Pastoral Transition

 

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I have this dream of serving a group of saints in a congregation, retiring there, celebrating with them at a big, tearful farewell party and then sticking around to help mentor the young, talented, man of God who follows me. It is a great dream, a well-intentioned dream. There is only one problem, sin gets in the way. It is vital to understand that this dream of making a good transition from being the current pastor to a retired one, breaks down because sin interferes in two critical ways: through pride and legacy.

Pride

The writer of Proverbs shares these words of wisdom for us, “The empty-headed cause conflict out of pride; those who take advice are wise.” The reason pride gets in the way of a smooth transition is obvious in this illustration. As a retiring pastor, I have by the grace of God figured out just how to lead this group of saints. We have had many holy and some unholy battles over the years, but through it all, we have developed a routine, a rhythm that works well. Our relationship has stood the test of time and we know what we have developed works.

At this point in our history, no one is challenging the wisdom of what we have developed, no one has tried to change it until this new young, talented man of God comes along. Now he has all kinds of new-fangled ideas. He bounces in with his new gadgets and begins asking uncomfortable questions that undermine all the things the previous pastor has battled to put into place. “Hey, maybe we should try this?  Or have you thought about why you do things that way instead of like this?” Doesn’t he realize the former pastor is feeling threatened by all this change?

Pride has now messed up my dream of being a blessing, now I am in danger of becoming a burden. How I handle this perceived threat will determine which of those two paths I travel down. If I as a former shepherd entertain all the members who come to me with complaints and give those complaints a fertile ground to grow and flourish, I am becoming a burden and sin has a foothold. On the other hand, if I support this young, talented man of God and speak well of him, support him, then I can be a blessing to help make his difficult transition smoother.

Legacy

We all have a need to be loved, respected and remembered. Now that we are no longer “the guy” we miss those words of affirmation, the interactions, the energy we got from our members. It is hard to sit back and watch these accolades being showered on a younger man of God, talented in different areas. The key question for the retiring pastor and congregation to find a solution to is: “How do the pastor and congregation replace what gifts and abilities the retiring pastor provided in such a way that it does not stunt the growth and development of the new shepherd?” It will require the ability to have honest conversations and willingness for the former pastor to move on if necessary. I know the retiring pastor wants to help, wants to be a blessing, wants to maintain the long relationships that have been forged over time, but staying could prevent the new shepherd from forming some of those same relationships the retiring pastor has grown to love and cherish.

This post is not designed to create hurt or push out a former pastor, but to bring awareness to the growing concern I see in congregations. Think of the situation this way. When you buy a house you don’t keep pictures up of the previous family that lived there. You don’t keep their traditions, celebrate their family’s birthdays, or even their choice of color patterns. You want to put your own unique touches on the house, make new family traditions and memories. When the house reaches the end of its life cycle it can tell a story of not just your family’s small moment in time there, but instead, paint a rich mosaic of several generations of families and celebrate a variety of traditions, births, deaths, disappointments, and mistakes, but ultimately point to the love that flowed through its walls. Should we expect any less from the Houses that God build? Shouldn’t they also reflect the many different traditions, shepherds, and congregants who had to figure out the ministry for that time and community, in order to uniquely proclaim God’s love to groups still outside of God’s grace? We are not building a legacy for ourselves, but a house for generations to come.
Legacy

Transitions

Minimizing the Effects Of The Shrapnel

 

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In a magazine for pastors [Pulpit Helps, August 1997] one fellow had written one of those “you know you’re in trouble when …” types of lists. This one is, of course, addressed to preachers and is called “So Long, Pastor You Know It’s Over When…”

  • You return from vacation to find the visiting preacher’s name on your mailbox.
  • Your church is about to split, and neither group wants you.
  • Shut-ins pull the window shades and pretend they aren’t home when you come for a visit.
  • Your mom moves her membership to another church.
  • You’re told God is calling you to the mission field — now.
  • You’re cast as the donkey in the Christmas cantata.
  • Your wife moves her membership to another church.
  • The trustees have been marching around your house the last six days praying and carrying lanterns.
  • Your secretary starts sending out your résumé.
  • The congregation forces the members of the pulpit committee to wear sackcloth and make a public confession and repentance.
  • Church members started referring to you in the past tense.
  • You show up at the church on Monday morning to discover the locks have been changed.
  • As a person who now works with many churches, I get to see far too many explosions.  What happens when a church calls a pastor to serve as their new Shepherd, but he is the wrong man at that point in the congregation’s history?  Here is a scenario that you may be able to identify with.

Why Do Things Blow Up?

Congregations who are facing a crossroad in their ministry need to be cautious.  Leaders usually are gifted with the ability to see things others don’t yet.  While that is a huge blessing it can also create the elements for the pending explosion.

  • Leaders see that the congregation needs to change the status quo, but for the people in the pew, the status quo brings comfort and safety.
  • Leaders see that the congregation needs a new leader with a fresh vision, but people who fund the ministry want a clone of the pastor who just retired unless they hated the previous guy then they want someone just the opposite of him.
  • Leaders want to make huge change quickly, the regular attendees, who may have no idea what is really happening in the church, in response view change in this manner, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!”

Avoid the Explosion.

The warning for leaders in a pastoral vacancy is to clearly assess how open the congregation is changing.  Before you decide if the church is ready for a major change in direction, consider this:

Where are the majority of your members on the “openness to change scale”? To make a huge shift in direction without understanding where the majority of their members are can be dangerous.  So the results could look like this: the leadership calls a phenomenal man of God.  The leaders cheer him on, empower him, and encourage him to go full throttle making radical changes all the while, not realizing that the very changes they are seeking are too far ahead of the majority of the population.  So, at some point, you reach a critical mass and then the explosion.

When push comes to shove, the leadership tends to take the road of least resistance. When they begin to field calls from disgruntled and angry members who blame them for the disaster that ensued, the leaders abandon the change they were seeking.  The pastor who was called to lead this change is now looking for a call wondering what happened.  Right idea, but moving too quickly, a ministry is laid waste, shrapnel is all-around.

You can minimize this by clearly reading the congregation.  Pray for discernment in the call process that God sends a man with the heart to build a relationship in the middle of change.  Finally, remember all change is hard, so be compassionate.

On deck tomorrow the next in a series of blogs on Generation Z.  This one is discussing how to communicate with a generation of teens that grew up able to send a text before they could write the alphabet.