Building People of Substance for Works of Power
This past February, I stepped out of the Senior Pastor’s role in our church. It was my fourth pastorate and third time to be part of a start-up. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to talk to, observe, and try to encourage several others who are in the “transition” phase of life and ministry. The generation of “Word of Faith” fanatics who came charging out of the ’70s and ’80s is getting quite grey around the temples. Some have a plan for the future, many do not. This has given me a chance to make some new observations about ministry and the process of passing the baton. Let me share just a few:
- We have gotten quite religious around the concept of vision. I love Habakkuk 2 as much as the next guy, but we have built a whole “vison” industry on some pretty shaky exegesis of 2 verses. (Habakkuk’s vision was of judgment on a nation, not how to build a nice American church.) However, whether we choose to call it vision, mission, mandate, assignment, purpose, or whatever, it is important to remember what God told you to do. You really should have it written down somewhere.
- Another tortured verse on vision is in Acts 26:19 where Paul said, “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” He’s referring to seeing Jesus on the Damascus road. Jesus was the heavenly vision, and Paul was obedient to what the Lord told him to do. That’s the point: what did the Lord tell you to do?
- When transition time comes, take a minute (or a month) to ask, “Have I completed my assignment, is the purpose of the ministry ongoing, and should it continue without me?” It’s possible that not every church or ministry is supposed to outlive its founder. Gideon was assigned to deliver Israel from the Midianites. He got ‘er done and pretty much sat down. (Judges 6:14 / 8:28) Get out that yellowed piece of paper where you wrote it down in the beginning and see what He actually said. (Or for you fellas, ask your wife.)
- It’s OK to hand off the baton even if you haven’t done everything the Lord spoke to you about. Most of the great “visions” of Scripture were completed by ensuing generations. Moses didn’t get Israel to Canaan, Joshua did. (Deuteronomy 3:28) Elijah didn’t anoint Hazael and Jehu, Elisha did. (1 Kings 19:15-16) You get the point. It’s not really all hanging on you. The question is if the vision is ongoing, am I preparing someone to carry it forward?
- On that same note, “your” vision isn’t yours. It’s God’s. You just record, proclaim and follow instructions. The vision fulfills itself right on time. We love to read Habakkuk 2:2, but we glaze over at verse 3. Notice who does all the heavy lifting: The vision has an appointed time (by God, not you), it will speak, it won’t lie, and it will not tarry. It, not I! Quit trying to figure out how to make it happen. I am labor, He is management. the Word He speaks has power in itself to fulfill itself.
- On the flip side, I am startled at the number of pastors who can’t tell me why their church exists. What’s the vision (or whatever you call it)? At the very least, revisit your own calling and remember why you exist and be sure you keep doing that. For me, the church vision and my personal calling have always been two separate but complementary things. The church is now in the hands of others. My calling continues until Jesus toots the horn. He is able to handle both with ease.
Somebody Said: “When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.” Wayne Dyer
Scripture Reading If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed. Proverbs 29:18 MSG
Here’s the Point: It‘s really hard to divorce your ego from something you have invested your life in; almost impossible, really. Drawing personal worth from natural measures of success is normal. It’s just not godly. The church is not mine, it’s His. The vision is not mine, it’s His. The results are not mine, they’re His. I’m not mine, I’m His. The only measure of success is, “Have I done what I believed He was telling me to do and given a reasonable effort?” (Notice, I can’t even claim to have always done my best. Sometimes I was just too tired.) As preachers, we often extend grace to others well past reason, then beat ourselves unmercifully. Most of us qualify as successful. Cut yourself some slack. God’s got this.