Transition

transitionssmallSome of the photos I take and some, like the one pictured, I both create and take. To create this photo I first printed the word “transition” on a piece of paper, then placed it underneath a clear pyrex baking container. I then covered the bottom of the container with water and added a drop of green food dye on one side and a drop of blue food die on the other. I swirled it about and took the picture. The transition from green to blue illustrates the meaning of the big bold word TRANSITION.

I designed and took this picture because I have the concept of transition on my mind. Anyone wonder why? Diann and I are going through one of the bigger times of transition in our lives. This weekend will be my last sermon as pastor at Mayfair-Plymouth. We’ve sold our home in Michigan and have purchased a home in Florida (talk about change!). We’re retiring, so that involves it’s own kind of transition. We’re changing banks, getting new driver’s licenses, and a multitude of other changes that go with moving to a new area of the country. Then too, I’ve given away my flock of chickens, a hobby I’ve had for some thirty-five years.

The Mayfair-Plymouth Church family is facing this transition too (not the giving up the chickens part, you know what I mean). Actually, transition is a part of all of our lives. We’re always moving from green to blue, or from blue to green in one or more areas in life. Health issues that come up bring into play a transition to a different way of living each day. Financial changes, job changes, relationship changes, and many other changes move us into a transition, like it or not.

As I face my own transitions I hold fast to two great truths. I commend them to you in your transitions as well.

First, God has a plan. We don’t see the future clearly, but God does. As has often been said, we may not know what the future holds but we can know the One who holds the future. Nothing catches God by surprise and so He has a plan!

Second, God never changes. He is never in transition. He will never transition into a God who is less loving and helpful, for He can’t be less than He is. He can’t transition into a God who is better in some way for He is the very best in all ways! We can count on Him. God never gets up on the wrong side of the bed (for one reason, He never sleeps!), He doesn’t give in to a bad mood, He doesn’t grow tired or weary. God is rock solid! We can count on Him, depend on Him, stand upon Him. Our lives are always transitioning into something different but God always stays the same. I find great comfort in that fact!

“For who is God beside the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God?” (2 Samuel 22:32)

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Keepers of Dreams and Visions

transitionIn less than one month my transition out of pastoral ministry will take place. I’ll conclude my one and only pastorate having entered my 40th year of ministry among the people of Mayfair-Plymouth Church. Joe will be taking over. I’ll pass the baton to him, literally, as in the accompanying photo.

We have been in a process of intentional transition for nearly a year and a half. In this final stage I’m sensing something strange happening to me. I no longer have a dream or vision for the church. The Great Shepherd apparently is already transferring those dreams and visions over to the new under shepherd, Joe. This is good, the way it should be.

Dreams and visions for a church are crucial to a pastor. A church may have a variety of lay leadership that exercises one degree of authority or another, depending on the church governance, but the pastor should be the key vision holder, the keeper of the dreams. Yes, lay leadership and other staff need dreams and visions too, but no one should have them more than the senior or lead pastor.

Pastors, however, can get so busy in doing the day-to-day, in dealing with disagreements, conflicts and the issues of the congregation that there’s significant drift from the goal, seing the purpose of it all, keeping the destination in view. How do we as pastors nurture dreams and visions? As I look back, here are some key elements that helped me.

Keep close to Jesus – jealously guard a personal time with Him where it’s not prayer about your work but about Him and you.

Read – always be reading a book that’s NOT on church growth, church health, church administration, church vision, church anything.

Fellowship – have regular times when you meet with one or more other pastors where you share from your heart, pray for each other, and hold each other accountable. I’ve been in such a group for the past twenty years or more and it’s been a key to my spiritual health.

Rest – find time to get away from the work of pastoral ministry. Enjoy a hobby or a mini-ministry not related to the church (writing is mine, along with raising chickens, keeping a fish pond, photography, etc.) Take a day off each week, religiously. Take vacations. Don’t take yourself so seriously!

These are just a few thoughts that come to me as I look in the rear view mirror of my ministry and how the visions and dreams were kept alive, until the Lord started transferring them to Joe. Visions and dreams are what feed pastoral passion, give energy, and set a direction for what we do.

Leaving a Foundation, Not a Plaque

Me with Joe, my planned successor at Mayfair-Plymouth

Me with Joe French, my planned successor at Mayfair-Plymouth

I’m nearing the end of my time as the pastor of Mayfair-Plymouth Church. In October I’ll be retiring from this phase of my life after 39 years of pastoring the Lord’s flock. I’m thinking about legacy a lot. What do I want to leave behind? 

Yes, I’d like to be remembered fondly, but I’ve determined this is not the best I should hope for. I want to leave a foundation that can be built upon, not a plaque of myself that can be hung up. 

After I’m gone and as time goes by I pray that new people will become a part of the church who never knew me. If I come back for a visit in a couple of years I can imagine them thinking, or saying to someone else, “So, this is the old guy who used to pastor the church.” 

In my wife’s home church in Leota, Minnesota, there’s a row of pictures of the pastors of the church over the years. Each has the pastor’s name and two dates below the picture, the date the pastor came and the date the pastor left, with a dash between. In God’s grand scheme of things we’re each a dash, of varying length, but a dash nevertheless. There are those who came before and, if the Lord tarries in His coming, there will be those who come after us. 

Each of us is like a link in the chain of pastors at the church we now serve. May the Lord help us to be a good link between the past and the future so His kingdom work continues unbroken, and stronger than ever! 

One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.” (Psalm 145:4)

Transition

transitionI don’t usually make specific reference to the church I serve, but we’ve started a 2 1/2 year transition process for my retirement and for my successor, Joe French, to take over the helm as Sr. Pastor.  I thought you might like to see a recent article about this process.  You sometimes see a transition plan for large churches, but after being at Mayfair-Plymouth for over 37 years it seems such a process would be a good idea for us too, though we aren’t a large church, especially after we saw God putting it together.  You can check out the article HERE.