Passing the Baton

transitionbatanPictured here is the baton I’ll be handing over to Pastor Joe French at this weekend’s services. It’s the weekend we officially transition from me being the lead pastor (senior pastor) to Joe being the lead pastor. I’ll preach my last sermon the following weekend (October 11/12).

We’ve been on this journey of transition for approximately eighteen months, guided by Pastor Rupert’s expertise in these matters (he’s the one with the PhD in leadership and has written a book on transition so Joe and I try to listen to him, sometimes). Now the time has come to pass the baton to Pastor Joe.

In a relay race one runner passes the baton on to another runner who continues the race. This is what Joe and I will do.

We’re all in a race called life. We’re all involved in passing on the baton, whether we always recognize it or not.

Parents pass on their view of life to their children. We know it has happened when we hear a small child parrot words we’ve heard from the parents. But it’s more than words. Attitudes and values are also passed on, for a lifetime.

We parents of adult children continue to pass on the baton of how to live life. Our big kids are watching how we handle aging, whether we’re aging gracefully, and, eventually, how we deal with facing death.

We also pass the baton of attitude in our friendships, work environments, our churches, and other social networks of which we’re a part. All of us are people of influence.

Sometimes we have the opportunity to train another person for a task or responsibility. We can help insure (though not guarantee) their success.

Passing a baton involves coming alongside a person, going the same direction and synchronizing our speed. If we’re going to pass on something good to others we have to learn the art of coming alongside them.

As a minister I have conducted funerals where it’s been rather obvious that not much good has been passed on from the deceased to those who have gathered to pay their respects. It’s sad, more sad than a funeral should be. On the other hand, I’ve conducted funerals where people can’t say enough of how the deceased made a positive difference in their lives. These funerals tend to be more joyous than you’d expect a funeral to be.

Yes, there’s all kinds of ways to “pass the baton” in life. We’re all in this race called life but it’s not just our race. Others are running the race of life too and we can make a difference in their lives. Let’s pass the baton and share the delight of winning!

“And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…” (Hebrews 12:1)

There are are a variety of people to whom I’m passing on the baton in my life. This weekend I’ll be focusing on just one of those people. His name is Joe.

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.

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.