On June 17, 2018, Harvest Baptist Temple of Medford, OR, celebrated forty-one years of ministry. It was also the day that the founding pastor, Dr. Bob Gass, entrusted the heritage and history of that ministry to me. For us, it was a historic event. By the grace of God this was the first senior pastor transition in a forty-one year history.
Although it is my desire to wait another thirty years or so until the next transition, I learned that there are truths of preparation that I must embrace even now before the next transition. Preparing to transition is more about dependence than preparation. It begins and ends with a total dependence on God. There are four major areas of dependence I learned during the transition that I have immediately embraced.
1. Dependence on Prayer
I have four children and every day since we first found out that my wife was pregnant with our first child, I have prayed for their future spouse(s). Since June 17, 2018, I have faithfully prayed for the next senior pastor of Harvest Baptist Temple. Obviously, I don’t know who that is, but the absence of a specific name from my prayer doesn’t hinder me from praying for my children’s future spouses. The same is true with my church; the absence of a specific name shouldn’t hinder me from praying for Harvest’s future pastor(s). You may be starting a pastoral ministry or in the twilight of a pastoral ministry. It’s never too late to start and commit to praying for the next man.
2. Dependence on Power
Every day of my life I depend on the power of the Holy Spirit for guidance and direction. Why should a major transition be any different? Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.” Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.”
If I rely on God’s power and guidance to live a life of sacrificial service everyday of my life… If I rely on God’s power and guidance for unction for every message I preach… If I rely on God’s power and guidance for every decision in the day to day operations of the ministry, then should I not rely on God’s power and guidance for the next transition? God already has a man; I just have to get in the path of the will of God and get my pride and self out of the way of the will of God in order to be totally dependent on His power and guidance through the transition.
3. Dependence on Promise
There are no more sure words than these, “The promises of God are sure.” If God is limited by His Word, then every Word spoken by God is sure. God has promised by His own words to perpetuate His church. It was Jesus who said, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” If Jesus made that statement, then He alone is fully responsible for the perpetuation of His church.
We can do all we want to prepare, plan, and prosper a transition, but it is the Lord’s work. His blessing is absolutely essential. Even while understanding this truth, it is prudent for a pastor to always keep his eyes open for the next potential pastor. Maybe it is someone in the family, but don’t put parameters on the Lord. It could be someone that you have followed through the years that you have seen grow in pastoral ministry. It may be that current “problem” child in children’s church… you never know who the Lord will choose to use.
4. Dependence on Provision
God always provides. Where there was Moses… there was Joshua. Where there was Elijah… there was Elisha. I’m reminded of the name Abraham called the place where he was called to sacrifice Isaac (Jehovah-Jireh “God, my Provider”). God provided a ram to take Isaac’s place as a sacrifice. God provided the Lamb to take our place as a sacrifice. If God can provide the Lamb, then God can provide a man. Hudson Taylor said, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”
Since it is ultimately the Lord’s work, then the Lord will supply. It’s sad that while we are willing to trust the Lord with the future of our eternity, sometimes we struggle to trust the Lord with the future in our earthly ministry. If God can be trusted to secure our eternity, then God can be trusted to secure our today. This includes provision in transitions for the ministry and the future of the ministry that He has called us to.
Transition is just another opportunity to depend on God. Dependence on God is faith in God and “...without faith it is impossible to please Him.” We must be diligent and keep our eyes open, but our sufficiency in transition is directly related to our dependence on God. 2 Corinthians 3:5 reminds us, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.”