One of the scariest, most uncertain times for a church is a transition in leadership. In most Baptist churches, when a pastor is to resign or retire, it is the standard practice for a committee (or six) to be formed and a lengthy search for a new pastor to begin.
The danger with this method of leadership transition lies in the fact that most churches lack a strong, unified (this is key) leadership body other than the lead pastor. Without a pastor to keep the ball rolling, it is not uncommon for churches to loose members and attendees. These churches seem to loose their drive. The adage, “As the pastor goes, so goes the church,” has many applications and implications. In this case, without a strong pastor, many churches seem to curl up in the fetal position and cease to function as the Body of Christ.
In Joshua 1 we learn a different method of leadership transition. On the surface, it seems simply that Moses died and God appointed Joshua. While this is true, it is merely the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Joshua was a loyal worshiper and follower of YHWH. We first see his character shine as a spy to whom all things are possible in God. Joshua was a servant to Moses, a minister to Moses, a workman under Moses direct leadership. He learned from Moses successes and mistakes. He did not begin in leadership, but in servanthood. As a servant, Joshua learned to lead. Having been trained by Moses, he would continue to walk in Moses' path, carry on Moses work. Transition of leadership was made easier in that the people knew Joshua, knew his history, knew his character and were accustomed to his method and manner of servant leadership. It was not a jarring insertion of an outsider whom no one is familiar with. Joshua was raised and trained for the task. When the mantle of leadership was passed, Joshua was the natural choice.
There is a church in our pastoral association here in the northeast corner of California that recently underwent a transition in leadership. The senior pastor went into semi-retirement. The associate pastor stepped up to the position of Lead Pastor. The transition went smoothly. The former senior pastor had been at the church for a very long time, but the new senior pastor had also been there for a long time, serving under his predecessor.
If we look at scripture, I think we will see this as a more Biblical method of leadership transition. We will not live forever. God is going to call us on someday, either through death or relocation. In either case I pray that I will be able to follow this model of leadership transition. But we must not wait till we think it is time for us to go to begin this training process. We should be constantly training up men and women to leadership roles and either adding them to our current staff or sending them out as God directs. One of those will be God's choice to assume the mantel of leadership when the time comes for us to move on.
When you first look at him, Jason Franklin appear to be either a scary biker or a bi-polar author (depending on who you ask). In actuality he is a missionary/church planter in the small town of Westwood in Northern California. Jason is married with three children.
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