THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP TRANSITION
It has been close to a month since I was officially installed as the new lead pastor of the Beaches Vineyard, and it’s been about five months since the transitioning process began. Naturally, when I get a chance to sit down with friends they’re always curious to know how my family and I are doing with the whole thing. They want to know what the experience has been like, and whether or not it has really “hit me” yet.
So after many conversations, and much introspection, I thought that now would be a good time share some of my reflections over these past few months, and how they are shaping me as a son of God, husband, father, and pastor.
This blog post will be the first in a series of these reflections and I hope that even though it is written from a perspective on church leadership, it will also provide helpful insights into other areas of life as well.
I don’t mean this to be a morbid reflection on our own mortality as much as I mean this to be just an honest assessment of reality. Like with any thought that provides a certain level of sobriety, this thought can either infuse our lives with bleakness and apathy, or as it did for me, it can be a surprising interjection of joy and life.
Before this transition took place I lived under the pressure to perform well. I wanted to do everything in my power to ensure that the mission of the Kingdom would not fail at the Beaches Vineyard (especially while I was a part of its leadership team). No doubt, the stress of this burden (coupled with other stressors), created such stress in my life that I began to experience physical ailments in the form of neck and shoulder pain. The pain was so constant that I sought out physical therapy and prayer, which, though helpful, only lowered the pain and never healed it. These physical affects of this self-adopted stress were part of the reason why I was first hesitant to say, “yes” to taking over as lead pastor. – I thought, “If I were experiencing this amount of pressure now, how would it be if I actually were the overseer of the whole thing?”
Unsure of what to do and how to change, I began reading Scripture and engaging in honest prayer. Then one day, while doing research for a paper on leadership transition, I came across Deuteronomy 34 and radically began to feel a shift take place inside. The context of the passage is the transition of leadership from Moses to Joshua. In the passage we are told that at the end of his life, God takes Moses to the top of mount Pisgah and shows him the promised land, even though they both knew that Moses would not be allowed to step foot in the land he had fought so hard to get to; that honor would instead be passed to the younger Joshua.
So what does Moses do? Does he start grumbling and complaining? Does he tell God how jacked up it is to let him see the promise, even thought he wouldn’t be allowed to experience it? – No. In fact, Moses does something utterly remarkable: After laying his eyes on the promise, Moses lays his hands on Joshua to both bless and empower him for the work ahead, and because of this, it says, the Israelites followed Joshua’s lead [Deut. 34.9].
Here’s the truth: We all have a shelf life!
The Kingdom came way before our time and, unless the Lord comes soon, it will continue well after our time. Therefore, the mission of the kingdom should always supersede our own individual “missions”, since it is the only thing that will stand the test of time. Moses could have complained, he could have pouted. But he didn’t. Why?
I believe God took Moses to the mountain for no other reason than to remind Moses what this has always been about: the promise that God would come to his people and make a home with them. In that moment, Moses’ eyes saw through his own individual wants and desires, and instead chose to connect to that deep hope within his soul. In my eyes, Moses embodied a leader who was not lost in his own legend or fame, but was instead defined by his relationship to the Father. The work, though important to what God was doing, didn’t define him. The work, though a special calling, didn’t own him. Moses was the Lord’s, and that was enough. Because of this, Moses could look at a young guy like Joshua and give him his full blessing to go for it, to continue the work!
I came across a quote the other day that said, “Sometimes we have to close both eyes so we can see.” Moses saw the promise, I believe, more with his heart than with his eyes. As a leader, I want to see more with my heart than with my eyes, because I want to see things in their right perspective; especially who I am.
God has not placed the burden of sustaining his kingdom on me, or you. The privilege of that honor has been placed on the broad shoulders of Christ. Instead, my call as a pastor, husband, father, as a child of God, is to find my life in him, not my work (or anything else). My call is not to be sustainer, but instead a proclaimer and demonstrator of the good news of Christ’s redeeming promise. My call is to have my life and my actions defined by the grandeur of the kingdom, and not have the kingdom defined by the shallowness of insecurity and pride. My call is to participate in what has gone before my time, and what will endure after my time.
I admit this is much easier said than done, but it is none-the-less the direction I’m choosing to walk towards in all aspects of my life. In my opinion, contentment in Jesus is the only way to ever learn how to really let go and smile.