In the last blog post I mentioned that the next few contributions will be meant to share some of the thoughts and reflections I’ve experienced during the transition process. What follows is my second contribution to that dialogue. As I mentioned last time, even though this is written from the perspective of church leadership, my hope is that it will carry weight in other aspects of life as well.
With all that being said, here is the second thing that stood out to me during this process:
- FOR THIS TO WORK IT HAS TO BE A “WE” THING, AND NOT A “ME” THING.
Going back one more time to Deuteronomy 34, I would like to share how this realization set in upon my heart and began to create within me a heart to embody and work towards greater unity with my brothers and sisters.
In Deuteronomy 34:9 we are told that Joshua, Israel’s next leader,
Did you catch that? Did you glimpse the beauty of this moment?
At a time where Moses’ leadership is most vulnerable, Joshua’s leadership is most in question, and the future of the people is most in doubt, we are told that they all come together to support each other and continue the redemptive work of God. No body tried to outdo the other, they came together as God’s people in order to continue the work.
Full disclosure, when Lee asked me to take over as lead pastor for the church, at first I didn’t want to do it. There are a few reasons I could give for why I thought that way, but a major reason was a fear of what could transpire during the transition process. I love(d) the church and Lee, and the last thing I wanted to see happen was any type of conflict or power struggle emerge if this didn’t go as planned.
In my heart I nervously wondered how this would play out:
· Would Lee be able to really hand over the leadership of a church he had worked so hard to nurture and grow?
· Would my leadership of the church be lead by the Lord, and not by my desire to prove myself?
· Does my heart really wish to honor those who came before me, or is its set on feeding my own ego by showing how much cooler and smarter I am?
· Would the church accept me? Would they believe that this was something Lee felt the Lord had led us to, and not a forceful, takeover by the young(ish) guy?
Like I said, there were a few other things that I wrestled with but these were some of the bigger ones. Unsure of what to do, I sought prayer and counsel from friends and mentors. I searched the scripture looking for clues as to what to do. That’s when I found Deuteronomy 34 and began to sense a shift in both the posture of my heart and the focus of my mind.
In my opinion, the retelling of the transition of Moses to Joshua is a beautiful and inspiring picture of what it means to be in community with each other. Based off of what my experiences have shown me, this could have easily been a terrible moment for Israel. Each of the parties involved – Moses, Joshua, The People – could have sought to satisfy their own ego or needs. They could have easily turned from staying true to the mission of God, and in turn, turned from each other. They each could have sought their own way, but instead they chose to come together in a marvelous self-giving way:
· Moses, Israel’s greatest leader, in humility and faith, passes on the blessings he’s been given by God to lead Israel, onto the young man, Joshua.
· Joshua, instead of trying to “out-lead” Moses, humbles himself and waits to receive the blessing of Moses before he does anything else.
· And the people, they lift up these leaders and support these leaders when they’re the most vulnerable.
They all come together when they could have easily turned against each other. And in this moment, this moment of togetherness, we get a glimpse of what it means to be God’s people, to be a community that lifts each other up. To be a community that reflects the example of Christ and empties themselves of their own self-interest and ego, and instead works together to reflect the deep love of the Father.
The people of Israel, God’s people, followed Joshua’s leadership, not because he was the young hip up-and-coming leader, not because he “out led” Moses, but because Moses both blessed and empowered him for the work. Joshua received Moses’ endorsement and, because the people entrusted themselves to Moses’ leadership; they trusted and honored his endorsement of Joshua to continue the work.
Theologian Henri Nouwen, says that
As I mentioned in the previous post, one of the biggest hurdles any church leader (or Christian for that matter) will have to battle is the battle of perspective: seeing things as the really are. So often we are tempted to think and operate as if our own individual story is the only story, therefore, our own ministry, mission, project, or whatever, is the most important thing God is doing. However, the reality is that, “yes”, our story is important and the work we participate in has value, but it only has value or importance because of its connection to the larger redemptive story of Jesus and the kingdom. No matter what we do, it will never supersede what Christ has done and is doing. Therefore, anything we do should be in service to Jesus and his mission, and it should always follow his pattern of servant leadership. When we set ourselves to follow that example, we will come to embody the very same understanding also represented in the Deuteronomy story - the understanding that the work of the kingdom is always meant to be a “we” thing, and never a “me” thing.
When I read the story of Moses and Joshua something changed in me, I started having hope that this could work. I started asking the Lord to give me the heart and humility of Joshua, to honor those that came before me, and not work to try and satisfy my own ego or selfish desires. I prayed for Lee, that Lord would move in his heart as he did Moses and help him be able to release the leadership of the church with a full blessing and secure heart. I prayed for the church, that in this time the Lord would make them a safe, secure, and supportive place in this time of uncertainty. I prayed that this would be a time of great unity, of togetherness for the Beaches Vineyard.
Reflecting back on that time, I’m so grateful for answered prayer. I’m thankful and humbled that throughout this process I’ve never felt more blessed and empowered as leader and as man, by my community and Lee. I’m humbled and inspired that as a community we have worked to honor and bless Lee and Pat by the continuation of the work they started 15 years ago.
WE have truly been in this thing together. Thank you!