Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Passing The Baton

I love sports. I grew up in a family that loves sports. My dad was a football player and my younger brother is currently a football coach. For me, sports have always been a platform to learn about life. In the Bible, you see the Apostle Paul using metaphors about sports to illustrate spiritual truth. I want to take a moment and use such a metaphor to illustrate an exciting time for our church.

I want to share a few thoughts about "passing the baton." A relay race is one of the more exciting events during the Olympic Games. The relay race involves teamwork and precision. Believe it or not, the race is more about the baton than the actual runners. The runners have a portion to run, but make no mistake, to win the race the baton must make it to the finish line. Dropping the baton or mishandling the baton from runner to runner can hinder the overall result.

In many ways I see the baton like the Gospel. As followers of Christ and members of the Church, God has given us an awesome responsibility to handle the Gospel in this day in age and properly pass it on. I have seen, and even been part of, times in church when the baton was dropped or the race was hindered because a lack of smooth transition during times of change. I have a burden that I believe would help churches better run the race and keep the Gospel going forward at maximum speed. I am not sure if it is applicable in every situation, but I certainly want to bring some attention to it. It involves the transition of staff members, and even senior pastors, at the average local church.

We have a unique opportunity at Temple Baptist Church that I want to share with you. Our current Student Pastor announced to our church in September that his family felt a call to foreign missions. We rejoice with them! Part of our church identity is to "send" people out to share the message and make disciples. This is unique because his announcement was not an immediate resignation. Most of the time, when a pastor or staff member leaves a church it is within a few weeks. Quick departures really leave the church in tough positions. Most of the time, the Gospel/mission of the church (the baton) is dropped and the church really struggles. Even after finding a new pastor or staff member, the church goes through a time of transition/change and momentum is lost.

Our situation is unique because we had the opportunity to seek God and find God's next person before the current Student Pastor leaves. Our goal is to bring in the new Student Pastor for an entire month to work with, and alongside, our current Student Pastor so that baton is not dropped in any sense. We believe this will provide us great momentum going forward. Similar to a relay race, there is a moment in the race when the current runner and the next runner hold the baton together. What a great picture of leadership in the church! My prayer would be that this would become the norm in churches instead of the exception. Even in the senior pastor role, transitional ministry would help both the church and the minister coming into the church. I know there are some difficulties involved in transitional leadership on both sides, but I just believe the church would be much healthier if this became our normal method of coming in/going out.

One of the greatest examples we see in the Bible of transitional leadership involved the prophets Elijah and Elisha. Elijah was God's prophet for a season until God was ready to take him to Heaven. Before God called Elijah away, God appointed Elisha to take his place. The Bible records how they walked together in ministry for a season. Elijah was being called away and Elisha was just beginning. I believe because of this transitional time, Elisha was able to gain so much from his mentor. It was no wonder that Elisha ended up doing twice the miracles as his mentor! Elisha was the recipient of a great beginning because of the nature of transitional ministry and being able to hold the baton at the same time as Elijah.

I am not sure how this unique situation our church is getting to experience could somehow become the norm among our churches, but I believe it would greatly enhance our effectiveness in making sure the baton is not dropped. We are in this together. God is the God of the harvest, and He calls His servants where He desires. I just believe we could intentionally work together for a better process in "passing the baton." I just believe having the opportunity to "hold the baton" together could greatly benefit us all in our coming and going.