Tuesday, June 24, 2008

transition!



Passing the baton

Last night, I shared at our State of the Heart meeting. I talked about what succession planning might look like for us at CVC.

If you weren't at the meeting, below are the notes that I used as I shared with our people.

* * *

I want you to know that I’m just as excited as ever about what God is doing in and though my life. I’m just as excited as ever about what God is doing in and through CVC. I’m just as excited as ever about what God is doing in NE Ohio. The call of God on my life to NE Ohio and CVC is strong. I am fully committed to what God is doing here.

And I’ve been thinking about and praying about our future. I’m 54. I think I still have a lot of energy and vision. There are areas of ministry where I’d like to focus more time and attention – mentoring, leadership development, missions, evangelism, coaching church planters, and writing. But I’d have to say that the role that I play sometimes blocks some of that. Those 4 weekend services do take a toll. Every week, Saturday night gets here fast. And the overall leadership position of Senior Pastor sometimes keeps me from spending time in some areas where I have giftedness and passion.

So, as the Elders and I have prayed about the future, we think it’s time to start some succession planning. Dynamic churches engage in leadership development and succession planning. A long time ago, I heard someone say, “There’s no success without a successor.” I’ve never forgotten that. So, over the last several years, I’ve been thinking about who the next Senior Pastor of CVC might be.

This is something that is biblical. The story of Samuel anointing David teaches us that God chooses his leaders and helps other godly leaders to find them. As you survey the Bible, you can see a variety of scriptural precedents: Moses to Joshua, Elijah to Elisha, Paul to Timothy. And in a sense, isn't this what Jesus did? He spent three years living with, teaching, and mentoring a group of men whom he had hand-picked to carry on his earthly ministry.

A few months ago, I was reading Numbers 27. It’s the story about God leading Moses to pass the baton to Joshua. And here’s Moses’ prayer. “Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the LORD may not be as sheep that have no shepherd” (Numbers 27:16-17). Here’s what I wrote, “This verse comes at a time when we are talking about succession planning. What a prayer! It is the Lord who must appoint the man. The Lord told Moses that it was Joshua – a man he had been mentoring (v. 18). The new leader is to be a God-appointed, deeply spiritual, shepherd-leader who is a faithful example to the flock.”

Think about it. Every current Senior Pastor of a church is on the way to becoming the former Senior Pastor. It’s “the elephant in the church boardroom.” At CVC, we recognize this fact and want to be proactive in dealing with it.

So, we believe that it would be in the best interest of CVC for us to begin the process of searching for a Co-Teaching Pastor who, God-willing, may one day be my successor and the Senior Pastor of CVC.

We will be asking God to provide the funds for this position through the regular operating budget of our church. Right now, our staff is doing a good job spending below budget. And CVC has been generous. We are meeting the budget with our giving. So, the financial picture is solid.

What might the ideal candidate look like? We’re working on finalizing the job description. But it looks like someone who is a passionate follower of Christ and who wants to help people grow to be passionate followers of Christ. It looks like someone who loves God, loves others, and loves the world and who wants to help others do the same. We’re looking for an excellent communicator. We think finding someone who is in the 35-40 year old range might be good. We’d like to find someone with senior level leadership experience. We’d like to find someone with a Masters of Divinity degree.

We’re asking God to send us someone who will protect the family feeling we have at CVC. The elders and the staff feel confident about the direction of the church – to help people grow to be passionate followers of Christ who love God, love one another and love the world. We feel like challenging people to grow in these areas happens best in the context of community. So, as we look for someone, we’re looking someone who shares this vision, this philosophy. We feel led by the Lord concerning the path we are on.

We’ll put together a search team, finalize the job description, and begin the search. We don’t have our eye on any particular candidate. It’s wide open. We believe that the right person with the right gifts and experiences and relationships is out there. Just like God has brought a great staff together here at CVC already, He’ll do it again. We have learned that the length of time it may take to find such a senior-level leader like a new Co-Teaching Pastor can last as long as 9-12 months, and even take longer.

Now, let me be quick to say several things: I am healthy. Several months ago, I had a routine physical and the doctor gave me a clean bill of health. And as I said before, I am just as passionate as ever about the vision, the ministry, and the mission of CVC. And as the Elders have talked about his over the last six months, even after a new Senior Pastor is in place, the Elders and I anticipate that I will stay on staff here at CVC and focus on the things I’m most passionate about - mentoring, leadership development, missions, coaching church planters, writing as well as teaching whenever I’m asked.

Let me reiterate. I still feel led by God to stay very actively engaged, long-term, through the ministries of CVC. The Elders feel the same way about my long-term involvement.

This isn’t to be seen as an 8-10 year process or even a 5-7 year process. Don’t hold us to this timeline. We don’t know what God’s timing will be. But it will probably take a year to find God’s man for the position. We’ll share teaching responsibilities for a while – maybe a year or so. If it’s a good fit for the man and for CVC, then with the guidance of the Elders, we’ll begin the process of transitioning the leadership responsibilities. So, this feels more like a 2-4 or 3-5 year process.

I want to have some time to invest my life into the life of this next leader. The Elders want me to have an opportunity to spend some time grooming, coaching, and mentoring this person.

I’ve been thinking about what I hope this transition feels like. Lots of church transitions are like light switches. One pastor leaves, the light is turned off. The new pastor arrives, and the switch is turned on. It’s abrupt and obvious. But I’m praying that this transition will feel like lights on dimmer switches. As one is dimming down, the other is brightening up. The ambiance of the room – the culture of the church – protected.

We’ve seen models where this kind of thing has happened before and it’s been a positive thing for the churches. Close-by: The Chapel in Akron where Knute Larson was Senior Pastor. Fellowship Bible Church in Chagrin Falls where Lud Goltz was Senior Pastor. Hudson Community Chapel where Jim Colledge was Senior Pastor. Further away: 1st Baptist Church in Jacksonville where Homer Lindsay was Senior Pastor and Elmbrook Church in Wisconsin where Stuart Briscoe was Senior Pastor.

As I have talked about this with my friends and mentors, some have said that having the old guy hang around just doesn’t work. But I made an appointment with Lud Goltz, the former senior pastor of Fellowship Bible Church. He passed the baton successfully and stayed at the church in a different role. He said that this will work if three things are true. 1) The former Senior Pastor is spiritually mature enough to let go of the reigns. 2) The new Senior Pastor is spiritually mature enough to not be threatened by the former Senior Pastor’s presence. 3) The congregation is spiritually mature enough to welcome new leadership. If we are truly are abiding in Christ and LG, LOA, and LTW this should work well.

You might be thinking, “But why, Rick. Why?” The best answer I can give is “love.” I love you. I love this church. And I love the mission God has given us here in NE Ohio. I think it’s much, much better to do this now rather than to wait until it’s overdue.

Therefore, the Elders think it is wise to begin implementing a long-term succession plan while CVC is stable, healthy, and growing. We believe that this can, God-willing, enhance the ongoing growth and progress of the gospel through ministry of CVC. We are confident that by God’s grace, this process will be handled in a prayerful, orderly, deliberate way that protects the unity of the church and advances the Kingdom of God.

What you can do:

Pray for God’s blessing, protection, and guidance for CVC.

Pray for the future leaders of CVC and that God will raise up the right people at the right time to accomplish His will.

Pray that God will continue to use CVC to help people grow to be passionate followers of Christ who LG, LOA, and LTW.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Joining the MIT crew

One of the great blessings of being a pastor is that many people take very seriously their responsibility to pray for me. For example, I have a PIT crew – a Pastor Intercessory Team. It gives me a real sense of peace to know that some faithful friends and prayer warriors are praying for me and for my ministry.

Will you join the MIT crew?

At CVC, we just commissioned our missionaries who are going out to the Love The World over the next few weeks. I spoke at the service and encouraged the people to pray for the missionaries. And Psalm 67 is a missionary prayer that I encouraged people to use as a guide for prayer.

1 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,
2 that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.
3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.
5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
6 The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.
7 God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!
Psalm 67 (ESV)


If you look carefully at the verses, the Psalm encourages us to pray like this:

We pray that God will be gracious to you and bless you and make His face to shine on you.

But why?

1. … that all people may know His path.

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth,
Psalm 67:1-2a


We are people of the way - the path. And missionaries need to live on the path – before, during, and after the mission. And the people they are going to reach will be watching. “Does Jesus really make a difference? Are followers of Christ really any better than anyone else?”

Are we really more loving, more joyous, more peaceful, more compassionate, more giving, more servant-hearted than people who don’t know Jesus?

Jesus ought to make a difference here and now. Christianity ought to work. So, missionaries must walk on the path. Why?

His way - His path – is not known. It’s not known by many, many people in our Jerusalem, in our Judea, in our Samaria, and in the uttermost parts of the earth. Our missionaries are going to places where His path is not known. People aren’t living according to the 10 commandments. They aren’t living out the Beatitudes. They aren’t loving God; they are loving themselves. They aren’t loving one another; they are loving themselves. They aren’t loving the world; they are loving themselves.

They are on the wrong path.

And our missionaries are being sent to live on the right path – the highway of holiness – and to let the people they are going to reach know that there is a better way. A holy way. A righteous way. A narrow way. Our missionaries are people who must model what it’s like to love God, love one another, and love the world. And as they do that, they will invite others to do the same.

And when the people hear about His path, they will know that they are not on it. And that they are in danger. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end is death.”

So, our missionaries will say with love, “The path you’re on is dark and leads to death and eternal separation from God in hell.”

And some of the people will say, “What must I do to be saved?”

That brings us to be second part of the prayer. Why do we pray that God will be gracious to our missionaries and bless them and make His face to shine on them?

Not only that all people may know His paths, but

2. … that all people may see His power.

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.
Psalm 67:1-2


Where is God’s saving power found? In Jesus. Jesus saves. Jesus alone saves.

Our missionaries will tell people that God sent a Savior to die on the cross for all those who are not on the path. And some of the people will respond to His saving power.

Their lives will be changed. They will get a ticket to heaven. Their guilt will be gone. They will get a pardon from Jesus. They will get a pattern to follow in Jesus. They will get a power to live on the path through Jesus. They will see His saving power.

But is that the end? No. If it ends there, then this is a man-centered prayer. And the Psalms are anything but man-centered.

Look at the God-glorifying aim of missions.

Why do we pray that God will be gracious to our missionaries and bless them and make His face to shine on them? That all people may know His paths. That all people may see His power. And

3. … that all people may sing His praise.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
Psalm 67:3-5


Once the people see His saving power, they will praise God. They will see His holiness, righteousness, and justice. They will see that they deserve death and hell. But as our missionaries live out Jesus and speak of Jesus to them, some will see God’s forbearance and mercy and grace. Some will see that they are objects of undeserved love. Some will repent and believe. And then they will praise the One who died for them.

The ultimate goal of missions is not the saving of souls (as wonderful as that truly is). The ultimate goal of missions is the worship and praise and adoration of God.

God's worshippers stand up in song (2 Chronicles 20:19). They clap their hands (Psalm 47:1). They lift their hands (Psalm 63:4; 134:2; 1 Timothy 2:8). They sing loud praises (Psalm 34:1; 103:1; Acts 4:24).

But why?

Gratitude. And love. They are overwhelmed with thanksgiving that God would save “a wretch like me.” And they love the One who loved them enough to die to save them.

Missionaries can’t give what they don’t have. If the ultimate goal is worship, then the missionaries must be worshippers themselves. People won’t buy what we’re selling if we don’t buy what we’re selling.

So, every missionary must go back in time to what it was like for them to be saved. They must feel it again – what it was like to be doomed to hell, what it was like to hear of the grace of God in Christ, what it was like to trust in Jesus, what it was like to know sins are forgiven, what it was like to become a child of God. When that happens, the missionary will sing His praise. Every missionary must be a grateful, glad-hearted “praise-er” of God. That’s the fuel for the missionary cause.

That all people – the missionaries and the “mission-ized” – may sing His praise. It’s the fuel and the goal of missions.

This takes things from a man-centered perspective and makes missions truly all about God and His glory.

So will you be on the “MIT crew” for the missionaries this year? Will you be a part of the Missionary Intercessory Team?

Beseech the Lord of the harvest to bless these missionaries who are going out into the harvest fields this year. And use Psalm 67 to guide your prayers.

We pray that God will be gracious to you and bless you and make His face to shine on you
… that all people may know His paths,
… that all people may see His power,
… that all people may sing His praise.

If we do this, then we will see the fulfillment of the last two verses of this great Psalm.

The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!
Psalm 67:6-7

Sunday, June 08, 2008


We are talking about waiting on God at CVC. And today we looked at David's life.

Samuel anoints David as the future king in I Samuel 16. He may have been as young as 13. He likely wasn't older than 20. But David doesn’t become king of Judah until II Samuel 2 at age 30. That’s sixteen chapters and 10-17 years of trials, temptations, struggles, hopes, fears, triumphs, blood, sweat, and tears. And he doesn't become king of the entire nation until II Samuel 5 at age 37.

David waited. Waiting is trusting God’s timing.

So, what are you waiting on? And how long have you been waiting? Are you waiting well – with contentment, peace, even joy in the waiting room? Or are you taking things into your own hands – manipulating, striving, and losing sleep in the process?

David waited well. How did he do it? What are the characteristics that enabled David to wait in a God-honoring way for his dreams to come true?

I encouraged our church to focus on all the verses authored by David in the Psalms that talk about waiting on God.

Here they are. Don't forget to read them in context.

None who wait for you shall be put to shame.
Psalm 25:3

Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.
Psalm 25:5

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!
Psalm 27:14

Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD!
Psalm 31:24

Wait for the LORD and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.
Psalm 37:34

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
Psalm 40:1

I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly.
Psalm 52:9

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.
Psalm 62:1

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
Psalm 62:5

I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.
Psalm 69:3

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