You know the feeling of that moment.
You’re sitting in your usual seat. The worship period is just beginning. The elders move as a group to the pulpit. One of them steps forward with a paper in hand, and says, “We have an announcement to make.”
Uh oh! What’s happened? What awful thing are we about to hear?
Sometimes—often—that announcement has to do with your pulpit minister. A long-tenured, much-loved minister is retiring. A young, vibrant minister—for whom everyone sees a bright future—has accepted a pulpit in another state. There’s been an affair. Ailing parents necessitate a move. The minister—discouraged—will be seeking secular employment.
The reasons are varied. The results are the same. Our church is losing its pulpit minister. Our “normal” has just changed. Ahead yawns a season of transition. Like a lost tooth, we will all feel the gap, poke and prod at it, and wonder how (when!) we can find a replacement.
Nobody welcomes transition. Nobody enjoys the loss, uncertainty, stress, doubts and dangers of a transition season. Individually, or as churches, we don’t respond with fondness to change.
Our common response to seasons of transition, then, is to hold our noses and run like mad through the transition, determined above-all-else to get to a new “normal” as quickly as possible. Transition is not just inconvenient … it is intolerable. Transition is not simply stressful … it is toxic. Avoid transition! And, when it can’t be evaded, abbreviate it by every means possible! The longer the transition, the greater our anxiety. The longer the transition, the more vulnerable we feel.
Hope Network Ministries believes God works most powerfully among his people in times of transition. Transition is not an “illness” we experience between periods of normal health but a regular interluded in the rhythm of God’s people … a necessary and wholesome “breather” in the busyness of church life.
Consider Israel’s transition from Egypt to the Promised Land. The Exodus wasn’t comfortable. It wasn’t predictable or safe. It made Israel vulnerable to hunger, thirst, and war. There was plenty of grumbling and complaining along the way.
But look how God used that season to accomplish powerful things in the life of his people: new leadership, the formation of a nation, Sinai and the revelation of the Law, fresh reliance on God’s guidance and provision, a new home. The “interim” of the Exodus became the most formative and transformative period in all Israel’s long history. This season of transition resulted in new life.
Consider the Jerusalem church during the days of Saul’s persecution. The church was growing by leaps and bounds. The Spirit of God was present and alive and moving. The Apostles were preaching and training and moving from house-to-house among the believers.
And then Saul threw a grenade into the good things God was doing—or so it must have seemed to many in the Jerusalem Church. Everything changed overnight. Shock. Alarm. Fear. Flight. Luke tells us Christians fled the city and “all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1). They transitioned from peace to persecution … from mega-church to a small group (again) … from enjoying “the favor of all the people” to a hunted and haunted faction.
In Acts, the transition lasted only a few verses. But, in real time, months passed before Christians began to trickle back to the city and resume their normal lives. But, once again, God used this period of transition to accomplish powerful things in the life of his people. Some of the Christians who were scattered during Saul’s persecution traveled to Gentile territory and “began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus” (Acts 11: 20). Peter had his vision and visited the home of Cornelius (Acts 10). Barnabas began his gospel work among Gentiles in Antioch (Acts 11:22ff).
God used transition to drive the gospel beyond Jerusalem and the Jews to a waiting Gentile world. Because of this transition—in spite of its pain and threat and disruption—the world changed and God’s purposes prevailed.
Hope Network Ministries believes God still does his greatest work among his people in seasons of transition. One of those transitions involves the loss of a minister. Between the last minister and the next, in that uncomfortable “interim,” God can accomplish powerful things in our churches.
The “Interim Ministry” division of Hope Network focuses on this time of transition in the local congregation. We have experience leading scores of churches through such change. We have tools and processes to help churches address the interim season in effective ways. We can help your church walk through the interim to a new and vibrant future.
Hello Wineskins Readers! This is Matt. I wanted to let you know that this article is here in conjunction with the right sidebar ad of our sponsor for November, Hope Network. We believe in what they do, so we approached them about advertising with us. I have personally benefited from their work and that is why I was excited to get the word out about what they do! Check out their site through the links above!