[buzzsprout episode=’541626′ player=’true’]
July 23, 2017
Pastor Jeff Struecker
Today, we’re going to talk about transition. We’re going to talk about leadership transition. We’re going to talk about how an organization, a church, or corporation goes from one leader to the next. I started working on the sermon 4 weeks ago, and 4 weeks ago, I read a book called Next. It was written by Bird and Vanderbloemen, and this book looks at how 200 churches in America did the transition from one pastor to the next (hence the title). And here’s what they learned: The writers of this book said, “For the most part, churches have no idea how to hand off the mantle of responsibility. They don’t have a plan for leadership.”
The book was even worse when it talked about corporations in America. Listen to this: Of 500 million dollar corporations (those businesses in America that do half a billion dollars worth of business or more), 50% of them have no idea what they’re going to do when the CEO steps down. 50% of businesses in America that do half a billion dollars worth of the business have no plan to replace the chairman of the board. They basically function like that person will keep living forever.
Here’s the truth. I did the research. The statistics say that 100% of all people die, which means if you don’t have a plan to replace the current leader, to fail to plan is to plan to fail, and this is so important, that this is one of those areas that the church just can’t get wrong. I’m not just talking about Calvary Baptist Church today. I’m talking all churches. It’s too important to get this area wrong.
So, what we’re going to talk about over the next few minutes, it’s the principle of life, not just the principle of leadership. If you only focus on what’s in front of you, if that’s all you’re looking at, you will never be ready for what’s coming in the future. You’ll never be ready for what’s waiting around the corner, and most people are so overwhelmed by the circumstances that are right in front of their faces, that they can’t get away from them far enough to learn from the past. They can’t step away from what’s happening to them right now to be able to plan for what’s coming in the future.
Let me help you understand it this way. I don’t know anything about the game of hockey, but I do know this: Almost universally, every hockey fan would say the greatest hockey player of all time was a guy by the name of Wayne Gretzky. In fact, he was so great that they referred to him as “the great one”. When people started asking Gretzky, “How is it that you are able to do stuff on the ice that other hockey players in the history of the game have not been able to do?” Gretzky made this very profound statement. He said, “It’s simple. I don’t skate to where the puck is right now. I skate to where the puck is going to be, and I get to where the puck is going to be before the puck gets to where the puck is going to be.” Gretzky said, “I play the game for what’s coming in the future. I don’t play the game for what’s happening right now.”
ESPN did this 20 greatest Wayne Gretzky plays of all time. I’m going to show you number 4, and in this clip from number 4, I want you to notice where Gretzky is before the puck even gets there. -before he scores what ESPN considers the fourth greatest goal of Wayne Gretzky’s career.
Wayne Gretzky is at a spot on the ice that nobody else is at before the puck even gets there, and because of that, Wayne Gretzky scores a goal that you really can’t even defend against.
When it comes to leadership, here’s what the great leadership guru of our time, Jim Collins, wrote on his website in an article on his website about transition. He said, “You aren’t a great leader unless your organization, unless your company [or we would say unless your church] is great long after you’re gone. You can’t call yourself a good leader unless you’re preparing your organization or the folks that you lead for the future.” This is true of parents in the home. This is true of pastors in the church. This is true of all walks of life.
Now the Bible gives us some pretty good examples of transition of leadership. Elijah, the famous prophet of the Old Testament, hands his responsibilities off to a prophet by the name of Elisha. David hands the leadership of Israel off to his son, Solomon. Jesus prepares 12 guys to take over for him after he’s gone, and even the great apostle, Paul, has a young buck by the name of Timothy, who Paul is pouring into and getting ready to take the leadership responsibilities when Paul leaves.
But the one example (and by the way, all of these examples are a little bit different. There are no two examples that are the same), but the one example that the Bible devotes more time to than others is Moses handing off the leadership responsibilities for Joshua. If Moses failed at this, I don’t think we call him the second greatest leader of all time. But Moses has been preparing somebody for a long time to step in and take over when he’s gone, and that leader is a guy by the name of Joshua.
Here’s what we’re going to learn today: How do we as a church prepare for change for the glory of God, not just for the good of Calvary Baptist Church, but how do we prepare for change for the glory of God? I hope you’re as excited as I am when we’re done with the sermon about where Calvary is headed in the future.
I. Find the next person now
I want you to take a few notes down as we go along today. If you’re going to write in that worship guide and fill in some blanks, would you please write this down? -If you’re going to be a good leader, you can’t wait until the day that you start to get ready to leave to transition. You need to find the next person now.
Now, we’re going to look at 4 chapters of the Bible from Deuteronomy. Relax. I’m not going to read all 4 of them. We’ll start in Deuteronomy 31 and move through 34. Today, when you get home, go back and read the rest of the details, but I want you to see how Moses prepared Joshua to step in and take over after Moses leaves the leadership responsibilities.
Starting in Deuteronomy 31, I’m going to refer to verses 14 and 15. Then we’ll skip down to verse 23.
Deuteronomy 31:14-15; 23
Then the Lord said to Moses, “The time has come for you to die. Call Joshua and present yourselves at the Tabernacle, so that I may commission him there.” So Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves at the Tabernacle. 15 And the Lord appeared to them in a pillar of cloud that stood at the entrance to the sacred tent. 23 Then the Lord commissioned Joshua son of Nun with these words: “Be strong and courageous, for you must bring the people of Israel into the land I swore to give them. I will be with you.”
The language in the Bible today is loaded with official terminology. Picture that you’re Moses for just a second. God just told you ahead of time, “You’re about to die.” Imagine how that conversation is going to go between you and God when he says, “Moses get ready, because today, you’re going to die, and in order for you to get ready, you have to prepare somebody to step in and to take over for you. And the first language that we see here is that there is a “call”. There’s a presentation and finally, a commissioning.
The word “call” that you see up here on the screen—this isn’t, “Hey Joshua, Come on over here for a second. God wants to say something to you. This is official language. This is the language that a church uses when they call a pastor. It’s something saying: God has already selected the person. We’re just trying to figure out whom God has selected, and when we figure that out, then we call them, or invite them, to take over the leadership.
The “presentation” word here is the kind of word the Old Testament would use for a promotion ceremony. This is awesome! “Moses, you’re going to get a promotion. Actually, Moses, you’re getting the ultimate promotion. You get to be promoted from here on earth to Heaven, and in order to clear room for the next leader, you get promoted to Heaven so that somebody else, Joshua, gets promoted to fill-in in your place. And notice it’s God who’s presiding over this promotion ceremony today, and then there’s a commissioning.
All you military folks in this room, you know what this word means. There’s official language that says, “I’m setting you apart to do something, and I have the authority to set you apart for it, Joshua, and here’s the task that I’m commissioning you to do. Here’s the thing that I’m wanting you to do for me.” All of this happens at the tent, and I want you to notice that God is making the same promise to Joshua that he made to Moses. Moses was great man; Moses was perhaps the second greatest leader (apart from Jesus) to ever live, and what made Moses great is this face-to-face, one-on-one relationship with God.
Notice the last sentence on the screens. Moses is saying, “God is saying, Joshua, don’t freak out. I know that there’s a lot riding on this, but I’m going to be with you in the same way that I was with Moses, and as long as I’m with you, you don’t have to worry.”
Listen, leadership transition is hard. This kind of change can be very delicate in an organization; this kind of change can disrupt. There are a lot of churches that are fragile and don’t make it through this kind of change. It’s a hard thing, and it’s a process which takes practice. You don’t just stumble your way through it. To fail to plan here is to plan to fail. I want you to hear something about The Church, not just Calvary Baptist, but The Church in general. The church is not an organization; the church is an organism, which means it’s a living, breathing thing, and this is true of all living things: Any living thing that doesn’t change to adapt to its environment dies. In all of life (plants, animals, people, churches…), the challenges is that as the organization changes, the organism has to change to adapt to the environment or the organism dies. It’s change or die for all living things. It’s change or die for the church.
It’s change or die in ancient Israel’s case, and there’s a lot riding on this. And what the Bible is trying to say to us today is: There is no lasting success if there is no successor. Moses has been preparing a young man for a long time. Apparently for almost 40 years, Moses has been investing in Joshua so that when this day comes, Joshua is ready. If you’re in a position of leadership (It doesn’t matter what it is.– in the home, in the community, in the church…),I challenge you to start today to start looking for the person who will ultimately replace you.
I asked the elders of our church to start with me on the first year that I was here, praying through and talking through who would replace me one day. For the good of Calvary Baptist Church, we need to know that, and I’m asking everybody in this room, prepare somebody today to take your heart and to carry your heart on after you’re gone.
II. Pass on your passion for Christ
Here’s the second thing I want you to write down: Pass on your passion for Christ. I’m going to give you a sentence in just a second, and this sentence is probably the most important thing you’re going to hear me say all morning long. In fact, you can just forget the whole rest of the sermon, as long as you remember this one sentence. This sentence summarizes the entire sermon. Are you ready? I want you to write this down. Here’s what I want you to remember: The most valuable thing that you can pass down to the next generation is your heart.
Listen, your money is going to evaporate after you’re gone. All of your family heirlooms, those things can be sold at auction after you’re gone, but if you take your heart, your passion, your faith in Jesus, and you put it in the chest of somebody else, that can’t get taken away. That continues on long after you ceased to exist. The most valuable thing that you will ever pass on to somebody else is passing on your heart.- your passion for Jesus Christ. And you see this pretty clearly today in Deuteronomy 32. Listen to the generational language that you hear in the Bible when Moses passes down the responsibility to Joshua. Deuteronomy 32, starting in verse 44:
So Moses came with Joshua son of Nun and recited all the words of this song to the people. 45 When Moses had finished reciting all these words to the people of Israel, 46 he added: “Take to heart all the words of warning I have given you today. Pass them on as a command to your children so they will obey every word of these instructions. 47 These instructions are not empty words—they are your life! By obeying them you will enjoy a long life in the land you will occupy when you cross the Jordan River.”
He added “take to heart”. This doesn’t need to be in your head. It’s not just simple things that you do. This should be at the heart level. Take to heart all the words of warning I give you today.
Moses is saying, “Joshua, I am putting my heart into you. Joshua, you put your heart into parents. Parents, you put your heart into children. Children, you put your heart into the next generation. This is how the gospel continues to expand until it goes all over the world. But if there’s a break in this chain, this could be the end of Christianity in one generation. -if you fail to pass on your passion to the next generation.
He’s saying, “I’m not just giving you some simple written contract that’s an agreement between me and the people, between the people and God. No, what I’m giving you is the very thing that I want you to build your life on. It should be at your heart, at your soul level, and everything about you is built on this relationship. -this passion, this kind of faith, and because it’s at the heart level, it impacts everything about you. But, by the way, God is giving Joshua two words of command here: Obey this Law, this song, this covenant, this contract, and you will live a long life in the land that I’m giving you. Disobey, and don’t expect to inherit the land at all. Don’t expect to live for a long time. Obey and occupy. Disobey, and don’t expect to be there for very long. It’s not just something you build your day on. This is life-and-death. This should impact you at the heart level.
Calvary Baptist Church understands better than most, because we’ve gone through it. -the transition from one leader to the next, and this transition is not always easy. I’m going to go ahead and make the announcement today. One of these days (I don’t ever plan to retire.), but I realize one of these days, I’ll get so old and decrepit, that I’m not going to be a very effective leader anymore, and when that day happens, I plan to take a step back from the public role here and become much more a behind-the-scenes role at Calvary Baptist Church.
Here’s the date. You can go ahead and put it on your calendar right now, and those of you who want to see me leave, you can start counting down the days right now: March 15, 2048 is the day that I plan to step down and turn over the responsibilities to somebody else who can lead us well. Go ahead and start counting the days down now. You can make X’s on your calendar as we move towards March 15th in the year 2048.
Look, for those of you who were around and paying attention to the news back in 2013, the largest church in the world went through something that’s almost never happened in history. -A transition of leadership between one pope, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church to another pope. Back in February of 2013, Pope Benedict the 16th voluntarily resigned from the office of pope. He was 88 years old, and he said, “I’m too old to keep up with the travel. It’s not good for the Roman Catholic Church if I stay in the realm of pope. The church quickly met together and selected Pope Francis to take his place. This is the first time that this act has happened since 1415, when Pope Gregory the 12th stepped down. But you really can’t count that, because the church didn’t like him, and they forced him to retire. The last time a Pope voluntarily retired and didn’t just die in office was Pope Celestine V in the year 1294. That’s right; 723 years ago was the last time a Pope stepped down and transitioned.
Here is a video of Pope Francis showing up a month after Pope Benedict’s retirement meeting him at his house and these two living popes for the first time every having a conversation with one another while the whole world watches. They spend some time together, and the new pope meets with literally the Pope Emeritus, Pope Benedict the XVI. The Roman Catholic Church has been really careful about this. They don’t want to give the world the impression that there were two people leading the church at the same time. So they did their best to make sure as the world sees Pope Benedict is not really leading. He’s enjoying being on retirement, and Pope Francis is really the head of the church. So much so, that you probably remember they just built the place for Pope Benedict XVI inside the Sistine Chapel where the people have limited access to him. But even the Roman Catholic Church realizes this is so important, we don’t want to mess this up. So we’ve got to be really careful with the image that we’re giving to the world.
The challenge from the Bible today is, the passion that you have for Jesus Christ, your heart, you take that passion, that heart, and you put it into the heart of the next generation. Is there any parent in the room that doesn’t want to see their grown children sitting in the same seats at the same worship service in the same church as them? Is there any grandparent in this room that wouldn’t saw off your right arm to see your grown grandchildren that have turned their back on the church and on the faith, find their way back into the doors of Calvary Baptist Church and worship in the same place at the same time?
‘See, this is what it means to take your heart and pass it on to the next generation and then pass it on to the generation after that. And this is why Calvary invests so much time and so much money into children. Did you know that this summer, Calvary Baptist Church conducted three separate Kids Jam events in our church and in our community? More than 275 kids came to one of those things here in our church and in our community. There were several of them whose lives were impacted by Jesus Christ for it. But more than 90 volunteers from this church alone took part in what we did here, what we did at Waldrop Memorial, or at Benning Hills Baptist Church. We did because we want to see the next generation impacted by King Jesus the way we’re impacted by King Jesus.
I’ve got to give mad props to Pastors Frank Bowden and Steve Pate for what they did this summer and the impact that they’re having with children. Look, if you want to know what it looks like to hand your heart off to the next generation, here’s the lasting effect that it has: When you do this and when you do this well, you’re leaving a legacy for the next generation.
This isn’t just good for you; this is good for the church; this is good for the city; this is good for Jesus Christ and His glory. -when you take your heart and put it into the heart of somebody else and it starts to be in their heart after you’re gone.
III. Leave a legacy for the next generation
Here’s the way that Moses’ transition ends when he finally steps down and Joshua steps in and takes over. And guys, let me just ask you: How would you like to step into the shoes of one of the greatest leaders in human history? How do you like to be Joshua, taking on that responsibility? Deuteronomy 34, starting in verse 5:
So Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, just as the Lord had said. 6 The Lord buried him in a valley near Beth-peor in Moab, but to this day no one knows the exact place. 7 Moses was 120 years old when he died, yet his eyesight was clear, and he was as strong as ever. 8 The people of Israel mourned for Moses on the plains of Moab for thirty days, until the customary period of mourning was over. 9 Now Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him, doing just as the Lord had commanded Moses. 10 There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. 11 The Lord sent him to perform all the miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, and all his servants, and his entire land. 12 With mighty power, Moses performed terrifying acts in the sight of all Israel.
Does that language sound weird to you? This is what the Bible just said: Moses was such a great leader that God officiated his funeral service, and because he was such a great leader, the danger was that the people of Israel would go to his graveside and worship his graveside, and so God hid the place where he actually buried Moses, so that the nation of Israel would have to look to a new leader. The Lord buried him there, and the Lord buried him in a place that no one knows to this day.
Joshua is probably terrified at the idea of taking over for Moses, and Moses places his hands on this man, something like what we’re going to do tonight at Calvary. Then the Bible uses very unusual language. In the Old Testament, it says that Joshua now has this Holy Spirit on him, the same Holy Spirit that was leading Moses is now leading Joshua, and if you pay attention, as much as Joshua is listening to the Holy Spirit, as much as the people are listening to Joshua, it’s actually the Holy Spirit that’s leading Israel. It’s not really Moses. It’s not really Joshua that’s leading Israel. The responsibility of the leader is to listen to the Holy Spirit and follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
What made Moses is such a great leader that he had this face-to-face, intimate relationship with God and Joshua carries that on when he meets God face-to-face at the Jordan River, and God shows up and says to Joshua, “I’m right here with you. Don’t be scared. Be strong and very courageous.”
I came across some statistics that scared the daylights out of me. March of this year, the Barna Group and Pepperdine University collectively studied churches in America, and they noticed a disturbing trend in churches in America. Here are the results of this study about all churches in America (all evangelical churches in America). They learned that today in America, the median age of a pastor is roughly 54 years old, but in 1992, the median age was only 44. They found that there are more pastors above the age of 65 today than there were in 1992, and this survey learned that only one in seven pastors in America is age 40 or younger. But when you put the math together, here’s what Pepperdine University and here’s what The Barna Group learned: In one generation, what’s about to happen in America is that there will be more churches than pastors, because nothing is raising up, nothing is developing the next level of pastors, and churches across America are about to be in a very bad way. They’re already saying that there are lots of churches that have become completely irrelevant to the next generation, because the leadership of the church is so disconnected from them.
So now, let me tell you what’s going to happen at Calvary as a result of this sermon today, and really, this is three years in the making, three years of talking with elders and meeting with the pastors and studying what we’re going to do as a church to prepare ourselves for the future. I’m going to refer to this as the 2040 Plan. This 2040 Plan is: What is Calvary Baptist Church is going to look like? In the year 2040 (more than 20 years from now), what does Calvary Baptist Church and our ministries do? What have we become by the year 2040? Then, I’m asking the question: What do the budgets and the boards and the buildings need to look like in order for us to get there by the year 2040? Here’s one of the things that we learned: We have to start developing tomorrow’s leaders today.
So, in order for us to do this, we’re going to create, starting next week, a pastoral residency program. This word is very intentional. Think about it like a medical doctor who goes to school for a couple of years. She learns all of the book stuff in the classroom, but nobody’s going to let her be on her own as a doctor. She’s got to go follow around other doctors who teach her how to be a doctor. And when she’s been a resident for a little while following other doctors, then they send her out, and they let her do her own thing.
What churches typically do is they call a guy to be a pastor who has absolutely no experience leading whatsoever, and then they fire him after 2 or 3 years, because he doesn’t know how to lead. What seminaries do is they give you all of the book experience, all of the book education, but no practical experience, and then churches get mad when you have all of the degrees, but no idea how to lead.
So Calvary Baptist Church, starting in about a week, is going to start investing ourselves, and not just me, not just the staff and the elders, but all of us in this room are raising up the next generation of pastors. These are pastors that we’re going to invest ourselves in and raise them up, and listen to me carefully, send them out. And part of the contract is, you don’t stay here. We’re to make you a rock star as a pastor and then give you our stamp of approval, but you leave, and you go lead another church. You go bless another church. You go serve at another church, and maybe one day if you’re good enough when Jeff dies of a heart attack, maybe you take over for Jeff, because you have been leading at another church, but our hope and our goal is that they would lead another church in our community, and our whole community would be better because of it.
• I want the journey of faith with Jesus. Today, I surrender my soul and my future to Jesus for the first time.
– I haven’t been living with passion for Jesus lately. Pray for me to have a passion that becomes contagious.
+ I will pray for and encourage our pastoral residents in the future.
- What is the most valuable lesson your parents or grandparents taught you?
- What is the one thing that you want the next generation to remember about you after you’re gone?
- How long did it take Moses to prepare Joshua to lead Israel? Why do you think it took so long?
- Do you think that Joshua was intimidated about following Moses? If so, what do you think was most intimidating?
- Why do some churches have such a hard time during the transition between two different Lead Pastors? What do you think would make that transition go smoother?
- Reread Deuteronomy 31:23. God wasn’t asking Joshua to try to be like Moses. What was God asking of Joshua when he took over as leader in Israel?
- Pray that our passion for Jesus would become contagious this week.