church leadership

How to Prepare your Congregation for a Transition? A Healthy Transition Tells More than Just the Health of a Church and Its Leadership.

PART 1

I have recently accepted the call to be the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Metuchen, NJ. It has been over a decade now that I have been serving on the staff of Calvary Baptist Church in Midtown Manhattan. My time at Calvary has been more than just a job. My wife and I were married here my two boys were dedicated here, and my twin girls will be dedicated on Father’s Day. For the last three years my wife and I have been seeking after God diligently for the next season of ministry in our life. Asking the Lord to direct our paths to fulfill His will for our family as we patiently waited on the Lord to unfold the next chapter in our ministry was the hardest part.

I tell you this, many hours of prayer, fasting, deep conversation with each other, with the Lord, and a couple close friends have gone into this. My last day at Calvary Baptist Church is July 31st, 2021 and I am making sure that my transition from CBC to FBCM is a healthy transition.

In the next few blog posts/articles I will share about three things:

  • The process of electing a new pastor to a church during the pandemic.
  • The process of a healthy transition.
  • The process of adjusting to your new role. This one will be a long process; therefore I will try to write on it periodically.

In this article I simply want to set the stage for upcoming posts on a healthy transition and the related processes. It goes without saying that if church leadership is healthy, the church will be healthy, and when the church is healthy, they follow Christ and whenever change comes they lean on Christ in and through change. I am blessed enough that I am personally experiencing a godly transition because my predecessor initiated the conversation about discovering the new senior pastor himself. He not only led the conversation, but he is leading a healthy transition. I thank the Lord for pastor Miller’s faithfulness to our Lord and his commitment to a healthy transition. He has been preparing his congregation for both the change and the transition. He has served the same church for 47 years and will continue as an associate pastor. With his permission I am posting his most recent e-letter to the congregation:

Dear Church Family,

The Apostle Paul made a request of the Thessalonian church with regard to their leaders:

12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who ad monish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. -1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

Three words are used to describe the relationship between a pastor and the people of the church.  The first word, translated here as “acknowledge,” is literally “to know,” or “to know with respect.” The verse goes on to say, “Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.” This is an attitude of the heart. The second word refers to those who “care” for you. The caring is exercised from a position of leadership. It could be literally translated “who are over you,” in other words, “those who have oversight.” The third word is “admonish.” This is another Greek word that is not adequately captured by just one English word. It is a combination of admonishing, warning and counseling.

My experience has been that FBCM has always practiced these verses. When I assumed the responsibilities of the office of senior pastor, I was young and relatively inexperienced; yet, the congregation was patient, supportive and accepting of me. In return, I pledged my loyalty, watched over you spiritually and earned your trust. I have always felt respected, my leadership followed, and my admonitions welcomed.

The time has come for that leadership role to be transferred to another. The church has followed its own stated procedures. The members have come together and affirmed the work of the Search Committee in finding Pastor Alfonse Javed. We must acknowledge the Lord’s hand in this. Just like me, Pastor Javed will have to earn your trust. But as with me, you will need to respect him, affirm the leadership of his office and receive the admonitions from the Lord that he brings to us. I trust you will all extend to Pastor Alfonse the same support and respect that you have given to me for all these years.

May the Lord continue to bless his work here as we serve him and his kingdom together.

Sincerely in Christ,

Pastor Jim Miller

Clearly, pastor Miller has initiated and is executing a healthy transition. The last thing the new guy needs to deal with is the fallout of an unhealthy transition, so I thank Pastor Miller.

In the next post on a healthy transition, I want to start by discussing potential divisiveness and resistance to change and its remedy.