Moving On In Ministry
Guest Post written by David E. Ramirez
Finishing Well Is Also An Important Part Of Success
It’s not easy to give up something you love.For 14 years, God blessed the efforts of my family in planting a thriving church in Ecuador and establishing SEMISUD (SouthAmerican Ministerial Seminary) in Quito. The seminary was making a significant impact on higher Christian education across Latin America. I always wondered when the season—the opportune moment— would come to hand over the work into the hands of new leadership that could take it to other levels of ministry and influence.
In Christian leadership, we are not accustomed to planning how we are going to end something; it’s hard for us to define the end of a program or the transition of a ministry, to close the chapter or to finish a work. We forget our theology of the value of death, conditional commitment, the breaking away and redemption of personal ministry, the finished work; of becoming less so that someone else might emerge and take the baton to carry the ministry to the next level. We do not yet have an ecclesiastical culture that is conducive to planning the process of ministerial succession.
In scripture, we find clear examples of the difficult, but necessary, process of the succession of leadership. The great success of Moses was preparing Joshua as his successor; being obedient to God and giving Joshua the position at the right time. Numbers 27:12-23 tells of a moment when Moses starts to break away from unprecedented leadership,“Mosesdid as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole assembly. Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, as the Lord instructed through Moses.”(Numbers,27: 22-23 NIV).
The style of the three-year leadership of Jesus was to find, to select, to train, and to send out His successors(Mt.28 19-20; Jn. 13:34; 20:21). Jesus did not make Christianity into a worldwide movement, but His disciples did. He decided not to finish His will without those that would come after Him. In the same way, our successors will be the ones who finish what we started.
Perhaps there is no better place in the Scriptures that demonstrates future leadership development so clearly as Paul’s second letter to Timothy where Paul names him as his successor to continue his work and assures that Timothy will find his own successors.“Andthe things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others,”(2Timothy 2:2 NIV).
The renowned author, Lyle Schalle, is clear in highlighting that there are two frequent mistakes made in the process of transition:(1)leadership tends to stay in a position longer than necessary more often than not;(2)leaders who do stay in their positions longer than necessary tend to cause more damage to those who do not stay long enough.
Among other fears that make the process of succession difficult which gives birth to resistance of finishing a work and closing a chapter of our history, we can name the following reasons:
Job security.“Whatwill I do?”“Wherewill I go?” A leader who is a true servant, however, will always put the needs of the group before his own.
Fear of retirement.It is the last of the fears, the fear of feeling useless, and that if one cannot serve he is worthless(Apseudo-theology that we must rectify.) A man nourishes his self-worth by the things he accomplishes.
Resistance to change.It is a lot easier to keep on doing more of the same instead of facing a change in activities or new challenges forcing us to grow and change, especially if this means moving to another place or drastically changing the familiar environment.
Self-Worth.A great deal of the sensation of identity emerges from activities. This particularly happens to those who have developed an addiction to power and activism.
Lack of confidence in a successor.The leader may think that no one could do the job as well.
Love for people and the work.Perhaps this is one of the most emotional reasons for which leaders do not want to let go of the ministry. Why should he retire to boredom and isolation if he can continue to enjoy the people who love him?
Loss of investment.Presidents of ministry organizations, pastors, and founding leaders made a great investment of life and resources to achieve. It is an investment that is very hard to abandon.
The apostle Paul spent more time with the Christians at the church of Ephesus than with any other group, but eventually he had to leave them. Why? I am sure that they offered him many perks to try to persuade him to reconsider, but he left because there was work to do elsewhere. It was a good thing for Paul to go, even though it was painful(Acts20:36-38).
Finishing well is also part of success. We train and gained experience in the building years, but there is still much to learn when it comes to outlining the process for stepping aside. It is necessary and fundamental to dedicate time and energy in the planning of the end. Obeying God to start a mission entrusted to us by Him is a clear sign of a good disciple. But also, we must develop obedience when it is necessary to stop doing what we have always done and to plan with precision the end of our part in the process.
The process is clear: seek, heal, form disciples, and send.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,”(2Timothy 4:7 NIV).
David E. Ramirez, D. Min
Church of God
Assistant General Overseer
Divisional Director of Education