I got some interesting feedback from my previous post. Several people were surprised to hear of a church handling a leadership transition is such a healthy and even joyful manner. Some were concerned my continuing presence would hamper the leaders of the new pastor. Others were thinking my presence might stifle new ways of thinking. I could see that and the leadership, including the new pastor, and I have talked about this at length. We have established strong boundaries and opportunities for those same leaders to be able to tell me my presence is no longer helpful.
I’m pretty self aware, so chances are I would notice it before they did. While we don’t have many examples of this kind of leadership transition, it does happen. In the secular world, CEO’s step down and remain on the board. College presidents retire and stay on campus in some kind of advisory role. Like I said, it may not happen much, but it does happen.
So, let’s begin with the obvious: I have to go to church somewhere.
I want to go to Brentwood Baptist Church. I have family here, both natural and spiritual. I get to see my grandkids when I go to church here. I love the music and the ministries of our church. With all that, we’re still dealing with a new, but undeniable truth. I’m not in charge anymore. We can have the “was I ever in charge debate” on another day, but right now, everybody knows I’m no longer the senior pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church. That changes things.
For one thing, I’m having to learn to be a good church member. I need to find my place in the body life of the church. I need to be connected to a life group. I need to tithe. I need to participate in worship services. And I need to stay on my side of the lines.
What do I mean by that?
I mean there are rules about how to be a good church member when you were the pastor. What are some of those rules? Here are a couple that quickly come to mind.
1. I won’t entertain gossip. If someone begins to tell me things about current leadership or another church member, I will reply, “What did they say when you talked to them as we’re commanded to do in the Scriptures?” Nothing tears a church up faster than gossip. I won’t be part of it.
2. I won’t criticize the pastor or leadership of the church. Period. If I have something to say, I’ll say it directly to them. I still have their phone numbers.
3. I won’t criticize decisions. For one reason, I no longer have the inside information that guided that decision. So, while everyone assumes I have the scoop. I don’t. Not only that, I don’t want to know anymore.
4. I need to find my place, get there and get to work just like every other member of Brentwood Baptist Church. After all, it’s not about me or the new pastor. It’s about the mission. If I can be helpful in accomplishing that mission, I want to be involved. If the time comes when I’m no longer helpful to the mission of the church, it’ll be time for me to move on. I want to find the place where I can be of the best service to Christ — wherever that is. I want to be a good member of Brentwood Baptist Church. I want to encourage and strengthen the people around me. There’s enough negativity in the world and I don’t need to add to it. I don’t want to be on the “inside” anymore. I don’t want to know the scoop. I want to be left alone to live my life.
For all the books we have on leadership, we need to have more books on being good followers. I’m learning to be a good follower. I still have my place in the church, but it’s further back in the line. I’m not in front of it anymore. And that’s OK. Not only is it OK, it’s good. In fact, it’s very good for our church and for me. I’ll visit friends in the hospital and go to the funeral home when my friends lose someone they love., but I will only go as friend. I won’t go as their pastor. They have a pastor and it’s not me. I won’t do any counseling. I don’t do that anymore. Besides our church has trained and gifted counselors to point people to. I would be wrong to hinder someone who needs help if I put my ego in between them and the help they need.
If I’m involved in a funeral service, it will be at the invitation of the pastor. That goes for everything else in the church as well. If I’m there, it will be because the pastor asked me to be there. Otherwise, I’ll be doing other things. Yes, I’ll be at church. I’ll come with my wife and we’ll find our seats. I’ll join the worship and listen to the sermon. I’ll get up and leave when service is over. I’ll shake some hands and talk to some friends. Then, I’ll go home.
I’m learning to be a good church member, but I won’t be the pastor. The church doesn’t need me up front anymore. The church needs me in my pew. At my age, I’m grateful to be needed anywhere…