“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16: 9 (NIV)
The past five months have been an interesting journey. At the outset of the search, I developed a timeline and plan that would lead us to asking someone to preach for the call on Sunday, 26 May. When I presented the plan to Session, I stated that there we would be working to two timelines – the temporal one that I had just presented, and God’s – and that ultimately it would be God’s timeline that we would follow.
At the beginning, all moved forward according to my plan but as we approached key decision points, something would come up to cause a slight pause: a new applicant, a family issue, weather, a sticking point in the discussion and analysis of a candidate’s fit to our requirement. Each time, we’d work through and get back on track.
On Monday and Tuesday, May 6/7 we conducted our interviews; then met that Thursday to review our notes from each interview. Our objective was to reach a recommendation to bring to Session at a meeting scheduled for Monday, 13 May. The meeting went very well, but at the end of the evening we had not yet discerned the one to whom we felt God was directing us. We adjourned, deciding to postpone the Session meeting and meet again on the Monday. We were now clearly on God’s timeline.
At our Monday meeting, we took out the raw survey data that we had received from the congregation. This served to remind us of what the church was seeking in terms of a minster, and after much prayer and discussion we did reach a decision as to who we would recommend to Session.
Were we aware that our recommendation might cause concern for some? Absolutely! Did we come to our recommendation lightly? Absolutely not! Did we ensure Session was made fully aware of all the issues relating to their decision? Absolutely!
I did not sleep well that night, my mind continually going over and over the steps we had taken to reach our recommendation and wondering if we were doing the right thing. Had we really been listening to what God was telling us?
The next morning, Tuesday May 14, I awoke early to prepare my notes for the Session meeting. As is my habit, I began the day by reading the daily Presbyterian Church Devotional. What I read told me that God is in control and that His timing is perfect. Here it is:
May 14, 2019
by Gail Lundquist
Psalm 145:4 – One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts. (NKJV)
Over a lifetime of moves and other changes along the way, I have been a part of several churches. My current church was once very large, but as is true of many churches today, it has diminished significantly in numbers over the years. The reasons for shrinking church attendance can be varied. One reason is that older, stalwart church members often become disgruntled when music and worship styles change, and they leave, hoping to find a dream church that still uses hymnbooks rather than projection on a screen, and an organ rather than a worship band. Nonetheless, if I were given the choice between a congregation of white-hairs singing out of hymnals and a congregation of young people with coffee mugs in hand, I'd choose the younger congregation in a flash.
It encourages me to realize that the thread of the gospel has remained unbroken down through the centuries since the early church. It has at times seemingly been at risk of breaking, snarling, twisting, knotting, or stretching, but the scarlet thread of redemption has woven its way down through the centuries. It has outlasted Nero and Hitler. It has withstood disputing church councils, the Crusades, the Dark Ages, times of war, doctrinal disputes, denominational divisions, coldness of heart, and unbelief. It has survived Woodstock, Watergate, Vietnam, Y2K, 9/11, and Facebook. It will survive whatever other challenges Satan, society, and the culture of the time will try to throw in its path.
Today's older church members took the torch which was passed on to them by their parents' generation and have faithfully carried it for their generation's lap of the great race. Moses passed his torch on to Joshua, Elijah to Elisha, David to Solomon, Paul to Timothy, and so on. It is the natural order of things for an older generation to give way to a younger generation. Older people can do that gracefully, or they can grouse and complain every step of the way.
Do I like every new change in my church? Of course not. But God will faithfully maintain and sustain His church. My personal plan of action is to pray for and encourage my young church leaders and trust them to carry on the work of the church as God leads them to do.
Our generation can confidently pass this torch on to the next generation, who will in due time — perhaps with their own feeling of trepidation — hand it off to those following behind them. (I was amused to hear a young pastor in his 30s refer to a younger-yet pastor in his 20s as a "skinny jeans pastor"!)
Let's be a generation that encourages our young leaders and makes a smooth transition in passing on the torch to the next generation.
3 John 1:4 – I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. (NKJV)
Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, give us grace and wisdom in being flexible as we see many changes coming in our churches. May we be encouraging and supportive of our upcoming young leaders as we entrust the work of the church into their hands. Amen.
I am excited about how well our congregation has recovered from the challenges of the past couple of years and I will be forever thankful for the leadership that has brought us healing and the ability to look to the future. I am also excited to be preparing to “pass the torch” to the next generation and am looking forward to experiencing that renewal and revival that is always in our prayers.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3: 5-6 (NIV)