Innovative Ministry
The Pastoral Transition Zone: Catching God’s Timing For Your Church And Ministry
When you give church members the gift of time and respect, they’ll go with you to some exciting places.

God’s timing is perfect.

When he does something in our lives unilaterally (as in, he doesn’t ask for our permission or cooperation) his timing is often quick, surprising and sometimes painful. It’s only when we see those events in the rear view mirror that we understand what he was doing – sometimes not even then.

But there are other times when God chooses to bring us in on a decision in advance. He gives us a choice. And a chance to participate with him.

When those circumstances have happened in my life, I’ve noticed that the Lord usually gives us a window of time to implement those changes – often a very large, generous window. This allows us the wonderful opportunity to see what God is about to do, discover our role in it, prepare for it to take place, and open the gate to turn it loose.

(This post is part of an ongoing series about pastoral transition. Click here to read other posts in the series.)

It’s like the hand-off zone in a relay race. The smaller the transition zone, the harder the hand-off. But the longer the zone, the smoother the hand-off can be.

That’s why I recommend acting as soon as possible to implement the changes God calls us to make. Especially as church leaders, I believe we have an obligation before God and his people to anticipate and instigate God-ordained changes as early inside that window of opportunity as possible.

Catch The Sweet Spot Early

Discerning God’s timing is often an important aspect of acting within God’s will.

Discerning God’s timing is often an important aspect of acting within God’s will.

If we try to change too early (before the zone opens) we often end up forcing circumstances and manipulating people to bring the changes about. If we wait too late we’re always a step behind, fighting irrelevance and playing an endlessly frustrating game of catch-up.

By hitting the sweet spot early we can take advantage of the time God is giving us. We can slow down enough to hear from the Lord together and prepare for the changes to come, allowing us to make decisions with as much grace, tact and skill as possible.

This weekend, our church will be making such a change. On Sunday, the congregation will vote to affirm my long-time associate pastor, Gary Garcia, as the new lead pastor, with me becoming the teaching pastor.

It may be an unusual move, but one of the reasons it’s been going so smoothly is that we’ve hit the change zone early enough to take our time and do it right. No one feels rushed, unprepared or surprised. When you give church members the gift of time and respect, they’ll go with you to some exciting places.

If we’d attempted this transition two years ago, we’d have been forcing it. Two years from now, we’d have lost most of the great momentum we’re currently experiencing.

Catching God’s timing is not easy. And I’ve missed it on several occasions by being both too early and too late.

But when you hit it in the early part of the change zone, there’s nothing like that sweet spot.

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February 16, 2018 at 2:00 AM

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