Transition is another word for change. Regardless of where you are right now, you will face seasons of transition in ministry because change is inevitable. In the same way we can watch children grow and seemingly change before our eyes, spiritual growth and maturity will bring about change for of all of us as followers of Jesus. Therefore, it is not a matter of if we will experience transition in ministry, but when.
In his book Leading Change, John P. Kotter says, “Transformation is a process, not an event.” I think the same is true for transition in ministry; it is a process and not a change moment in time. Or perhaps better said, transition is a journey, a walk of faith following Jesus into new ways and/or places of ministry.
Whether it is the subtle adjustments of ministry focus to a life-changing shift, let me share some lessons I’ve learned along the way to help us keep in step with the Spirit. As pastors and ministry leaders we need to make some key steps to successfully navigate the journey of change. Here are the first three of seven steps to help us faithfully walk the path of transition.
Sometimes our identity gets tied to our title and place of ministry. Our identity is found in who we are in Christ and not what we can do for God. Above all else we are beloved children of God. As such every believer is set apart by God as members together of a royal priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices. Paul said, “God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News” (2 Tim. 1:11 NLT). First and foremost in Paul’s mind was the reality that God chose him. As Saul he walked a different path unknowingly persecuting the LORD he claimed to serve. Nevertheless Jesus called and chose him on the Damascus road. That call changed everything. Saul, whose name meant “desired” could be known as Paul meaning “small or little.” With Christ’s calling he was content to serve whether as a pastor, an apostle, a teacher or simply a servant (see Rom. 1:1). As you and I walk through seasons of transition we need to rest in the reality of our calling. Our title or place of ministry may change, but the certainty of God’s call remains. Wherever and whatever He calls us to we will follow.
Listening is more than hearing; it is hearing and doing. Listening brings obedience. That was Jonah’s problem; he heard God’s word, but failed to listen and obey. Even after running from God and spending three days and nights in the belly of a whale, Jonah still struggled to listen to God because his heart was not transformed resenting God’s call to preach to the people of Nineveh. Let’s listen with open hearts willing to do all the LORD says to us. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (Jn. 10:27). Sometimes the LORD will use the scriptures to communicate to us, but don’t limit the voice of Jesus to only what is written in your bible. He has given us His Spirit to lead and guide us in all truth, and by His Spirit “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). God will speak to us in unexpected ways if we are listening willing to obey. Jesus will confirm the steps He wants us to take through the people we encounter as well as the circumstances we face from day to day. God wants to direct us as His children. The LORD will speak and make known the steps we are to take if we listen attentively to His voice in whatever way He may choose to speak. I’m thankful for the ways the Holy Spirit has made the written word of God alive in my heart to point the way, but I’m also grateful for the unexpected ways He will speak through ordinary people and the day-to-day happenings of life.
Sometimes we hesitate to move and take the next step where the LORD is leading. Sometimes we’re unsure of the direction and want confirmation; at other times we stay in the same place and resist stepping into something new because we are comfortable with familiar things. However, in the same way it is easier to change the direction of a moving car than one parked in the garage, so too we receive direction as we step out in faith. I’m thankful for Solomon’s wisdom; “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Prov. 16:9). What roadmap or strategy is within your heart; make a decision to step toward it and begin to move. God directs those who are moving in Him. Jesus said He is “the way” (Jn. 14:6); His Spirit will direct us if we begin to wander from the One who is our path.
A theme in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is our walk of faith (see 2:10; 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15). The only time he encourages us to “stand” or stay in one place is in our struggle “against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11). However, as we stand firm it is with the anticipation to continue to walk in the path God established for us. We don’t stand to stay put or turn and retreat; we stand to overcome the enemy and continue to walk confidently through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Navigating the journey of transformation is part of our walk of faith. In next month’s Ministry Matters we will think about the final four steps to faithfully walking the path Jesus has set before us.
- Unless otherwise noted all scriptures referenced are from the English Standard Version (ESV) c 2016 by Crossway Bibles.