Summary: A sermon designed for pastors who are leaving a church and trying to prepare the congregation for the new pastor. An ideal sermon for an interim minister.
A Change of Leadership
Introduction: A few weeks ago, Cathy and I were driving in the Houston area when we came across a bumper sticker that read, “I’ll keep my money, you keep the change!” I think that bumper sticker expresses the sentiment of a lot of people today. Most of us don’t like change. I certainly don’t. Every once in a while, my wife rearranges the furniture in our living room and it drives me bananas. I ask her, “Why do we have to move the furniture around? Can’t we keep it in one place?” As uncomfortable as change may be, it’s a fact of life. To live is to change. Change is inevitable in all living systems. People and organizations which refuse to change and adjust to a rapidly changing world soon become extinct. The late Bishop McConnell, began his sermon one day by asking: "The dinosaur? The dinosaur? What happened to him? What destroyed him? Nothing! The climate around him changed. He didn’t. He died!" One of the reasons, I’m returning to school to get my certification in Mediation is to enhance my skills and expand my tools for ministry. I believe we need to constantly improve ourselves and our skills and that means embracing a certain amount of change. Now I not suggesting that all change is good. Some change can be debilitating and even destructive. But change isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This is particularly true when it comes to a change of leadership. In our scripture reading this morning, the Israelites were experiencing a profound change of lea
dership. Moses had been their leader for forty years plus. And now just as the Israelites were preparing to enter the land that God promised them, Moses was dying. Just before he died, Moses was allowed to see the Promised Land but he wasn’t allowed to enter it. The change for the Israelites couldn’t have been more dramatic. It was a change from Moses to Joshua. Joshua had been commissioned to succeed Moses. That must have been quite a transition for the Israelites to make. But it was probably no more traumatic than the transition many churches have to make after a long pastorate. I’m sure there were Israelites who thought they were doomed because they no longer had Moses to lead them. But God cannot and will not be limited to using one person. If you don’t think so, read the book of Joshua. In some ways, Joshua was an even greater leader than Moses, because he led the Israelites into many victorious battles when they were hopelessly outnumbered. The scriptures clearly and consistently teach that God can use anyone to accomplish God’s purposes. They simply have to be open and willing to be used by God. The same can be said about any change of leadership, including a change of pastors. This morning I want to share with you three practices that will help smooth the transition between pastors and allow your new pastor, Nancy Sherman to be a strong and effective leader here. Let’s begin with the first practice.
I. First, let the pastor be the pastor. Notice that in verse 9 we read, “So the Israelites listened to [Joshua] and did what the LORD had commanded Moses.” The Israelites didn’t demand that Joshua be exactly like Moses. Joshua had a different leadership style than Moses but God was able to work just as effectively through Joshua despite the differences. I’m often amused at how congregations expect a new pastor to function exactly like the old pastor. When I first came to this church in 1987, I followed a pastor who had served here for four years. Every time I tried to do something new, I was told,“You can’t do that, because Paul did it this way!” I was constantly told that everything had to be done like the previous pastor, Paul. It really set back the ministry of this church for several years until I could finally earn the trust of the people. How many of you remember the story of David and Goliath? When David first approached Saul and told him that he was going to fight Goliath in combat, Saul urged young David to put on his armor. He even dressed David up in a coat of armor with a bronze helmet. But David found the armor wouldn’t fit. David told Saul, “I can’t go in these, because I’m not used to them.” (I Sam. 17:39b) So David took off the armor and picked out five smooth stones from a stream and brought his sling. And the rest as they say is history. The point is, David had to fight Goliath his own way. He couldn’t do it Saul’s way. The same is true for your new pastor, Nancy Sherman. You need to let the pastor be the pastor. Don’t expect her to be me or to be something she’s not. She’s got to fight the spiritual battles her way, with her own unique skills and talents. Don’t force her to be something she’s not. Joshua couldn’t be Moses. David couldn’t be Saul. And Elisha couldn’t be Elijah. God uses each of us in unique ways because our skills are unique. We’re not all the same. Each of us has unique strengths. Celebrate Nancy’s skills and allow her to use them for the glory of Christ and Christ will use her powerfully and you’ll share an effective ministry together. And that brings us to the second practice.