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Transitions

Transitions

Deuteronomy 34:7-8    “Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated. And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab for thirty days. Then the days for weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.”

Intentional Interim Ministry is a time of transition for a congregation, celebrating what was while preparing for what’s to come – grieving the “loss” of a beloved pastor while anticipating the calling and receiving of a new, resident pastor. Change is required and will visit the congregation – either by design, or by default. But, to quote Bob Dylan, “The times, they are a-changing!”

William Bridges, a mentor for interim ministers, pictures “transitions” this way: “In order to continue our journey, we are forced to let go of the way we got that far. Having let go, we find ourselves in the wilderness for a time, and until we have lived out that time can we come back around to a new beginning.”

The Exodus-wanderings of God’s people in many ways is an instructive lesson in “transitions.” The people, for many generations, had been under the oppression of their Egyptian taskmasters. When Israel migrated to an Egypt led by Joseph, they were welcomed with open arms; but after many years and the faded memory of Joseph by the subsequent Pharaohs, Israel becomes a source of cheap labor. Moses, sent by God, led Israel out from under their bondage and to a Promised Land; but things had to change. After a time, some of the people wanted to return to Egypt (“Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know”) rather than face an uncertain future. And entire generation would have to pass before a new one replaced them. Only then would Israel would be allowed to enter the land. Moses, himself, had offended God, so even he didn’t get to enter into the land. The people faced entry into a new land under new leadership. They would have to transition from a wandering people to pioneers and settlers under Joshua.

When a congregation transitions, it continually faces three movements:

  1. ENDINGS – recognition and acknowledgement that some things (ministry, relationships, etc.) have to come to an end.
  2. NEUTRAL ZONE – recognizing the need to move forward from what has ended.
  3. BEGINNING – heading toward an uncertain future, anticipating what is new rather than continuing to mourn what has been lost.

As Resurrection moves from its Endings (almost three decades of pastoral leadership) into the Neutral Zone (making the change; feels more like a “Twilight Zone”) and into the Beginning of a new chapter in its history, we do well to remember what followed after Moses’ death: “And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses” (Deuteronomy 34:9). Before Moses had died, God had already set Joshua into the place of leadership. There would be no void or vacuum of leadership; God had planned for quick and fluid succession for Israel, just as he has already picked out Resurrection’s new pastor.