On dealing with transition in church leadership


20 months into my first incumbency, I gave the following reflection from Numbers 21:4-9 at our PCC meeting on Monday.  I said what I said not because I have received many direct complaints about what I have been doing (though I had been told about some grumbles indirectly) but because I know my weaknesses and so it is inevitable, given human nature, for a church to find the transition from one form of fallen leadership to another difficult.

18 months into the presidency of Barack Obama, a survey revealed that a significant number of Americans would have George W. Bush back in the White House in a instant.  The people of Israel went through a similar experience in the wilderness they grumbled about Moses’ leadership.  From where they sat in the desert, life seemed much better in Egypt.

At that time God sent snakes in amongst the Israelite camp and people were thrown into disarray and distress and we can suffer the same symptoms if we look back at the past and grumble about the present.

It is natural for human beings to look back with some degree of nostalgia for the past when things in the present are not all they could be.  My leadership at Holy Trinity will cause some to look back to the days of Margaret, George and even Trevor, with a degree of wistfulness as good times are recalled.

Whilst this is natural in a fallen world it is not healthy.  In Numbers 21 God in his goodness gives us three ways to overcome our present situation and to stop any grumbling.

1.  Trust God.  Just as the people of Israel should have remembered who it was that brought them out of slavery and who is was who planned good things for his people, so we should remember and trust God.  Whether it is a wilderness time or a season of blessing we should trust God.

2.  Look to Jesus.  Just as God provided a way for the Israelites to be healed from snake bites, so we have a means to be healed, restored and renewed.  The bronze snake is a model of what God would do for his people as Jesus was lifted up onto a stake.  As we look to Christ on the cross we find healing, restoration and renewal.

3.  Look forward not back.  The people of God were on a journey from slavery to the promised land and from the time of our salvation from slavery to sin until we reach glory we are on the same sort of journey.  We are not to look back to what life has been but forward to what it can be, as God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven and we press on towards glory.

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