Football is an excellent teaching tool for the Church and its leadership. I have said for many years “Sport speaks.” It speaks about transitions, pressures, training, plays, setbacks, comebacks and tensions. It is no surprise to New Englanders that quarterback Tom Brady is re-retiring from football.
You may be asking, “What does Tom Brady’s re-retirement have to do with Church Revitalization?”
Almost everything that applies to football can apply to the Church. Well, maybe not the drinking of Gatorade on the sidelines and using a heated blanket between plays to try and stay warm. But we can still learn much from the game.
What can we learn from Brady’s recent announcement and transitions?
Transitions are hard
Church revitalization is about transitions.
It is moving the Church in a direction that produces mobilization and multiplication again for the gospel. My mentor and coach, Bob Russel, former lead pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, was the first person I watched who did a transition correctly.
After taking his church from 120 people to 16,000 on campus over a weekend, his legacy continues through the next generation. In his book “Transitions,” Bob captured the feelings of a successful pastor who was winning but chose to walk away from his role on excellent terms.
First, he passed the baton to David Stone, and then David passed it to Kyle Idleman, who has done an excellent job and continues to impact many people.
Every pastor will face a pivotal moment when they must ask themselves, “Is it time to walk off the field?”
The decision to walk off the field or to transition in ministry is not an easy one to make. When you are thinking of making a transition, you must ask some hard questions and get counsel to ensure that the timing is right.
If you stay too long, it will cost you
Understanding the right time to transition to another ministry role can be difficult.
Even Brady struggled with letting go of the game he loved and had been so good at for years. Staying on the field or in a particular role for too long can cost you in the long run. It can cost you and your church from going to the next level, it can affect your legacy, and it can even affect your family and personal life.
There are some indicators to watch for when trying to decide when to transition.
Ask yourself if you are trying to hold on to a title or a role.
How does your family feel about the idea?
Are you ignoring the advice of others?
Leaving a ministry role does not mean that your influence and purpose is over.
Never confuse your call with your position. Your position as a pastor is only for a season, but your call to follow Jesus and make disciples is for a lifetime. There are so many other opportunities to mentor and pour into the next generation of leaders.
Don’t end things with a loss
Sadly, I have seen it too many times.
A pastor stays too long and when he is finally ready to leave, there isn’t much left for the community. If you stay too long, chances are you will leave at a loss instead of after a win. Don’t sacrifice your future and the church’s future by staying too long in a role for the wrong reasons.
Make sure that when the time is right for you to shift your role, the church is set up for success and can move forward for even greater Kingdom impact. When the timing is right for a transition, both you and your church will be ready.
Walk off the field when you are winning
Making a transition when things are going well is much easier for all involved.
The team you are leaving behind will feel more confident in their abilities to keep the legacy and momentum moving forward. Try not to quit and walk off the field after a loss or when things are in crisis.
It is OK to move off the field and move onto the coaching and mentoring sidelines. Coaching is just as important.
An important part of leadership is training up leaders to take on the roles and responsibilities to lead the Church into the future. It is a joy to mentor younger leaders and make them successful in what they do. Use your talents and skills to help others get better. End with a win.
While transitions are difficult, they are a natural part of life. We need to prepare for them and strive to navigate them well.