When I accepted the invitation from GPBC to be a candidate for the Lead Pastor position several months ago, I remember talking with one of my friends in church ministry about the potential of serving in the role. We talked about the challenge that it would be for my family to move from Arizona to Portland, we talked about what it would be like for me to be in a Lead Pastor role again, we talked about the great history of GPBC and the potential that was here. And then we talked about “The Transition.”
Everything was going great until that point in the conversation. I remember his reaction was something like, “wait, what? You are going to a church where the current Lead Pastor is going to be there for the first 3 months, and then he is going to stay on the staff afterwards? Are you really sure you want to do that?”
You see, my friend knew what I knew about Lead Pastor transitions in church. They can be very difficult and fragile, and if they aren’t done right, the results can be damaging for everyone involved. Of course, my friend also knew what we were told in seminary, and it seemed like common sense for pastoral transitions, the transition becomes even more complicated if the previous Lead Pastor stays around at the church. As for him staying on the ministry staff? Forget it, that was unheard of, a sure disaster waiting to happen!
Even after I acknowledged that although the transition plan was a little unorthodox, it could still work, my friend was skeptical. He wasn’t alone. Friends, mentors, family members continued to ask that same question, “Are you sure?”
To be honest, there were times when I wasn’t sure, especially at first, even though I liked the idea of having someone guide me through the transition into a new role and a new community. One thing I knew, though, is that it would all depend on what kind of guy this Wayne Williams was, since it is the rare person with rare character who could actually make this work.
Now as we approach the date that marks the end of our transition, I am convinced of two things. One, that Jesus guides and sustains His Church, in spite of what human wisdom might say. Two, that Wayne Williams is one of the only pastors I know who could have made this transition so smooth and so gracious.
This Sunday, Wayne will officially “handoff” a role in which he has thrived and which he has cherished over the past several years. In reality, he has been handing it off for at least a few months, and every step of the way he has been as gracious and as humble and as God-honoring as anyone could hope. It would take me a month’s worth of blog entries just to list all of the ways that he has so wisely and lovingly helped to prepare me and to prepare GPBC for this coming season.
For those of you who have known Wayne for any amount of time, I’m sure you are not surprised by his grace and humility and his love for Jesus and His Church. Even so, we should never take it for granted. At GPBC, we have had a rare jewel of a pastor leading us over the past several years. Wayne and Paulette should be honored and appreciated with as much appreciation as we can give them.
I am still convinced that I was given good advice all those years ago in seminary regarding pastoral transitions and my friends and family were right to ask, “Are you sure?” But Wayne is an exception to the rule and it is my prayer that I will be able to faithfully follow on what Jesus has used Wayne to build as graciously and as faithfully as he has.
I look forward to working side-by-side with Wayne as he moves into a new pastoral position at our church after his well-deserved sabbatical. The rich past of GPBC has given us a bright future and we are moving forward in grateful anticipation because we can’t wait to see what Jesus will do next!
So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.
For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it.
Let each one take care how he builds upon it.
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:7-11