Word has it that you are on the verge of discerning who will be the new senior pastor for Scofield Memorial Church. I have to tell you that I do hope so, and Christa and I remain steadfast in prayer for this special man and his family. Of course, we love you so much, value the years we had as part of the Scofield family, and remain fervent in our prayers for you too.
I want to take just a moment and, from a distance, invite you to do something very important for this pending man of God’s own choosing. As one who has himself made the transition from one church to the next to the next, and therefore has followed in the footsteps of those who have gone before, I am very passionate about that which I want to lay before you.
First, please just let this man be himself. So many of you gave me that great honor, and for this I am thankful. Do not hesitate to give this gift yet again. Whoever this man is, he is not Matthew St. John or Randy Youngling or Neil Ashcraft or Harlin Roper, et cetera. He is who God has made him to be. And if he is indeed who you have called to Scofield Memorial Church, then you should rest assured that he is the man God wants to have at the helm of that great ship. God could call one from among thousands of others. But God is calling this one man. Let him, therefore, just be himself; the one God has anointed for the task.
Secondly, should you compare him whatsoever to me or to any others who have gone before, do so only by pointing out those many ways in which he surpasses any of us in character, wisdom, vision, skill, and faith. In other words, only edify him. Never should there be the need to elevate any of us predecessors–our choices, approaches, demeanors, et cetera–over this new man. Avoid saying to him, “Well, you know, when Pastor Matthew was here he always did it this way,” or, “When Pastor Roper was here we did this thing.”
Who cares. The fact of the matter is Pastor Matthew or Pastor Roper or the others are not now at the helm. Their seasons are done, and it is exceedingly demoralizing to constantly be told what the other guy did. I have no doubt this man will hear enough of the church’s history and precedents, and that he will have the wisdom necessary to assess how to look forward for the reputation of the Master. If he asks about this thing or that, give an honest answer, even if it puts me or the others in a light that is not especially pretty. But whatever you do, please do not be constantly forcing the man to wear our shoes.
Which does lead to a third point: ideally the man will bring significant change to the church–change that positions the church for a vibrant future, causing it to be all the more influential in the new reality in which the church, indeed any church, finds itself. Many of the older methods cannot work today. Methods and models that were acceptable even five years ago, or ten, may no longer be appropriate now. I beg you to empower the man to cast such a radical vision for Scofield Memorial Church that it would place this great ship on the high seas, moving fast and furiously, with sails full of the Spirit’s mighty wind.
These new ideas may well pull you out of very comfortable places. Things may change in ways that really test your allegiances, relationships, and sense of purpose. Frankly, I hope this happens, not for the sake of change or to see you hurting in any way, but because God’s supreme purposes demand such fluidity, availability, and teachability. His ambassadors need to move at the whim of the Spirit. His soldiers need to be ready to jump whenever the Master says its time. Remaining too entrenched is not only profoundly unhealthy, but dangerous. And it is sin, for it presumes that God cannot have His way. And should these things happen, please do not take them personally, make them all about you, or otherwise grieve the heart of this new man with insecurities that he can do nothing about, which have more to do with personal expectations than God’s direction for God’s church.
One final note: this man of God’s own choosing may well come in and responsibly assess that the approach Pastor Matthew took here or that another predeccesor took there was simply inappropriate. There may be quiet moments when in his office or on his knees he mutters to himself and to the Lord something like, “What was he thinking?” May I give you permission right now to let him have that question, that opinion, that concern? None of us are above scrutiny; certainly not me. I hope, in fact, he does do this. It would be healthy and right. It does not necessarily mean the past was wrong or that past efforts were lacking spiritual insight. It may simply be a proper recognition that we’re all quite a bit limited, even your leaders; maybe particularly your leaders. Fresh eyes tend to see things more clearly and look forward more effectively than those eyes dimmed by the dust of the long trail. I have absolutely no remorse about our precious season at Scofield Memorial Church. And I equally have no remorse should this special man arrive and see more clearly what could have or should have been done better. After all, that is his job, his call, his privilege; and, the ministry there is not about any one of us. Ever.
Can you imagine how hard it would be if in your position you were always being compared to whomever had gone before you? Please do not do this to the man God brings into your midst at this season of time. Give him the gift of a very fresh start. But also the gift of a free and available following for the long haul. Pray for him daily. Encourage him intentially and regularly. Work hard to not grieve his spirit with the kind of petty things that so reflect typical human nature. When he’s weary seek proactively to lift him up, give him rest, and cheer his soul. As the writer of Hebrews says: Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you (13:17).
God bless you, my dear friends. We love you, pray for you, and wait with great excitement over how God is going to provide for the seasons to come.