Thursday, June 16, 2011

Contrasts in Pastoral Transitions

John Piper (age 65) discusses the issue—challenging because it's "not in the Bible"—with Tim Keller (60-ish) and Don Carson (64) . . .

. . . and describes Bethlehem's ongoing process as well as his personal intentions:
My proposal to the elders—and it comes from Noël and me, not just me (we have talked a lot about this, as you can imagine)—is that I transition from pastor for preaching and vision to a fulltime writing and BCS teaching and mentoring and wider speaking role on June 30, 2014—three years from now. And that we be very intentional and prayerful and thoughtful about a successor in those years.
John MacArthur (who turns 72 on Sunday) reflects briefly on the same topic as he concludes a decades-long project of preaching through the New Testament:
I want to let you know that I'm not planning a retirement. I've told the elders, as long as I make sense, leave me alone. [audience laughter] When I don't make sense, just try to convince me that I don't make sense. [audience laughter] That's the problem, isn't it, so, drag me out of there.


Bruce said...

Am I reading too much into your title, or are you of the opinion that one is better than the other(s)?

Ben said...

Nope, no subtle message. As Piper said, it's not in the Bible, which tends to make me think it's a wisdom/prudence/shepherding issue. I'd assume the best approach must vary from situation to situation.

Obviously, I have no idea what my situation might look like one day, but I'm pretty sure it won't resemble any of theirs.

I do appreciate Keller's commitment to convert multiple campuses to multiple churches.

Your thoughts?

Bruce said...

Agreed on all of the above.

However, I wish we could find a better word than "succession." It sounds too monarchical to me, though I agree completely that it is wise to plan the transition (i.e., shepherding your people even in the matter of your imminent departure and their future care).

Shayne McAllister said...

One thought I had was this: shouldn't they always be prepared to have a succession plan? Nobody is guaranteed tomorrow, so why not have a plan in case you get hit by a bus.

Ben said...

Shayne, a side comment then my point: JMac's plans to preach until he's incoherent doesn't mean that there isn't any sort of plan.

As for what a wise plan looks like, I think it has to include a qualified, trained, functioning group of elders—not just a bunch of deacons and maybe a youth pastor hired fresh out of Bible college. Piper seems to give us a pretty good picture of that.

Unfortunately, too many pastors and churches still see no obligation to raise up elders from within the congregation, and they prefer to ask deacons or pulpit committees to lead the congregation in ways that the Bible never asked them to.

Larry said...

This reminds me of a fairly well known church in FBF circles who, right now, cannot even decide on an interim pastor. The most recent candidate (the second I believe) only got 45% of the vote.

The previous transition was a man to his son-in-law, which reminds me that nepotism doesn't seem like much of a transition plan. It is also, by reports, a fairly heavy-handed "one man show" in the past.