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Welcoming Transitions in Leadership
In his final column the president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada shares his insights into the opportunities of leadership change.

Churches and organizations are always in flux. Changes tend to create anxiety but transitions can create opportunities. I've learned many lessons from the transitions of my personal journey. Here are my top ten.

  1. GOD BREAKS INTO HUMAN SYSTEMS. People tend to create systems that self-perpetuate without the help of the Almighty. It wasn't just any old year that Isaiah saw the Lord. It was the year of change—the year that King Uziah died (Isaiah 6). People tend to be more open to God when human systems are down.

  2. LEADERS CAN ALIGN THEIR JOB DESCRIPTIONS WITH THEIR CHRISTIAN VOCATION. Careful introspection can lead people right to the altar of personal consecration pictured in Romans 12. "I beseech you therefore … to present your bodies a living sacrifice … wholly acceptable … your reasonable service." God's grand design for the Christian is deeper than one's current employment contract, and one should try to align the job with the calling.

  3. MINISTRY ORGANIZATIONS CAN SHARPEN THEIR MISSION STATEMENTS. Though good leaders seek to understand God's precise call to the organization, leaders are not perfect and they often add or subtract an agenda item or two. During transitions, devout communities often get back to the core issues of their calling.

  4. DIFFERENTIATED ROLES CAN BE CLARIFIED. As seasons come and go, lines that differentiate callings tend to get blurred. Transitions tend to get governors governing, leaders leading and implementers implementing. With all the bases covered, there's a better chance of winning.

  5. LEADERS CAN ADJUST THEIR PRIORITIES. Lists of good intentions abound. Take this one—God first, spouse second, family third and job fourth. It's a noble goal but often it's nothing more than a goal. During transitions, promises often get renewed and life can become healthier.

  6. LEADERS CAN BECOME MORE RECEPTIVE TO COUNSEL. Most appointed leaders do not take counsel well. But when all of life comes tumbling in, even the mighty stop talking and start listening.

  7. LEADERS CAN CLEAR CLUTTER FROM THEIR LIVES. My late mother used to say of basement clutter, "Three moves are as good as a fire." I say what's true of basement shelves might just be true in hearts and minds as well. Starting again allows one to focus on the basics.

  8. THE CHURCH CAN DISCOVER SPIRITUAL GIFTS. Whether intentional or not, people get placed in new and challenging roles as systems change. During transition, organizations often call upon others to help. Sometimes under this pressure, people discover their gifts and abilities.

  9. CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES CAN GET A BREAK. Leaders cast the shadow of weakness as long as the shadow of strength. At divinely appointed intervals, organizations get a break—often well deserved.

  10. CHRISTIANS CAN DISCOVER LIFE AS PILGRIMAGE. Seen holistically, life is pilgrimage. Settlers settle—pilgrims follow the cloud, whether that involves a moving van or not. There is truth in the old gospel song, "I'm moving up home some day."

After five years of service Gary Walsh announced his resignation as president of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada on May 7, 2002. He is now the president elect of Interdev and will continue his ministry of bringing ministries together in that global context.

Faith Today, Jul/Aug 2002




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