Wednesday, November 13, 2013

“Transition Thoughts” by Garris Elkins

In October of 2014, I will complete a transition out of the Senior Pastor role at Living Waters Church in Medford, Oregon.  The man God is raising up to fill that role is Ryan Rhoden.  Ryan is a good and godly man with a vision for the future.  We have been in this transition for a few years.  In the process of our transition, I have collected some proverb-like personal thoughts I would like to share with anyone making a similar transition.  What follows is that collection.

Without a transition plan you will be found grasping onto the doorframe of your current ministry assignment afraid to let go and move into the new season God has planned. 

All healthy transitions move forward with a word from God.  Don’t move forward until you have this guiding word. It will dig you out of the ruts that are present in each journey.

You can actually stay too long.

You can actually leave too soon.

A good time to plan for your future transition is now. 

Resist the urge to build a legacy in your departure. This is something we cannot write honestly or accurately.

“Pastor Emeritus” can be a title that tells others, “I am having trouble letting go”.

God is waiting for you in a place you cannot yet see and you think might not even exist.   

Transitions are like cars – if over-corrected they can lose control and crash. 

You hope the leader who follows you is merciful. Because your successor will inherit your dysfunctions after you leave.

We have a tendency to see each life-transition as an isolated event.  Transitions are actually part of the single journey of our life. Try to understand the larger picture. 

Your gifts made a way for your current assignment and they will be used to make a way into something new.

Go back and repent of the judgment calls you made on the leaders that went before you in your current assignment.  This is for the sake and safety of your transition and your future.

Every transition will reveal your insecurities. One of the gifts of transition is exposure. God exposes us so He can heal us and prepare us for what is coming.

Emerging leaders need room. The transitioning leader should make a place for a new gift to function without restriction.

The voices that cry the loudest, “Please don’t leave!” are the ones that may need you to leave the most.

Once you realize a change is needed it is generally a bit late.  Don’t worry if you have missed your best opportunity.  God knows how to accelerate things to bring your transition up to speed and in line with His plan.

The lessons you learned in the first five years of ministry will help guide you in the finish of your ministry.  Revisit those lessons and learn them again.

Bondage is anything we do to prove our worth.

Park your regrets in the mercy of God.

Learn to discern the difference between obligation and discernment.  Obligation will have you tied to things you need to let go of.  Discernment will reveal those things that can hold you back from what God has planned.

A transition will involve the subject of finances. The transition plan should never be directed or held hostage to financial solutions. Follow the word of the Lord first and foremost and the financial element will follow your obedience.

Sometime we make sacrifices on altars that do not exist.  We can actually make a sacrifice in a transition where a blessing was God’s actual intent.

One of the greatest gifts you can leave behind in a transition is to be, as far as possible with you, at peace with all people.

A new vision is new, not better.  Deal with the pride that would cause you to hold onto the uniqueness of your past at the expense of someone else’s future.

New ministry teams will get formed outside your input. This is not rebellion. This is life. This is change. Embrace it. Support it.

God’s voice is your compass, not your transition plan.

Invite people to the transition narrative early in the process.  This creates a partnership and lessens the possibility of a fearful response to change.

There exists in healthy transitions a sliding scale where the departing leader chooses to lessen their influence to provide the incoming leader with an increasingly visible platform.

Healthy transitions possess a visible architecture.

You can remain in the place of your current ministry assignment only if your heart is right. Who wants an old grumpy previous pastor polluting the future of a ministry?

Don’t view your transition as a cliff where you will fall off into nothing.  There are no cliffs with God – they only exist in our minds where fear has been allowed to rule.

Telling God where we will go or not go after our transition is the beginning of a detour some do not return from.

Deal with your sorrow at missed opportunities.  Trust that God has raised up new leaders to capture those missed opportunities and turn them into victories.

We should not continue to create the model of ministry we will give to those who follow us. Invite them early into the transition process to begin developing the new model they will carry.

When you feel the transition is being aborted don’t forget that God is always at work behind the scenes birthing something new.

In transition you will never find yourself in a situation where God does not have a plan of rescue in place.  Trust Him.

The older we get the less we want to experience change. Change is what living things experience.  Without change we get “old”.

If you are a spiritual father you will find joy in what makes your children joyful.

Nighttime can be the worst time.  This is when hell begins to speak the loudest and tries to turn your rest into restlessness.  Your fatigue in life and ministry will not come from a packed schedule, but from a mind filled with unresolved fear about the future.

Self-pity is a spiritual terrorist who wants to sneak aboard your life. It is a destructive attitude with a bomb strapped to its back. Detonate it in prayer and away from innocent bystanders.

We can make our plans, but in the end it is the Lord who is directing our steps.

Looking into the future without faith is a spawning ground for fear. Faith looks ahead and declares that God is good and He has made a way.

Letting go will be harder than you think. Start letting go today no matter how far in the future your transition may be.

Be realistic – you can always do a transition better.  No transition will ever be perfect.  “Perfect” is not the goal.

In your transition leave room for mystery and wonder.  This is a spiritual endeavor not a business plan.

Your time in ministry made a deposit.  It is not for you to define that deposit – history will reveal what you left behind.

Once the crowds came to Jesus He did not try to hold them. He fed them and walked away. Compromise comes when we try to hold the crowd.

In your transition you will cross a spiritual frontier.  All spiritual frontiers have demons guarding them.  Don’t ignore the reality of this battle.  Stepping through the gates of transition will cause them to react.

In this transition you will need to make yourself more available to God than to people.

In a life-transition the greatest battle you will face is to believe the best. Hope is the hinge on the door of a healthy transition.

Ending is far more challenging than beginning.


  1. Thanks Garris!

  2. Awesome information and great spiritual insight! Thank you.