Well-known speaker and pastor Francis Chan said during a webcast on the subject of pastoral succession that Christian leaders need to focus on God's will in their lives when deciding to stay or leave a church.
"First of all, I think a key to transition is surrender," said Chan, during the Leadership Network hosted event. "A key to everything is surrender – to really come before the Lord and say, 'I will literally stay here as long as you want me to stay' or 'God, I will really go anywhere on the earth.'"
Succession is becoming a big issue in many churches. "In a very real sense, we're all interim pastors," stated the conference hosting organization Leadership Network, while addressing the target audience of church leaders and pastors. "At some point you will not hold the current position you find yourself in at your church. It is only temporary. And that means that there is a 100% chance that you or your church will be a part of a succession or transition."
Chan, one of several speakers during the half-day webcast, is the founding pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, Calif. After more than 16 years as the church's teaching pastor, he announced in 2010 that he was resigning. He is working to start a church planting movement in the inner city of San Francisco.
"Succession requires submission. We need to follow Christ and trust him in the transition," Chan said. "I don't think this is much different from what the disciples had to go through when Jesus said, 'Just follow me' and they just dropped their nets and they just surrendered everything and said, 'Okay, wherever you lead me.'"
Once church leaders have taken the step towards succession then it's time to pray for wisdom, he explained.
"I don't believe it's something where we just come before God and say, 'God, take away all the options and make it obvious where I ought to go,' but God, in His brilliance, created us in such a way that we can use this wisdom that He gives us, in addition to the leading of His Spirit," he said. "The key question in all of this is 'Lord, what is best for your kingdom?' That's what Solomon was saying. 'God, how can I lead your people in the best way, I need your wisdom because this is for you.'"
Dave Travis, CEO and Chief Encouragement Officer for Leadership Network, explained that pastoral succession is the intentional transfer and transition of leadership from one leader to the next leader.
"When we are talking about succession we are talking about a planned process," Travis said. "Succession plans are driven by many factors and there's a difference between an emergency plan and a plan-ahead formulation."
The conference also featured pastors at different stages of succession, including some who came in to replace the pastors as the result of scandal or unexpected death. Several conference observers making comments on Twitter believed the main take-away from the discussion was that every church needs an emergency succession plan.