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Transit Well, Finish Strong

By Rev Tan Eng Boo


Taken in 2000

Finish well and strong in the ministry. The time will come when the pastor has to pass on the leadership baton and move on to the next assignment the Lord assigns. The ministry has not ended after the transition. The pastor will still have work Jesus and His church. It may not be the pastoral ministry again. It may be another ministry as the Lord leads. Let the pastor be available to the Lord’s leading.

 

A good example can be seen in A. W. Tozer when he transitioned well and finished strong. He was 66 years old when he went home to be with Jesus.

 

“Tozer was facing the hardest decision he had been called to make. For more than three decades Southside Alliance Church in Chicago had been the focus of his labour and ministry. Southside Alliance Church was home; it was the place where he felt the most comfortable.

 

But these were the late 1950s. For several years civil and racial unrest had been accelerating in Chicago. The neighbour[hood] around the church had deteriorated irreparably. Many members were afraid to attend services, especially on Sunday evenings. A large segment of the congregation had already moved into the suburbs. Southside Alliance Church was one of the few major churches [that] had not yet followed its members into calmer suburban environs. The church board was of unanimous mind to make the flight from the inner city.

 

Tozer agreed with the board that relocation was the only solution. But he did not agree that he should lead such a migration. He had been through one building program 22 years earlier. At age 62, he did not relish the responsibility of another. This move would demand a different kind of ministry than the one God had given him.

 

Twenty five years later, a substantial church faced with a similar problem would simply add an administrator to its staff. In the late 1950s, in the Christian and Missionary Alliance, one pastor was expected to do everything. In Tozer’s thinking, that one pastor should be a younger man with spiritual gifts other than the ones he possessed.

 

A year later, convinced of these realities, Tozer tendered his resignation to the church board. With ardent emotion the church board had refused to accept it. But the ensuing year had only confirmed to him the need for a change.”

(James L. Synder, The Life of Tozer: In Pursuit of God (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2009), 205–206.)

 

Pastors must know that they cannot carry on “forever” in the pastoral ministry and be the pastor of the same church all their lives. Tozer saw the need to change and to have a younger man lead the church. He wasn’t going to retire from the


Lord’s work. He says, “Prophets never retire, so I’m not retiring, except to put on new tires to go a little faster and farther.” (Ibid., 209.)  So he worked for the Lord until he was called home to glory. He finished well. He also transitioned well by passing on the work to a younger man.

 

“Several years after Tozer left his ministry in Chicago, the congregation invited him back for the dedication of their new building…. It was Tozer’s honour to preach the dedication sermon.” (Ibid., 215.) What a privilege for any exiting pastor in a pastoral transition exercise to be called back to preach on an auspicious occasion! Such a pastor would have transitioned well and finished well, too.

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