Since being named Kenton Beshore’s successor and becoming the senior pastor of Mariners Church eight months ago, other church leaders have started to ask questions of us about succession. There are many churches in this season, where the church is led by a faithful and great leader who has led for many years and is nearing “retirement,” and there are questions about who will succeed that leader and how in the world will it happen. Side note: Kenton will rebuke you if you use the word “retirement” to describe him as both he and Laurie (his wife) have many more great years of ministry in front of them and are clear on what the Lord has called them to do.
One of the great gifts the Lord gave me in coming to serve Mariners is a relationship with Kenton. Being able to spend time with Kenton and learn from him made the opportunity at Mariners more attractive to me, not less attractive. Thankfully I feel more strongly about that now than I did eight months ago. I recently asked Kenton to allow me to officially announce to the church that he was going to continue to teach on our teaching team. Not all successors will want that from their predecessors and not all predecessors will desire that or even stay in the area to be able to offer that.
I have benefited a lot from the relationship with Kenton, but I also believe our church has benefited from our relationship. They are able to see unity across generations, mutual respect, Christian love and a shared commitment to the church.
Regardless if there is a formalized ongoing relationship or not, the church benefits from knowing the successor values the predecessor. They value him and you should too! They love him and you should too. If you don’t love him, you do not love the people you serve well. So this post is some counsel to those leaders, like me, who are succeeding a “father in ministry,” someone who has made a significant impact. I think this counsel applies to following a predecessor in the marketplace too. How should we treat our predecessors? Here are three ways successors should treat their predecessors:
1. With Honor
Older ministry leaders who have served and lived faithfully are further down the road than you are and their faithfulness has been proven where yours has not yet been. Let me be real blunt: If you can’t honor a predecessor who has walked faithfully with the Lord for longer than you have, how do you ever expect people to honor you? Are you so insecure that you can’t honor a leader who has been a consistent example for so long? Honoring your predecessor means speaking well of him, pointing out his faithfulness, and pointing to the fruit of his ministry more than dissecting things you would have done differently.
2. With Humility
Pride ruins everything. Pride ruins relationships and pride greatly stifles learning and growth. Walking in humility with your predecessor is expressed by fully believing you have a lot to learn from him, much more than you have to offer. If you don’t walk in humility toward your predecessor, you will miss out on lots of learning that will help you as you lead.
3. With Gratitude
Successor, ask yourself this question: Did you love the opportunity you were invited to lead? Were you excited to get to step into the role to lead the ministry? The answer better be “yes,” or you should not have taken the assignment. Our predecessors led before us, and the Lord used then to build the opportunities we were excited to take. We must be thankful.