Our Best Days are Ahead of Us
This next year I’ll celebrate my 32nd year as Senior Pastor of Vineyard Columbus. Marlene and I joined the church 41 years ago when we moved to Columbus for me to attend law school at The Ohio State University. Back then, the church was an independent, non-denominational church of about 35 people. We had no pastor, but we had lay leaders, who we called elders (and who were all in their mid to late 20’s!).
After a couple of years, I was asked to join the eldership. Then I was asked to lead the eldership and head up our preaching ministry. Finally, in 1987, the Lord spoke clearly to Marlene and me and to the other elders that I was to leave my job at Ohio State where I was teaching and I was to become our first Senior Pastor. The Sunday I was ordained as the church’s Senior Pastor, our little independent church joined the Vineyard movement. It has been a wonderful, God-graced journey for more than three decades.
Over the past two or three years I have felt, in an increasing way, that I was to turn the leadership of Vineyard Columbus over when I turn 65. That happens in December, 2020. I would like to continue to preach at the church as part of a preaching team, to mentor young pastors, to help other churches and to relate to leaders in our city and beyond at least until I turn 70. But I believe the overall leadership of Vineyard Columbus would benefit by us having a younger, different leader who has fresh vision for our church’s future.
Towards the end of discovering God’s will for our church’s future, we did several things.
An Historic Retreat
Two years ago, a few of Vineyard Columbus’s most senior leaders took a several day retreat to seek the Lord about our church’s future and to try to answer several key questions. Among the questions we tackled were these:
• What things about Vineyard Columbus do we believe should never change?
• What would success look like for Vineyard Columbus 3-5 years after our current senior leaders transition to new ministry roles?
• What kind of leaders do we need to lead our church into God’s purposes for our future?
• Regarding things about Vineyard Columbus that we believed should always be preserved, we listed (among other things) a strong commitment to:
• The authority of the Scriptures, excellent preaching and kingdom theology.
• Effective evangelism, church planting and global missions.
• Being a racially diverse church that passionately pursues racial reconciliation
• The person, the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit and the practice of all the biblical gifts of the Holy Spirit
• Women and men serving side-by-side in leadership at every level of our church.
• A holistic approach to mission including the continuance of the Vineyard Community Center and a both-and approach to our faith and practice
• Unity with the global Christian church and team-based ministry within our local church.
• Promoting leaders who are full of integrity, have healthy marriages (if married), passionately in love with Vineyard Columbus, self-sacrificial, advocates and practitioners of our values, Spirit-led, prayerful, biblically rooted, lifelong learners, evangelistic, visionary, humble and full of pastoral courage.
Regarding what success might look like in 3-5 years, we listed the following:
• A steady stream of conversions
• Growth in a younger demographic
• The maintenance of our core values
• Staff health
• Healthy, warm, trusting respectful relationships between incoming and outgoing leadership
• Stable, healthy finances
And regarding the future senior leaders’ competencies, we valued the following:
• High capacity – the ability to work hard with great skill
• Excellent preaching and teaching
• Effective management skills
• Teambuilding skills
• Passionate commitment to the health of Vineyard Columbus
• Visionary leadership
• Emotional intelligence
• Care and love for the staff and congregation
• High level strategic leadership
• Deep, heartfelt commitment to Vineyard’s historic values
The Hiring of a Consultant
Following the retreat, our leadership team hired a nationally known church consultant to interview our staff, ask us hard questions and assist us to create a successful pathway for our future. A part of that pathway included the naming of a Selection Committee.
The Role of the Selection Committee
Over the past year, a Selection Committee made up of nine pastors and lay leaders has repeatedly met to pray, to interview potential candidates for consideration for the job of Vineyard Columbus’s next Senior Pastor and to make a recommendation to the Church Council and our Pastoral Advisory Team regarding my successor.
The Church Council (a combined group of several pastors and key lay leaders) and our Pastoral Advisory Team (a group of eight Vineyard Columbus pastors) have the final decision under Vineyard Columbus’s by-laws regarding my successor.
Over the past two years, the future of Vineyard Columbus and our future Senior Pastor(s) has been the subject of literally hundreds of hours of prayer and days of fasting. We have always believed, and have tried as best as we can to practice the biblical truth, that Jesus is the head of the church—not us! So we have sought and re-sought the leading of the Holy Spirit through every step of this process.
An informal survey of more than a dozen church leaders
To check the findings of the Selection Committee, we surveyed more than a dozen church leaders—both male and female—of different ethnicities and ages. We asked open-ended questions including who ought to succeed me. With few exceptions, there was remarkable unanimity among those informally surveyed.
In the New Year, I will announce to our church who was chosen to be my successor and what the plan is for transition over the next two years.
The best days for Vineyard Columbus are ahead of us! Pray for our church! Pray also for me and for all who are working hard to lead Vineyard Columbus into God’s perfect will for our future!