In 1 Kings 19, as Elisha was plowing a field with his oxen, Elijah walked by and “cast his cloak upon him” (translation: “You’re coming to my seminary. Let’s go!”). Without even pausing, Elisha ran home and sacrificed his oxen on a fire made with the wooden yokes they had been wearing. The sign was clear: He had been called into ministry and was burning his bridges so he could never go back.
Elisha burned the yokes as a step of faith, but many church planters burn theirs in a rage of fury. They use the flames of their burning yokes to send smoke signals to their former leaders that they have it figured out and don’t need them any longer. Then they launch out with a small band of collaterally damaged, wounded followers and try to figure it out on their own while they medicate their wounds they won’t admit exist.
As you prepare to leave and launch out into something new, remember these two words: FINISH WELL.
Here are a few reasons why this is so important:
1) God will not honor dishonor.
It’s a Biblical principle. Read Romans 13. Even if you disagree with your pastor or the leader that is over you, and even if they’re in sin, God put them in that position. I’m not condoning sin; I’m saying that even when you’re leaving under less than ideal circumstances, you can (and should) leave honorably. It’s easy to justify burning your yokes when you feel mistreated, underappreciated, and/or overworked, but even then, you can finish well. Honor the leaders God has set in place. Don’t bad-mouth them. Don’t gossip. Don’t sow division. How do you expect God to honor your new position of leadership when you won’t honor the leadership He’s already put in place over you? In other words, If God can’t trust you to be under, He can’t trust you to be over.
2) You may need those relationships more in the future than you ever have in the past.
I’ve spent more time in conversation with my pastor in the last three years of church planting than I did in the three I spent working with him…and we live 1,500 miles apart now! Like it or not, your pastor and the leaders over you have more experience and knowledge than you do. Tap into that wealth of knowledge, even if you don’t agree with them on everything. You’ll need someone to ask questions of, seek advice from, and probably cry to. I never expected to cry on the phone with another grown man…but there are plenty of unexpected experiences coming your way that others who have gone before you have already traversed. You’ll need their comfort and guidance.
3) Don’t leave them hanging.
Speaking from the Lead Pastor perspective, there’s nothing more frustrating than someone in a key position getting an idea to leave, turning in their two weeks’ notice, and vanishing. The moment we knew Clarksville was our spot, we were ready to launch, but we didn’t want to leave people hanging. We knew that part of leaving well was honoring our leaders and the team, students, and staff we’d be leaving behind. Do whatever you can to make sure leaders and structure are in place so your transition out is as smooth as possible.
Don’t launch out in fury; Launch out in faith and honor.
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