November 6, 2022
There is an outstanding transition of leadership we can learn from in Numbers 27.
It is the transfer of leadership from Moses to Joshua. It begins with Moses appealing to the Lord for the next leader of the nation of Israel. His prayer is recorded in Number 27. This is what Moses prayed…“Please appoint a new man as leader for the community. Give them someone who will guide them wherever they go and will lead them into battle, so the community of the LORD will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” – Numbers 27:16b-17 (NLT)
Over the years, I have prayed a similar prayer for The Point. Knowing that I would not be here forever (every pastor is interim), my prayer has been for God to prepare the next leader. I believe God has answered that prayer.
In our text, Moses made his request of God. Then came God’s instruction…“The LORD replied, ‘Take Joshua son of Nun, who has the Spirit in him, and lay your hands on him. Present him to Eleazar the priest before the whole community, and publicly commission him to lead the people.’” – Numbers 27:18-19 (NLT)
God made it clear to Moses that Joshua was to be his successor. That is – The basis for a good transition: God SPEAKS, and we LISTEN. Next, we see Moses’ response in verse 22…“Moses did as the LORD commanded. He presented Joshua to Eleazar the priest and the whole community. Moses laid his hands on him and commissioned him to lead the people, just as the LORD had commanded through Moses.” – Numbers 27:22-23 (NLT)
It is important to note that God ordered this transition. It was not something that Moses had dreamed up. It was not initiated by the people. It was initiated by the LORD speaking to the current leader, Moses. And Moses did what every great leader is called to do. It is there in verse 22. “Moses did as the Lord commanded.” That is the key to effective ministry. The Church (not just this church but every church) needs more leaders who have the faith and courage to listen, discern, and do whatever God is calling them to do.
Great leaders are not poll takers. They are not into surveys. Wise leaders are listening to the Lord. Once they hear from Him, Obedience to God’s VOICE is always the right CHOICE. And obedience requires things like sensitivity, tenacity, humility, courage, and faith. I have noticed that just about everyone has an opinion when it comes to how leaders should lead. Even the leader has an opinion. But wise leaders listen to the Lord.
Shortly after I came to be the pastor here, I was trying to help our leaders understand how a healthy church is to operate. I remember hearing some of the 25 Board members at the time, comment about the phone calls and visits they would receive just prior to Board meetings. They were being lobbied by people telling them how they should vote in the upcoming Board meeting about certain decisions that were about to be made.
I had a few Board members say that they believed they had been elected to “represent” a certain group of people in the church. They thought the church was to operate as a democracy. Since when? This is not your church, their church, my church, or even our church. This is God’s church. He calls the shots. He is the One we are to listen to. We will pray. We can discuss. We might even debate at times. But when it is all said and done the will of the people and the will of the pastor, gets trumped by the will of God.
I explained that the role of leadership in the church is to determine and do the will of God. The role of leaders in the church is to DISCERN and DO the will of God. My job is NOT to lead this church to the place I think it should go. My goal is to lead the church to where I believe God would have us go. Godly leaders will always remember that Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. Our intent and purpose should always be to do God’s will and fulfill God’s call. Our desire is to obey God’s Word and honor Him in all that we say and do. The church is not a democracy. It is not a dictatorship. It is a Christocracy. We must remember that Jesus is the great head of the church.
So, back to Numbers 27, Moses is modeling what it means to hear from the Lord and do His will in this transition of leadership with the children of Israel. God began and then directed the process of passing the baton in this leadership transition. God told Moses who the next leader was to be.
Choosing a spiritual leader (calling a pastor) is not about an impressive resume or finding someone that meets our personal expectations. It is not even about a search team finding the best candidate.
Decisions about SPIRITUAL LEADERSHIP belong to God.
Of course, we will ask questions, and conduct interviews, and check references. That is all a part of the process as we seek to discover and respond to God’s choice. As most of you know, a nationwide search for the next leader of The Point has taken place this year.
In March I announced that I was not resigning or retiring, but I felt the Lord was leading me to engage the transition plan that we had developed in 2021. While there is still plenty of uncertainty about what I will be doing in the future, I have never doubted or questioned the fact that the Lord has led this decision. This decision has been affirmed again and again over the past few months and both Laurie and I have absolute peace about this decision. It was not what we expected or desired, but we’re convinced, it’s where God led.
I want you to know that the search for a new pastor is not a popularity contest. It is not a political process. It is not about entitlement. Leadership on this level is not something that is earned on deserved. Again, it is about discerning and stepping into God’s call.
In our text, Joshua was called by God to step into leadership following Moses. Stepping into a role of spiritual leadership is not a career move. It a step of obedience. And only God can call and equip a person for such a significant task. I believe God has been preparing Jon Gibson for the responsibility of leading The Point to the next exciting phase of life and ministry. The Lord has confirmed that decision through the Search Team, the church Board, our staff, and our District Superintendent.
In the Supernatural series, we talked about how the Lord guides those who are willing to follow through an inner witness of the Holy Spirit. We have experienced that. “Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left.” – Isaiah 30:21 (NLT) I am thankful that in all the groups I have mentioned this morning, there has been amazing clarity, unity, and peace about God’s direction.
I want to be sure and point out the fact that Joshua didn’t EARN a leadership position, but he did ALLOW God to PREPARE him for a leadership position. The most important EQUIPPING for SPIRITUAL leadership is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Joshua was a man filled with the Spirit of God. God had chosen Joshua and then He laid out the plan for how the transition was to be communicated to the congregation in verses 19-20. “Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence. Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him.” – Numbers 27:19-20 (NIV)
You might wonder why they made such a big deal about this? Why couldn’t Moses just meet privately with Joshua and tell him to take over? Moses was to publicly hand the authority to Joshua “so the whole Israelite community would obey him.”
There was to be no confusion about who was in charge. The position was not up for grabs. It was publicly and officially handed to Joshua. It was the responsibility of other authorities, such as Eleazer the priest, to confirm the appointment. Joshua would be working with Eleazar, and that relationship would be important. But it was essential that the entire assembly witness the transfer of leadership from Moses to Joshua.
We are preparing for a transfer of leadership here at The Point. Next weekend, you will have the opportunity to meet Jon and Heather Gibson and their family. You do not want to miss that service. In fact, I want you to hear from the Gibson right now…Gibson VIDEO Greeting.
Next Sunday will be a great day. Jon will be preaching and casting vision in both services next Sunday. Then, official members of The Point age 15 and over will be given the opportunity to cast a vote of affirmation at the close of both services next Sunday. I hope that you will all be here. After next weekend, we will enter the holidays, and we will continue preparing for the transition that is ahead. The passing of the baton will take place on January 22. God has led this decision. His timing is perfect. And He has answered our prayers.
We have been in Numbers 27 where we’ve seen what the Lord said to Moses. We see how Moses responded. Now let’s look at God’s Instruction to Joshua. In Joshua 1 we see how the transition between Joshua and Moses took place. God spoke to Joshua to tell him to get ready for what He was about to do. “After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide:” – Joshua 1:1 (NIV)
The Lord spoke to Joshua and Joshua listened. He heard the Lord. This is an essential to spiritual leadership. There is so much emphasis on techniques and skills for leadership that we sometimes overlook the greatest qualification of all.
A spiritual leader must be IN TUNE with the Spirit of God.
A God-called leader must be tuned in and listening, ready and able to hear from God. Joshua had been loyal and faithful in his previous assignment. He was ready to take over the reins of leadership and pick up where Moses left off. This transition is not only about talent and gifting. It is also about character and integrity. The time had clearly come for the transfer of leadership to take place.
Timing is so important in a transition like this. Moses had completed his assignment. In fact, here is what the Lord said to Joshua…“Moses my servant is dead.” – Joshua 1:2a (NIV) Moses had led Israel out of bondage and led them into the Sinai covenant with God. Even though Moses had completed his responsibility for the Israelites, God was not finished with what He had planned for His people.
Moses led them up to the promise land and that was an awesome accomplishment—one that would be celebrated for the rest of Israel’s history. God didn’t bring His people to the Promise Land just to look at it. His desire was for them to enter the land and possess it. It was time for Joshua to lead the people forward and take them into the land of promise. A task that Moses had not been able to complete.
God gave Joshua these instructions…“Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites.” – .” – Joshua 1:2b (NIV) Joshua, the time has come. It is time to get ready for the next stage in God’s plan. But it wasn’t just Joshua who was to prepare. God said, “you and all these people, get ready”.
Today, I feel like God is saying to The Point family, “Get ready! Get ready for what I am about to do. I am not finished with you yet. There is still an important mission to continue pointing people to Jesus. Your next leader is prepared, and you are about to enter the next exciting phase of my plan for you.” God says, “I want you to get ready.”
Remember how when we were kids and there was a race, someone would say “Get ready. Get set. Go!” Those two simple words help us be alert to what is about to happen. Today, I believe the Lord is saying, Get ready! A new day is on the horizon. New opportunities will unfold before you.
My role this morning, and in the next few weeks, is to help you get ready for what’s ahead! I am sincerely excited about what I believe God is about to do. I am humbled and amazed to see how He has led us to this moment. This transition truly has the fingerprints of God all over it. I am thrilled about the possibilities as I think about the future of this church under Jon’s leadership.
The Point is healthy, united, focused, and willing to change to reach our world for Jesus. We are not going to settle into complacency or sit back in comfort. There is work to do. Our mission of pointing people to Jesus remains a driving force. We understand that we have been called for a purpose. Effective churches must guard against the drift toward complacency. So many settle into a country club existence, if they are not careful. It can happen so subtly as churches begin to focus on themselves and that inward focus causes them to forsake the mission of Christ to seek and to save the lost.
We are to continue what Jesus started when He was here on earth. The Great Commission to go and make disciples is still intact. Our mission field is all of Jackson County and it reaches to Bartholomew, Jennings, and Scott counties. And it reaches far beyond that with our online community. The Point was organized in 1900. What has been for 122 years has been good. But we are just getting started. So, get ready, Point family! A new day is on the horizon. “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” – Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)
I believe the Lord is about to do a new thing that will extend the impact of this church to new heights reaching more people than we have ever reached before, employing new methods and strategies to connect with a lost and dying world. Methods change. Wise leaders and effective churches understand that. But our Mission remains intact.
I know there are always some who want to stand in the shadows and criticize churches that are looking for ways to speak into the current culture. They fail to realize the importance of delivering the life changing message of the gospel to people in a way they can hear it.
If you read on in Joshua 1, you will see that God is about to bring the Israelites into a large place of blessing. He is expanding their territory. He is calling them to walk forward by faith.
FAITH is always required for moving forward.
As I look back over the last 20 years of my tenure here, and more than 37 years of our personal life and ministry, I cannot think of one time when we have moved forward without a step of faith. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. He wants us to trust Him. He wants to build bigger stronger faith in His kids.
Whenever we step out in faith and OBEDIENCE God always PROVIDES.
Several months ago, we stepped out in faith to find a new pastor. God has led us on this journey. He has blessed us. And we are now ready to welcome our next pastor and enter the next phase of ministry under his leadership. I love the promise the Lord gave Joshua. I believe it has application right here. He talked about expanding their territory in verses 3-4. And then in verse 5 He said…
“As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Joshua 1:5b (NIV) That was the secret of Moses’ success. Moses was a great leader. He wasn’t perfect, but God was with Him, and God used him. The key to his success was the presence of God with him.
Laurie and I have served The Point, at the direction of the Lord, for 20 ½ years.
We are now preparing to step away from this position, also at the Lord’s direction. I believe the Jon and Heather are following the leadership of the Lord by leaving a ministry they have been a part of since its inception 23 years ago to come to Seymour. I am convinced, 20 years from right now (unless the Lord returns first), as current and future leaders continue to honor and obey God, we will look back and say, “look what the Lord has done.”
One of the things that gets churches in trouble is an unwillingness to change. The Point is a church that embraces change. This is not the same church that I came to pastor 20 years ago. There have been lots of changes. We never changed for the sake of change. Change was necessary to respond the needs before us.
Our church has demonstrated a willingness to adapt and change to be more effective in our mission. As Jon comes, there will undoubtedly be some changes. That is ok. It won’t happen overnight, but there will be changes to enable the church to more effectively accomplish its mission in the future. So often people are unwilling to change because they get hung up on selfish preferences rather than thinking of how we can more effectively minister to the needs of those around us.
When it comes to change and the new things God wants to do in our lives, we have two choices: RETREAT or pursue GROWTH.
Let’s be a church that refuses to be comfortable and remains committed to reaching our world for Jesus, whatever it takes…even if it means adapting to some new ideas. I heard Jon refer to giving everything and doing anything so that people might come to know Jesus who has set us free. I love that! The good news is that God has promised to be there to guide us every step of the way. He will never leave us or forsake us.
Three times in verses 6-9 God told Joshua to “be strong and courageous.” Joshua was facing a task that would require courage. Victory would not come without some battles. We talked about this all last month. We are in a spiritual battle. The battle is real. We are not blind to the opposition.
Joshua knew there were giants in the land. He had seen them with his own eyes. He had been one of the spies sent in to explore the land years earlier. He knew there would be obstacles and enemies to face. He also had confidence that God would bring victory! There would be the obstacle like the Jordan River—But God would drive it back when the Israelites exercised the faith to step in. There would be the obstacle of the walls of Jericho—But God would bring them down when His people chose to trust and obey.
God’s promise of victory does not always mean ease. God’s assurance of victory does not necessarily exempt us from the battle. There will be times in the future here at The Point when you will need to encourage one another. There will be times when you will need to stand with your pastor and encourage Jon and Heather. Laurie and I have been blessed by the support and encouragement you have given us over the years, and I am now asking you to do the same for the Gibsons.
As you know, I am a firm believer in knowing and applying God’s Word to our daily lives. You can expect a continued emphasis on the importance of the Word of God under Jon’s leadership. I sense the anointing of God on his life. He loves God. He loves people. And He loves the Word of God.
Joshua 1:8 refers to the importance of keeping God’s Word central in our lives/church. “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” – Joshua 1:8 (NIV)
Israel was about to go into Canaan land where there are all kinds of false ideas and idolatry. They would be surrounded by temptations that appeal to their flesh and ideas that might sound reasonable in some ways. There were so many possible distractions. It is the same today. The world is pulling us in all the wrong directions. We can stay on track by keeping God’s Word central in our personal lives, in our families, and in the life of the church. Read – Study – Memorize – Meditate – Apply the Word of God personally. Scripture should remain central in our services.
There is no substitute for foundational teaching that comes from God’s Word. We don’t need our ears tickled. We need our toes stepped on and we need to remind one another of the paths and principles that God has established in His word. Preaching the Bible, and even talking about the Bible is still not enough. The word has not fulfilled its purpose in us until we are living it out in our daily lives. “Be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” – Joshua 1:8b (NIV) We draw courage from the Word. We draw wisdom from the Word. We find direction and guidance from the principles found in the Word of God.
Like Moses, Joshua did what God told him to do. And according to verses 10-11, key leaders stepped up to help him. I just want to point out something to the leaders who are here this morning. Joshua could not do what God was calling him to do alone. Other leaders were to be involved in the process with him. That is why I want to encourage you to get onboard, support, honor, and follow your new pastor from the very start.
When I came in 2002, the church was divided, and the leadership structure was unhealthy at best. Prior to my arrival, I had driven over, from Illinois to Seymour, for two meetings with the Board of 25. In those meetings I talked about how I would lead the church if I came. One of the things I told them was that I would reduce the Board by at least half, and probably more. I thought that would get me a few no votes.
The Board voted unanimously for us to come. But then on Thursday after my first Sunday, one of those Board members, who had been in two specific meetings where I made that promise, came to my office to say, if I attempted to reduce the size of the Board, that would be the beginning of the end. His exact words were, “That has been tried here before, and it won’t work.”
I said, we’ll you know what that means? He said, What? I said, the end has begun, because I am a man of my word and 25 members on a board like this is organization ineffectiveness at its best. That encounter was just the beginning of three of the most miserable years of my life and ministry.
The battles of those next three years set us back, held us up, and cost us more than most people could ever imagine. But by the grace of God, we lived through it and the church today is united, healthy, and moving forward.
The world needs to see the church come together in unity and love. Just like what Jesus prayed in John 17. That we may be one as He and the Father are one. I have often wondered what things would have looked like if everyone could have gotten onboard and we could have avoided the fallout from those first three years. It didn’t have to be like that. I am sure Joshua would have liked to avoid the 40 years the Israelites wondered in the wilderness.
One thing is for sure, it is wise to remember the lessons learned in the wilderness. There was no reason for them or for us to repeat the mistakes of the past. Let’s trust the process that God has used to bring the Gibsons to Seymour. I want to encourage you all from the very start to get onboard, love, honor, and support your new pastor and his wife. Whatever you do, please don’t stand on the sidelines or checkout with a wait and see attitude when Jon and Heather arrive.
That is what sometimes happens. People check out in a transition like this. They decide that since things won’t be exactly the same as they were, they will change everything and go someplace else. If you believe God brought you here, and you have been ministered to here, and He has a purpose in you being here, stay put. Engage. Be committed. Invite others to join us.
I appreciate so much the love and support that we have been shown for so many years. What has been has been good. That is because God led it. And what has been so good, could turn out so bad, if we are not careful to follow the will of God as we look ahead to the future. Please hear my heart on this – You might think it is flattering to say that you are unsure how you will like it if I am not here. While I appreciate the sentiment, I have to say, if the only reason you are here is because of me, you have been here for the wrong reason.
If you want to honor me, you will lean into what God has done, is doing, and will continue to do through the ministry of this church and under the leadership of a new pastor. Some have said, “he’ll have big shoes to fill.” I understand where they are coming from, but I am taking my shoes with me. Jon won’t need to fill my shoes.
He has his own shoes and his own calling and his own gifting. He is coming to Seymour at the Lord’s direction. That is why I have such peace in asking you to honor the Gibsons and to follow their leadership right from the start.
“Then they answered Joshua, ‘Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the LORD your God be with you as he was with Moses.” – Joshua 1:16-17 (NIV) They were willing to give Joshua the same kind of respect they had given Moses. I am asking you to give Jon the same kind of love and respect you have given me.
As I said earlier, this church is unusually healthy and united. We have so much to be thankful for, and I truly believe, the best is yet to come. So, today I am issuing the Pastor’s challenge: GET READY!! It has been a privilege and honor for Laurie and me to serve as your pastors these many years. We are looking forward to being together for a few more weeks. I know there will be some tears. We have shed many already and I know there are more to come. But this is not a funeral, it is a transition to a new, brighter, and better day. I mean that. I have done my part, now God is bringing someone else to lead the church into the next phase of exciting ministry, spiritual growth, and kingdom impact. I want every single one of you to be a part of it.
A new leader, with more energy, fresh ideas, and a new perspective is needed for the future. I believe that is what we have found in Jon Gibson. If you are an official member of the church, age 15 and over, you will be given the opportunity to cast your vote of affirmation next Sunday morning. Some have asked, why do you call it a vote of affirmation? Because you will be given the opportunity to affirm a process that God has led.
In voting yes, you not only affirm Jon Gibson as the next pastor of The Point, you also affirm the work of the Search Team, our Transition Team, the Church Board, and our staff. Please don’t give into the idea that a vote in favor of the Gibsons coming is somehow a lack of support for me. By voting yes you are not saying you want me to leave. To vote yes is to support me and the other leaders in the church.
To vote no would be a vote of no confidence in me, in our leadership teams, and the process God has used to bring us to this place. I have been given the opportunity to lead here for more than two decades. That has been a great honor and a wonderful blessing for which I am very thankful.
In a few weeks it will be time for me to pass the baton to the one who will pick up where we left off. With the pen in my hand, I believe God has been writing an incredible story. As I prepare to hand the pen to my successor, I believe that story is going to continue and get even better.