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The more that I contemplate pastoral succession at BBC, the more I realise that the church is already prepared for it. Because of a biblical emphasis in several important areas, over many decades, our church is well-prepared for when a new pastor-teacher succeeds my ministry. Therefore, when I consider the future of BBC my general disposition is, “No worries.”

In recent conversations, I am increasingly aware that sometimes local churches depend way too much upon the man in the pulpit. This is not healthy for a church, and can lead to plenty of worrying about a church’s future. Let me illustrate.

The other day I was asked by a Christian over here how much longer I will be in the States. When I answered, “Until the first week of August,” the response I received was one of inquisitive disbelief: “Aren’t you worried about your church?” The implication was that, if I am away, then BBC will perhaps “get up to mischief,” or that things will fall apart because I am not there to hold it together. Well, though I miss being with you, and though I believe I have a ministry that contributes to the well-being of BBC, nevertheless, no, I am not worried, not in the least.

Now, before you misunderstand and hold a members’ meeting to fire me, please let me explain.

Last year, while I was physically laid aside for several months, Brackenhurst Baptist Church not only survived, but actually grew, not only in size but, most importantly, in faith and in fellowship. A crisis created some gaps and yet, through the ministry of the elders, the flock of God continued to be fed, to be led, and to be cared for. Church members rose to the challenge, ministering to one another. Church members faithfully gathered, faithfully gave, and fruitfully grew in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. The health of the church, it was revealed, did not depend on any one individual. This is how it should be. And at BBC I am confident that this is how it will be when I step aside as pastor-teacher. I think it was John Wesley who said, “God buries his workmen, but his work continues.” How true. God’s church continues because it is dependent on the Lord, not on any one individual (Matthew 16:18). This should give us comfort.

In recent discussions with a seasoned pastor, we reminisced about four churches here in the United States with which we are personally familiar. In our lifetime, they at one time were among the largest churches in the world, with well-known lead pastors. Today, three of the four are no longer in existence. In each case, the famed pastor-teacher loomed large, yet there was no deliberate discipleship preparing the way for a succession, no plurality of elders, no regular systematic exposition of the Bible, and no meaningful membership. Considering the absence of these biblical essentials for a local church, though sad, it is not surprising that the churches did not survive. Before their demise, these churches experienced multiple pastoral successions before the doors finally closed. As lamentable as these stories are, I am not worried for these negative examples contrast sharply with life at BBC. By God’s grace we do have a culture of discipleship. We do have a plurality of elders. We do have systematic exposition of the Bible. We do have meaningful church membership. And therefore we do have biblically credible reason for confidence about pastoral succession. We should be grateful to God.

I often encounter the popular view that a pastor should not publicly speak about his retirement out of fear that he will lose his ability to lead. I suppose that this is true for a church that is disproportionately dependent upon him. However, this is not the case for a church that is congregationally engaged in doing the work of the ministry, building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12–16)—a church like BBC. Though I would like to think that my ministry will be missed, yet because our church is not disproportionately dependent upon my ministry, there should be no worries about our future.

As stated numerous times, I have no plans to step aside as pastor-teacher any time soon, and neither am I aware of any plans to replace me anytime soon. But what I am planning, and what we should all be planning, is to continue prioritising discipling, to continue expecting expositional preaching and teaching, to continue practicing meaningful church membership, and to continue emphasising and supporting a plurality of elders. As we do so, then, when the time comes for pastoral succession, whether planned or as the result of a crisis, there will be no worries.

Not worried; but missing you.

Doug