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I am almost a week into my sabbatical and thus far it is proving fruitful as I give concentrated attention to my future as pastor-teacher of Brackenhurst Baptist Church, specifically with reference to how long until I should step aside and how most fruitfully to help our church make the transition to its next one. In that quest, I have read a book, and nearly half of another one, both addressing the matter of pastoral succession. Tomorrow, I am due to receive in the post a third similar book. I suspect that this one will, like the others, lean heavily upon the metaphor of passing the baton. In fact, in my suitcase is a book with the title Passing the Baton. Being a fan of track and field, I appreciate the word picture, for this is precisely what the elders and I are planning for. The entire congregation must plan for this too.

In a relay race, several elements are essential to secure the best result. Timing is a major factor. In fact, a lot of practice goes into this vital aspect of running a relay well. The runner receiving the baton needs to prepare well for the exchange from his teammate without costing valuable time. Further, both runners need to carefully stay in their lane. Failure to do so might very well result in disqualification. And, of course, both the holder of the baton and the intended recipient must concentrate on hanging tightly to it. No matter how careful the timing, the actual exchange is vital to success in the race. I have watched favoured teams lose in a big way simply because they failed to concentrate. And so it can be with pastoral succession. Timing and carefulness are important. Hence this sabbatical.

At 62 years of age, it is important that we all think about my replacement. In fact, I have been working towards this for three decades. Perhaps in the future I will write about this, but I think it is essential that a newly installed pastor begin immediately working towards his succession plan. We call this the Great Commission: making disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, the ultimate Captain of our team (Hebrews 2:10).

As elders equip others for ministry, various Timothys over the years will be identified who can succeed the former elders. So with the pastor-teacher. And so with this pastor-teacher. Whether my replacement is currently a member of BBC, or yet to become one, time invested in him is non-negotiable. I believe that biblical discipleship, biblical “mentoring” will go a long way to a successful exchange.

I have no retirement date in mind, but I believe that, when the next pastor-teacher is identified—and when the time is right—our congregation will sense the divine clock has struck announcing that the transition should take place. When it does, enough preparation will have taken place to assure that the baton will not be dropped. And we will all be the winners as the church continues to run our race, looking to Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:1–2).

I read today that a wise church will provide its pastor-teacher with a sabbatical for the purpose of his preparation for pastoral transition. BBC, you are wise, and I am grateful! And I greatly desire your prayers as I read, study, think, pray, and write during this time away. Please pray that what I learn will serve us well as a congregation. Please pray that each of us on the team will do our part to pass the baton well.

Thinking of, and preparing for, you,