Recently, I posted on a social media site the P.T. Barnum quote, “The noblest art is that of making others happy.”
(www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/201036.P_T_Barnum). My younger brother commented, “Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others, whenever they go.”
I jokingly tell people I’m the latter of my brother’s statement.
The youth group I grew up in at First Baptist Church in Springfield, Missouri, had a reunion a few years ago. I was one of two people at the reunion that was a part of the youth group and had also come back to serve on the church staff. During the Saturday evening banquet, I served as the Master of Ceremonies. I introduced myself by saying, “It’s an honor to be with you. I had the joy of being in this youth group as well as serving this church on ministry staff. I think the church was glad to see me go both times.”
The statement got some laughter, which was all I was after.
In reality, there may be some truth to bringing happiness upon departure. I’ve resigned from numerous positions in my career. In most of the situations, they immediately or eventually hired someone that took the organization to places I never dreamed of going. While serving that same church that held the reunion, I started a summer day camp and an after-school program for children in the neighborhood around the church. When I left to serve a church in the Memphis, Tennessee area, Blake Hayworth, my associate minister, took over as the recreation minister. Blake, with a loving heart for all people, expanded the ministry of the after-school and summer programs leading to a Saturday evening worship service for the community. I genuinely believe Blake’s departure hurt the recreation ministry of the church more than mine did.
I served in my next church for over five years, and when I resigned from my position, the associate recreation pastor, John Longworth, was promoted into the job. John has a fantastic sense of creativity and is detailed thinking when it comes to putting programs together. He has faithfully led the recreation ministry at this church for twenty years. Recently, John served as the Executive Chair for the Board of Trustees with CSRM. John carried this church through some rough patches and has kept the ministry going forward.
When I think of the leaders that succeed me, I tend to think of the story in 1 Samuel 18 where Israelite troops return home after David had killed Goliath and the ladies of the community were dancing and singing, “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands!” (1 Samuel 18:7 NLT)
Saul’s anger rose with the hearing of this song, and at that point, began to plot how he could keep his eventual successor from taking the throne. I’ve heard that good leaders don’t leave until they know the organization is in good shape, or they know the successor is coming. Saul failed at this trait; however, Moses didn’t quit until Joshua was ready to take the reins. John the Baptist lessened his influence when he saw that Jesus started to proclaim the good news on His own.
In my first book, Characters of the Bible, I refer to John the Baptist releasing his position so that people would follow the true Messiah. “John had learned the lesson on how to lose gracefully. Just as a teacher develops a lesson plan to keep students on a learning path, John had a lessen plan. He would slowly disappear from the limelight and allow Jesus to get all of the attention. John understood and accepted the fact that someone better was on the way.” (COTB, p. 125)
Two years ago, CSRM faced a dilemma. Our Executive Director had resigned after nine months of leadership to begin a marriage counseling ministry, which was more in line with how God had wired him. The Board of Trustees voted to place me in the position as an interim, knowing I could perform the work without the need for remuneration. It was a win-win of sorts, in that I can count my work with CSRM as a service component of my faculty duties at the University of Mississippi.
Fast forward those two years, and we find my strength of departure once again a benefit. Nearing retirement, I told the board that in September of 2021, I would step down as the Executive Director. We formed a search team consisting of two long-time board members, Chris Lovette and Dwight McDowell, and the Executive Chair, John Longworth. Their search brought them full circle back to our current staff. They discovered our Director of Church Relations, Dan Stoffer, has some amazing visionary and leadership skills which should propel the ministry of CSRM into the future.
So, once again, the best thing I can do is get out of the way. During this next year, Dan and I will work together so that he is in the best shape to take over one year from now. I know we can count on your prayers, and possibly financial support to assist Dan in the years to come. I’ve signed up for both support mechanisms already. You will find more information about Dan on our website, http://www.csrm.org/dan-stoffer--full-bio.html.
It won’t be long before the churches, and the people we work with will be saying, “David has ministered to his thousands, and Dan to his tens of thousands.” I look forward to that day!