“Transition Thoughts” by Garris Elkins

by | Nov 13, 2013 | Church, Faith, Father, Future, Hope, Leadership, Transition | 2 comments

In October of 2014, I will complete a transition out of the Senior Pastor role at Living Waters Church in Medford, Oregon.  The man God is raising up to fill that role is Ryan Rhoden.  Ryan is a good and godly man with a vision for the future.  We have been in this transition for a few years.  In the process of our transition, I have collected some proverb-like personal thoughts I would like to share with anyone making a similar transition.  What follows is that collection.


Without a
transition plan you will be found grasping onto the doorframe of your current
ministry assignment afraid to let go and move into the new season God has

All healthy
transitions move forward with a word from God. 
Don’t move forward until you have this guiding word. It will dig you out
of the ruts that are present in each journey.

You can actually
stay too long.

You can actually
leave too soon.

A good time to plan
for your future transition is now. 

Resist the urge to
build a legacy in your departure. This is something we cannot write honestly or

“Pastor Emeritus”
can be a title that tells others, “I am having trouble letting go”.

God is waiting for
you in a place you cannot yet see and you think might not even exist.   

Transitions are
like cars – if over-corrected they can lose control and crash. 

You hope the leader who follows you is merciful. Because your successor will inherit your dysfunctions after you leave.

We have a tendency to see each life-transition as an isolated event.  Transitions are actually part of the single journey of our life. Try to understand the larger picture. 

Your gifts made a
way for your current assignment and they will be used to make a way into
something new.

Go back and repent
of the judgment calls you made on the leaders that went before you in your
current assignment.  This is for the sake
and safety of your transition and your future.

Every transition
will reveal your insecurities. One of the gifts of transition is exposure. God exposes
us so He can heal us and prepare us for what is coming.

Emerging leaders
need room. The transitioning leader should make a place for a new gift to
function without restriction.

The voices that cry
the loudest, “Please don’t leave!” are the ones that may need you to leave the

Once you realize a
change is needed it is generally a bit late. 
Don’t worry if you have missed your best opportunity.  God knows how to accelerate things to bring
your transition up to speed and in line with His plan.

The lessons you
learned in the first five years of ministry will help guide you in the finish
of your ministry.  Revisit those lessons
and learn them again.

Bondage is anything
we do to prove our worth.

Park your regrets
in the mercy of God.

Learn to discern
the difference between obligation and discernment.  Obligation will have you tied to things you
need to let go of.  Discernment will reveal
those things that can hold you back from what God has planned.

A transition will
involve the subject of finances. The transition plan should never be directed or held
hostage to financial solutions. Follow the word of the Lord first and foremost
and the financial element will follow your obedience.

Sometime we make
sacrifices on altars that do not exist. 
We can actually make a sacrifice in a transition where a blessing was
God’s actual intent.

One of the greatest
gifts you can leave behind in a transition is to be, as far as possible with
you, at peace with all people.

A new vision is
new, not better.  Deal with the pride
that would cause you to hold onto the uniqueness of your past at the expense of
someone else’s future.

New ministry teams will
get formed outside your input. This is not rebellion. This is life. This is
change. Embrace it. Support it.

God’s voice is your
compass, not your transition plan.

Invite people to the transition narrative early in the process.  This creates a partnership and lessens the possibility of a fearful response to change.

There exists in healthy transitions a sliding scale where the departing leader chooses to lessen their influence to provide the incoming leader with an increasingly visible platform.

Healthy transitions possess a visible architecture.

You can remain in
the place of your current ministry assignment only if your heart is right. Who wants an old
grumpy previous pastor polluting the future of a ministry?

Don’t view your
transition as a cliff where you will fall off into nothing.  There are no cliffs with God – they only
exist in our minds where fear has been allowed to rule.

Telling God where
we will go or not go after our transition is the beginning of a detour some do
not return from.

Deal with your
sorrow at missed opportunities.  Trust
that God has raised up new leaders to capture those missed opportunities and
turn them into victories.

We should not
continue to create the model of ministry we will give to those who follow us.
Invite them early into the transition process to begin developing the new model
they will carry.

When you feel the
transition is being aborted don’t forget that God is always at work behind the
scenes birthing something new.

In transition you
will never find yourself in a situation where God does not have a plan of
rescue in place.  Trust Him.

The older we get
the less we want to experience change. Change is what living things experience.  Without change we get “old”.

If you are a
spiritual father you will find joy in what makes your children joyful.

Nighttime can be
the worst time.  This is when hell begins
to speak the loudest and tries to turn your rest into restlessness.  Your fatigue in life and ministry will not
come from a packed schedule, but from a mind filled with unresolved fear about
the future.

Self-pity is a
spiritual terrorist who wants to sneak aboard your life. It is a destructive
attitude with a bomb strapped to its back. Detonate it in prayer and away from
innocent bystanders.

We can make our
plans, but in the end it is the Lord who is directing our steps.

Looking into the
future without faith is a spawning ground for fear. Faith looks ahead and
declares that God is good and He has made a way.

Letting go will be
harder than you think. Start letting go today no matter how far in the future
your transition may be.

Be realistic – you
can always do a transition better.  No
transition will ever be perfect. 
“Perfect” is not the goal.

In your transition
leave room for mystery and wonder.  This
is a spiritual endeavor not a business plan.

Your time in ministry
made a deposit.  It is not for you to
define that deposit – history will reveal what you left behind.

Once the crowds
came to Jesus He did not try to hold them. He fed them and walked away.
Compromise comes when we try to hold the crowd.

In your transition
you will cross a spiritual frontier.  All
spiritual frontiers have demons guarding them. 
Don’t ignore the reality of this battle. 
Stepping through the gates of transition will cause them to react.

In this transition
you will need to make yourself more available to God than to people.

In a life-transition the greatest battle you will face is to believe the best. Hope is the hinge on the door of a healthy transition.

Ending is far more
challenging than beginning.


  1. Joaquin Valdez

    Thanks Garris!

  2. Jose

    Awesome information and great spiritual insight! Thank you.


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