Pastoral Letter: February 18, 2022
“When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, “Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces."
--Matthew 6: 28--
Friday, February 18, 2022
In this letter I am going to ask you to consider the first quality characteristic for Church health. It comes first not because it is most important but rather because it is a somewhat deceptive quality. A lot of people misread it to say empowered leadership.
Empowered Leaders are a tremendous resource to any congregation. The Church can survive and grow without such assets. The Church fails to thrive if the leadership vanishes. The crisis is not when a call goes out for volunteers, and nobody steps forward. The crisis is when today’s leaders fail to identify and train tomorrows leaders.
Empowering Leadership are those leaders who understand they cannot carry the burden alone nor are they likely to carry that burden across the finish line. With that knowledge they carry the burden as far as they are able comfortably knowing that they have raised up one who will take the burden from their hands, carry it a way and pass it on to another. The ministry of the Church is forever. The ministers of the church are not.
Elisha has been Elijah’s disciple for some time when we step into the selected scripture. He has followed, he has observed, he has been tested and now Elijah has heard the call of God to depart this world and he sets out to meet God along the way. Elisha will not let him take the trip alone. God gives Elijah detours to test Elisha’s resolve and at each new checkpoint the company of prophets in that area meet Elijah to honour him and to remind Elisha that soon God will take Elijah away.
Several times Elijah tries to send Elisha back home and each time Elisha refuses until Elijah finally turns to him and asks, “What do you want?” Elisha has been thinking about this for a while now and we get the exchange shared above.
Elisha gets what he asked for. No word on whether he came to regret making the request.
Simply put each of us is either an Elijah, someone who needs to train a successor or an Elisha, someone who needs to succeed their Elijah. The only other option is to be one of the various companies of prophets talking about death and just waiting for it to happen. Clearly doom and gloom prophets do not inspire generations to follow. They exist and they bring folk down. Elijah on the other hand heard the call of God, pulled Elisha out of the fields and away from his plow and began the work of making Elisha a prophet and a leader.
The interesting thing about being an Empowering Leader is that you can pull another leader out of the most unlikely places when you let God point you in the right direction. Just as interesting is the fact than an Empowering Leader can walk up to you while you are in the middle of doing the most ordinary thing, lay their mantle upon your shoulders and then make you the leader who will carry their burden after they are called away by God to their rest.
When that isn’t happening the Church is diminished as leader after leader vanishes and the burden once entrusted to them for the future of the Church is abandoned on the way to gather dust and to decay.
That delays God’s plans for a while. It will not hold it back forever. Be the branch that puts forth a new shoot not the compost awaiting new seed. Empower or be empowered. Pass along the mantle or pick it up. If that isn’t happening in the congregation there will be no growth or improvement. Ever. We have life now, let’s not let it go to waste.
Grace and peace to you and may you be safe.
-Reverend John Maich