A Letter to My Successor


Today I started writing a letter to the pastor who will be replacing me. I truly want for the pastor who follows me to be successful in leading this precious church family and to be able to take them to new heights. With that in mind, I’ve humbly suggested that this new pastor might want to consider making a few changes from how I’ve done things. I’ve also mentioned a couple of projects and ministries that if implemented, could really be beneficial to the future of the church. These are things I’ve wanted to do, but just never been able to get off the ground. With deepest sincerity, I wish the best of luck to my replacement.

But wait!

Okay – hold your horses. For my church members who are reading this and are either in a puddle of tears or already planning the party you’re going to have when I’m gone (you had all better be in that first group!!!), I want you to know that I’m not actually leaving. At least, if I am, I haven’t heard anything about it! The letter I described above is real, but it was the product of a self-reflection exercise that has proven quite insightful and beneficial; so much so that I want to challenge you to try yourself. Here’s how:

  1. Pick at least one of the roles/titles you currently carry (i.e. pastor, teacher, manager, deacon, husband/wife, mother/father, etc.) This task will produce its best results if you pick a role that carries a lot of responsibility, requires a large portion of your day, and is one that you wish you were better at handling.
  2. Imagine that you were being replaced (it doesn’t matter why) by another person. Even if the role you are thinking of is one in which you never plan on being replaced, (for example, if you’re thinking about your role as a parent) I still want you to imagine this scenario.
  3. Write in a one page letter to your “replacement” listing a few things he/she should do in order to be more successful than you have been in that role. Don’t just list a bunch of items that you’re already doing; you’ll have missed to point. You need to clearly identify a few specific actions that you know would help the person who is succeeding you.

Go ahead, stop right now, and take a few minutes to, at least mentally, write your letter. Trust me; it will be worth the time and effort. Seriously, stop now and give this some thought.

Now that you’re back…

…how did it go? I’d be curious to know what you felt as you imagined someone else taking on one of your roles. If you feel like being open, leave a comment below. However, before we stop and consider the results of this exercise, let’s spend a few moments in God’s Word.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:13–17, ESV)

These words not only teach us a couple of awesome truths but through this we will also see the value of our little exercise.

  1. It’s a whole lot easier to focus on tomorrow instead of today, but that does us no good. I know that writing a letter to an imaginary would-be successor certainly qualifies as thinking about tomorrow, but that wasn’t the point. The point was to help us realize that if we already know of certain things we would tell another person to do if they were in our shoes, then those are the things that we, not someone else, should be doing today! All of us want to be better and more effective in the roles and responsibilities that we carry, and the truth is that we already know what needs to be done in order to improve. However, for a multitude of reasons, we often avoid making the necessary changes or taking those difficult steps forward. Sometimes, we privately hope that someone else will come along and handle what seems to difficult for us.
  2. If we know what needs to be done today, but refuse to do it, the result is sin. This passage reminds us that if we boast in what we’ll do tomorrow, we are doing so from a place of sinful, prideful arrogance. When I went through writing my letter, I was easily able to list several items that I knew would be beneficial if done. However, after doing so I came under the Lord’s conviction. He seemed to be saying, “Greg, if you would tell someone else to do these things tomorrow, why wouldn’t you do them yourself today?” That was not a fun revelation, but a very needed one.

Today, don’t think about what you’ll do tomorrow or about how a different person could do what you’ve been called to do in a better way. Instead, move forward in faith to do what God has equipped and directed you to do. Whatever tomorrow brings, at least you can be at peace with living fully for Christ today.

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