Though born in Bathsheba, St. Joseph, Barbados, my parents moved to England in the 1960s by invitation of the British government to work in public transport systems, post offices and hospitals. Their plan was to stay between 5 to 10 years before returning. Their plans changed, and we are in our fourth generation of those born and raised in England.
When my parents arrived in England, they experienced discrimination from churches and society. Rental property advertisements often said, “No Irish, no Blacks and no dogs.”
This treatment led to like-minded people gathering to worship in homes and school halls, until they could purchase their own church buildings. Last year, 60 years of The Wesleyan Church in England was celebrated.
While we thanked God for all he had done, we began to realize the church had become a place of refuge and safety for some of us, and we were, in fact, hiding from the world outside. We had little or no connection with our communities, most of our activities were inward-focused. Our younger congregation was leaving our churches, citing out-of-date methods and confusing language.
We recognized that if we did not change the way we communicated the gospel, our church would not survive. For too long, we celebrated what God had done instead of asking God what he wanted us to do now. Change was happening even if we were resisting it.
As with all change, some members resisted, content to do what we had always done. Others, however, saw that if we refused change, we could not expect a different result or growth.
Jesus commanded us in John 13:34–35 to love one another as he loves us, making us known as his disciples through our love. This Scripture challenged my heart and mindset.
To return to Christ’s mission and avoid our self-focus, we needed to ask: how do we navigate missional and generational transitions?
I prayed over how to tell our leaders (most of whom were older than me) we needed to change so we could be understood by the present generation. My comments could be received as rude and disrespectful, as part of my culture is to respect elders. God answered my prayers, revealing I needed to build relationships by asking questions before making statements and being patient as others considered the changes we proposed.
God is teaching us what it really means to love those who disagree with us as we discuss and debate from very different perspectives. We are finding there are ways different generations can work together to reach the world for Christ, primarily through succession plans.
Jesus came, made disciples and left — a pattern we should follow as leaders. Indeed, I believe it is a requirement of a good leader to train others to replace us. We began to understand this important leadership truth when four of our pastors passed away in six months’ time. Jesus invested in people; we must make the time to do the same. Otherwise we can be left with large gaps in ministerial experience that is not easily made up.
My questions to fellow leaders: Are we holding onto our leadership batons too long? Are we investing all God has given us into future generations?
The next generations will have different methods and styles of leading because the issues faced by each generation require new strategies. Paul said it well: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6).
As we enact these succession plans to be more fruitful in ministry, we are taking risks, prayerfully planting new churches and learning what it means to love one another.
“Everywhere to everywhere” — Global Partners’ initiative to have international Wesleyan churches sending missionaries out to be a Kingdom Force — is right in front of us or next door. In cities across the United Kingdom, one will regularly see people of all different backgrounds, ethnicities, socio-economic statuses, ages and ideologies. God is challenging us to come out of our churches, leave our comfort zones and learn again what it means to be a disciple who makes disciples.
May we all live out Joshua 1:9 no matter the leadership role God has led us to: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
So, go everywhere,