Healthy Leader, Healthy Church

Friend,

If you read this blog often, you know that my heart is for the Church to get healthy, from the inside out.  It is what it will take, for us to truly influence the world.

So when I come across something to help build a healthy Church, I share it.  Such is the case with my posting today, in a rare interview style that is not typical to this blog.  But what I share here and today over at Catalyst Leader is something I believe will benefit every leader and pastor and has a message for us all…about listening to the voice of God, learning what it means to truly be humble, and getting over ourselves to be about Kingdom work.

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Every place I travel, people leave an imprint on my heart.

But I admit, some divine assignments make the deepest of indelible impressions.

Such was the case with a group I spoke to not long ago from beautiful Boise, Idaho.

It was not just that they were a praying group or that we were seeking God together in the serenity of the mountains.

It was that they were healthy – in a palpable way I could sense and feel.

So when the women began to tell me about how their pastor was willingly handing over his pulpit to a younger pastor…and it was not done out of scandal or conflict or being forced out…I determined to know more.  It was clear: the healthy leadership of this man was having an amazing trickle down effect to his people.

I came home and determined to pick the pastor’s brain. I needed to know…how a guy who was the visionary implementer of this church, grew it, served in it, shepherded it from the ground up for 23 years…could lay it down in such a healthy way.

I admit, in all my church experience, it’s something I’ve never seen.

*Tri Robinson, the pastor of whom I write, graciously allowed me to interview him to give me a glimpse into the leadership journey of he and his wife, Nancy.  One of the things that struck me the most about Tri in talking to him is how he has, for years, dedicated 1-2 hours to the discipline of solitude every day.

I must say…in his spirit, it shows.

Most of my interview, you can read on the Catalyst Leader site.

Here is the remainder of our conversation.

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LW: Tri, what obstacles did you come up against in this process and how did you overcome them?

TR:  Well, the first thing I had to deal with was my own insecurity, of course. But beyond that, I had to help the people of the church learn to trust a new leader, after the years we had built together establishing trust between us.  I had to wean them off of me and deal with their fears of “what if it doesn’t work?”

To tell you the truth, I thought everyone would be excited as I was about the idea, but the baby boomers in the congregation felt a bit devalued and not as important, anymore.  I talked to them at great length from the perspective of a parent and grandparent, reminding them about how we always want more for our kids than for ourselves, and how this was important for the future of the church.  This was not just about transferring from one leader to another; it was really about handing down from one generation to another. When they understood it that way, they got on board.

LW: What was the #1 reaction of your people when you told them what you were going to do?

TR: As I mentioned, overwhelmingly, the reaction at first was fear.  We experienced visible pushback on the idea, some people left the church [most have since returned], and many people had a hard time being convinced I was ok and was not retiring but transferring the bulk of where I focused my time. For that reason, we started implementing my new ministry focus simultaneously so people could tangibly visualize what Nancy and I were moving into, which helped them feel more secure. 

LW: How are you helping people who don’t want you to move on accept it?

TR: I think one of the most important things you can do as a leader transitioning is to help people see your inner security and conviction about it.  When they do, they will not only feel more secure themselves but will also see it as the right plan.  It’s important to spend time with people, let them hear you consistently say the same things, and have them watch you move toward your new thing. That is why taking time with the transition is vitally important.

LW: What has God revealed to you in a sweet way during this time?

TR: He’s given me an amazing second wind – the vitality to do a new thing, which I greatly appreciate.  He’s also given me a huge respect for the guy taking my place…he’s younger, yes, but I have learned in a new way how to be under someone’s authority and even more surprising…a willingness to even prefer someone else’s leadership than my own.  God’s been good to orchestrate that.

*Tri Robinson [along with his wife, Nancy] is the founding pastor of the Vineyard in Boise, Idaho. With a growing fellowship over 2500, Tri has a passion to see Christians become not only authentic in their walk with the Lord but outward focused both locally and globally.  In this season of transition, Tri’s new focus will be the i-61 Ministry, promoting Kingdom ministry that addresses seven areas of world crises: spiritual confusion, undeveloped leadership, educational inadequacy, environmental decline, world hunger, poor health/disease and human injustice. 

**For more of this interview, including how to put personal feelings aside for greater good, counsel for transition, and what makes for healthy church leadership, visit HERE.

*Conversation: Have a question or comment for Tri? He’d love to hear from you…and so would I…so leave your thoughts!

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for sharing Lisa and Tri. An example of humility and a picture of passing the baton…something we all need to do and accept. And a reminder that though he may have founded that church, it’s really God’s, and the same is true for us – the things we do and the pastors we sit under. I’m thankful God works through our pastor, but I have to trust when it’s God’s plan to change that it will be His plan, one we must accept. The same is true for when He calls me away from something…I’ve worked through that and at times it’s harder to step away than it is step out, but it comes down to obedience. I do appreciate the steps Tri has taken to ease the transition…we can all learn from this. Thanks again for sharing this story…looking forward to reading the rest of it.

  2. Tom says

    I’d love to know more about the “1 to 2 hours of solitude” spent every day.

    I may be presuming wrongly, but I would venture to guess it has to do with the “knowing OF God”, relationally speaking. (With all the recent academic or intellectual emphasis on the distinction between religion and relationship, I like to use the word “communing” as relates to the dynamic of the relational knowing of God.

    I suspect this may have more to do with the probable overflow that poured out on the people God placed under this under shepherd’s care.

    May God bless you in the new direction in which He has led you. God has a plan (for you and all of us)…sounds like you are wisely letting it remain His plan. Not everyone would walk away from “safe success” (humanly speaking/observed).

    • Lisa says

      Thank you for leaving these thoughts, Tom. Not to speak for Tri, but I understood his commitment to solitude to be a sweet time of communing with God in the quiet — with stilled heart, no distractions, etc. I’ve often wondered what my relationship with God would be if I committed to something like this, as so often the things around me (computer, phone, tv, etc.) distract me.

  3. says

    This whole interview was one giant fist pump.

    This:
    “To tell you the truth, I thought everyone would be excited as I was about the idea, but the baby boomers in the congregation felt a bit devalued and not as important, anymore.”

    Several questions:

    Did those baby boomers come to terms with your passing of the baton?

    How did they come to terms? (In other words, did you have anybody leave because of your decision?)

    • Lisa says

      Joe…
      Thank you for your endorsement of this post and Tri’s leadership. Truly, his leadership is inspiring! To quickly answer your questions, since these are both things I asked him (though Tri may want to personally come weigh in), yes, for the most part the baby boomers came to terms with this decision. And yes, some left because of the decision, but only initially, and most of them have since returned. As Tri says in the post, “I talked to them at great length from the perspective of a parent and grandparent, reminding them about how we always want more for our kids than for ourselves, and how this was important for the future of the church. This was not just about transferring from one leader to another; it was really about handing down from one generation to another. When they understood it that way, they got on board.” Tri truly spent many hours and conversations with the baby boomers (and others in the congregation) who had a hard time with this decision. It is yet another reason I believe this transition worked — because he was a pastor who never got too busy or distracted to spend time with his people. This, too, is sometimes a rarity in the pulpit, and I’m inspired by Tri’s openness and accessibility. If you haven’t already, please go read the second half of this interview at Catalyst Leader (link in the post.) Thanks for coming here, Joe!

  4. says

    Lisa,

    I was at the Vineyard retreat that you spoke at…I appreciated the message God gave through you so much!

    I have sat through Pastor Tri’s transition for the past 7 years. It has been an awesome display of obedience and growth on so many levels.

    Tri has been very open and vulnerable especially in the last several weeks leading up to the official change. This summer I started an unexpected transitional process. Something that began in 1989 (the same year Tri began the Vineyard) was coming to an end and I was in transition after 23 years (same amount of time Tri served as Sr. Pastor). My transition caught me off gaurd…not a 7 year process like Tri’s…and yet as Tri shared from his heart regarding his experience it helped me catch my footing and have hope for my future. This new season that I find myself in (riddled with holes in the natural sense and with almost evey one of my roles being redifined)didn’t take Jesus by surprise at all. As I keep my eyes on Him and remind myself of His faithfulness I believe that I will see good fruit, similar to Tri and Nancy’s, emerge from this. It’s pretty neat that Tri’s pastoring has continued even as he has stepped away from that designated spot…it’s all been such a God thing. Thanks for sharing our church’s story with others

    • Lisa says

      I love this, Michelle, and thank you so much for sharing. Vineyard Boise touched my heart in so many deep ways, and I am ever so grateful to God for sending me there. May He continue to guide you and keep your soul well!

  5. Sarah Brutsman says

    Lisa, I was at the retreat in Idaho that you spoke at it was awesome :) It has been a great lesson to me watching Tri in this transition. What a great example of a leader. Someone who looks ahead with vision and does the best thing even though it causes him emotional pain. Thank you so much for sharing this. BTW, I recorded the song that I was telling you about You can look on facebook under my name It’s called “Behind your eyes”. Thank you for being the last push I needed :)

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