4 Keys to Transitioning Successfully by Jason Swann

In 2019, when my wife and I were called away from pastoring our church in Clovis, we sold our home, we sold vehicles, we sold belongings – we sold everything! Then we took a six-month sabbatical and traveled to over twenty churches that belonged to friends and mentors across the States. It was such a great experience for us.

We didn’t know where God was calling us. We had megachurches reaching out to us in Indiana and North Carolina, and God said no for all kinds of reasons to each of those. And then He called us specifically through three different people to southwest Kansas. We didn’t have a church. We didn’t know if we were planting one or taking an existing one. All we knew was we were called. So we moved on nothing but a word from Heaven. And when we got here, Cornerstone reached out. They were running a little less than 500 members at the time. And the rest is history!

We took the pastorate the first Sunday of June, and 12 weeks later (between June and the middle of August) we doubled, hitting almost 1,000 in weekly attendance. Now we’re consistently over 1,000. And it’s all just amazing how God moved when we trusted Him with our yes and with our no, because honestly it wasn’t that easy to say no to an 11,000-member megachurch.

For those facing transition today, let me give you one of the greatest pieces of advice that I got in my season of transition: buy time. You may not be able to buy six months, but you can buy six days. Maybe you can buy six weeks. Buy as much time as you can, for God to speak to you clearly and so that you can get a lay of the land He’s calling you to.

I’m not naturally a detail-oriented person. But when I’m under stress or pressure, I become very detail-oriented. I set goals. I complete tasks. So when we took the pastorate at Cornerstone, there were three things I did within the first 10 days that set the tone of our season of transition. I’d like to share those with you today.

  1. Gain Influence. When I joined the team at Cornerstone, I made it my top priority to connect with our staff. These are the people who either make the transition smooth or difficult. We had a situation where one of the guys on staff was actually our “runner up,” if you want to call it that. He could have destroyed the whole thing. Our season could have gone off the rails if he wasn’t on board, and thank God he was on board!
  2. Gain Institutional Knowledge. Depending upon the region of the world you’re in and how comfortable or familiar you are with the church, this may be mission critical. If you’ve been at your church for fifteen years, you don’t need institutional knowledge. You have it. But for us, we were coming in blind. We had no clue what had happened years before us, so it was important that we gained an understanding.
  3. Gain Trust. My goodness! There may be nothing more important that you can do than to help people trust you to be authentic, vulnerable, transparent, and so on. Give others a clear picture of who you are. No matter where you are in the process, you have to earn respect and begin to establish culture. Strategy is good, but culture beats strategy every time. When the people trust you and respect you, they are more willing to receive from you and follow your leading as God leads you.
  4. Find God’s Specific Calling and Run with It. When you get a vision from Heaven, chase it. Give it everything that you’ve got. Why? Because where He guides, He provides.

At Cornerstone, I can say without reservation that God has been faithful to do what only He could do. Our transition was successful, and we as a congregation have grown in excellence and passion to worship and experience God together. When we gather, God is in the room. It doesn’t matter how many people show up. His presence is “winning” for us. But because He’s in the room, seekers show up. They want to see God move. And they do because at Cornerstone, our mission is that in every service we praise the name of Jesus and gather for His attendance, for His glory and praise.

If you’re a pastor working through transition and need to work out some things, I would love to walk through with you. You can email me at Jason@cornerstone.one. You can also find me on social media – Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Let me help you find the plan that God has for you and to walk through your season with grace, mercy and power.