Navigating the Transitions of Life & Leadership
Terry B. Walling
ChurchSmart Resources, 2008, 144 pp., ISBN 1-889638-75-7
Terry Walling is the President of Leader Breakthru, a resourcing ministry focused on training, coaching and developing resources for Kingdom leaders. See www.leaderbreakthru.com.
"Many folks do not weather transitions very well and so appear to be stuck." (Foreword) "Stuck! Is about finding God in new ways and discovering his purposes, while at the same time just trying to survive and navigate a time of transition." The book provides a paradigm and framework to help you understand and process the confusion. (Preface) It is based on the leadership development research of Dr. J. Robert Clinton of Fuller Theological Seminary.
This book offers a deeper understanding of how God uses transitions to shape the destiny and character of a Christ follower. He often uses difficult moments to signal the beginning of a new work or stage in one's development. (XI)
"A transition is a defined period of time where one phase or period in an individual's development ends, and another phase or period needs to begin. A transition represents that in-between time." "Transitions serve to bring about needed change, provide clarity in life and direction, consolidate learning, deepen values, shift the paradigms and advance one's influence and/or ministry." (XII)
"The three generic transitions are:
n The awakening transition (often occurring somewhere in the 20s-30s)
n The deciding transition (often occurring in the 45+ age range).
n The finishing transition (often occurring somewhere in the late 50s-early 60s). (XII)
"Paradigm shifts break unhealthy behavior patterns, and produce in their wake new approaches to life and leadership." (XIII)
"Transitions often unfold down a generic pathway. This generic path consists of four steps or phases of a transition: the entry phase, the evaluation phase, the alignment phase and the direction phase." In entry, a time of isolation or conflict is experienced. In evaluation, the individual assess what is happening and what God is revealing. In alignment, there is a surrender to God's desires. And in direction, a future surfaces. Evaluation and surrender take the longest. (XIV)
"Convergence is the focused time when a Christ follower reaches the end only to discover a unique contribution that is the net result of years of formation and life experience. Convergence involves the coming together of 'who' God has shaped and individual to be, and a sense that 'for this I was born.''" (XV)
Section One - Defining and identifying a transition
"Kingdom influence is the by-product of men and women who allow God to do a deeper work in their lives." (7)
"Transitions are characterized by a prolonged period of restlessness, self-doubt, lack of motivation, job stagnation, diminished confidence, lack of direction, distance from God, isolation, relational conflict and tension, lack of effectiveness, and struggle to stay focused and motivated." (8) "Transitions are more about character development than job description. In a transition, God turns a searchlight onto the heart." (8)
Transitions often bring clarity of self-definition (who I am), role (my contribution) and new paradigms (presuppositions and worldview). (9-10)
"God uses transitions to better align people's lives to his purposes." (14)
"Every phase of one's development has purpose. Failing to process the challenges and implications of each phase can mean moving to the next phase with unfinished business." (15)
Remember the children's song, Deep and Wide? "The width of one's influence with Jesus is in direct proportion of the depth of one's intimacy with God. Transitions take a life deep, so the result of a life and its influence can go wide." (16)
Pain à Intimacy à Power à Influence (17)
The entry stage of a transition is often characterized by emotions of restlessness, confusion, self-doubt, and isolation as well as relational trauma and a consistent lack of energy."
The evaluation stage may include rehearsing past struggles, confronting issues of wounding, consolidating lessons, deepening convictions and challenging life assumptions. (21)
The alignment stage is surrendering to God's agenda. It brings one to be more pliable, teachable, open-minded and openhearted to change. (21)
In the direction stage destiny experiences begin to occur as God reveals new direction. The end of transition brings one to a crossroad of faith, a challenge to step out in obedience. (21)
Section Two - The four phases of a transition
Transition is often launched by a traumatic life experience. (27)
If you are beginning a transition, here are some steps: Adopt a posture of openness. Start a journal. Reflect on the issues that initiated the transition. Ask God to begin to reveal his purposes. Find a friend to help you process your questions. Wait. (30)
God examines the unseen part of our lives, below the surface. In evaluation He surfaces our true values, the life convictions born out of adversity and pain that we will fight for. (33)
Tom Patterson (Living a Life that Counts) suggests questions organized in four categories:
n "What's right? Where do you sense God's blessing? Where have you been affirmed? Where do you see God at work right now?
n What's wrong? Where are you experiencing your greatest struggle? Where do you need to focus greater efforts? Where are you in your journey with God? Where do you find yourself resisting God?
n What's confusing? Where do you feel the most bewildered? Where are the pieces not coming together? Where does God want you to go, but you can't? Why not? Where is the greatest dissonance coming from?
n What's missing? Where is the greatest gap between problems and answers? Where do you feel free? Where do you feel most bound? Where do you need the greatest help? Where is your heart telling you that you should go?" (34)
Four tools God may use:
n Obedience checks. God often creates a moment, a crisis of belief, to test our beliefs and behavior.
n Integrity checks. These may come in the areas of money, priorities, temptations, character challenges, etc., to see if our words and deeds match.
n Word Checks. We reengage with God through His word to evaluate our circumstances and build discernment and wisdom.
n Divine Contacts. Significant people may brush our path and provoke new insights, bring new knowledge, affirm your personhood and potential, encourage development, or provide unique help or guidance. (35-37)
"In alignment, something is always given up in order to gain something that is better for the future. What it is differs for each follower." (41)
"The alignment experience readies the Christ follower for God's revealing of the future. Destiny experiences are moments where Christ begins to lift the fog, and bring clarity to what lies ahead."
"The prize of surrender is revelation. Most want revelation. Few want to surrender."
"One of the keys to a transition is to let go of the past in order to embrace the future." (43) A reflection exercise is provided on pp. 44-45.
"Breakthrough, and the end of a transition, often comes at unexpected moments." Destiny moments are special experiences or events that reveal insight into where God is leading you. (48) There may be a series of preliminary insights and then an 'aha' moment where you know you have heard from God. God may use destiny moments to endorse a commitment or decision, affirm a paradigm shift or affirm a new course of direction or opportunity. (51) God's plan begins to unfold.
Destiny moments build faith to meet the challenge of a new step. "In the end, every transition also brings on a challenge to one's ability to trust God." (52)
Section Three - Three defining transitions
1. Awakening, often in the 20s and 30s, begins as a restlessness, an anxiousness to move into a significant life direction. This may begin the process of clarifying one's life purpose and calling. (60)
2. Deciding (perhaps in the 30s and 40s) involves sorting though issues of meaning and significance, questioning fit or place in life and ministry. It is primarily about significance, looking for one's kingdom contribution.
3. Finishing is about legacy and stewardship, issues of ultimate contribution. It often centers on what one will not do, in order to focus on what one must do, often moving from things to empowering people, sharing life lessons and experience. (61-2)
"Calling is an individual's best understanding to date of God's intention for a life. As God continues to work, the calling of a Christ follower unfolds. Calling is dynamic in nature. The key to discovery of one's calling for the future is to first gain perspective of how God has been at work in one's past." (66)
"Role can be defined as the intersection of your natural abilities, your spiritual gifts, and your acquired skills. Of all the things you can do, what are the few things that you must do?" (79)
The deciding transition is about a level of clarity and focus to enable you to say no so you can say yes to the right things. (82)
What do you need to say no to in order to move forward with God? (84)
"Convergence is the time when all of who a Christ follower is meets what God has assigned him or her to do. It is when a Christ follower realizes 'for this I was born.'" (86) See a good series of questions on p. 87.
Dr. J. Robert Clinton, in a study of more than 3000 Christian leaders discovered that only about 1 out 3 finished well. (88)
"Later years are to be the guiding years." (88) Retirement is not a reward but further years of contribution, about influence through relationships. "Finishing is primarily about maintaining a vibrant love for and commitment to Christ." "Influence is now about modeling a posture of lifelong learning, and doing a few things well." (89)
Several reflection questions are given on p. 94. Here are a few:
n Do you know what you have to give to others?
n What does God want you to focus on from here to the end?
n What is the best setting for you in which to live out that role?
n What do you think would please God the most? Would that please you?
n To whom do you want to entrust what you know?
n Mentoring - Let others speak into your life and shape it.
n Spiritual Renewal - Seek God repeatedly and with passion.
n Lifelong Learning - Continue learning.
n Perspective - Reorient your direction based on a lifetime perspective.
n Calling - Allow God's will and call to be dynamic and unfolding. (95)
Section Four - Processing and living beyond transitions
"The lack of time is now the great crippler…." (101) "Much of the reason we refuse to slow down is related to our insecurities and the need to prove ourselves." (102)
"A sovereign mind-set believes that there is an ultimate, God-ordained purpose for our lives, whether seen or unseen." (106)
Four types of paradigm shifts often occur during times of transitions: Shifts in Role Clarity, Shifting in Self-knowledge, Shifts in Passion Clarity, and Shifts to New Knowledge. (113-14)
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