Seamless Succession

Seamless Succession

It hardly seems possible that it was 13 years ago last January that I first laid eyes on him. I had just taken a red-eye flight to London and taxied into Oxford. Rich Jasper and I went right to a class being taught by our friend, John Lennox. Only one unoccupied seat remained, and I sat in it.   

Although I was there to hear Professor Lennox, I couldn’t help but notice the young man seated next to me. Nor could I resist peeking as he took the swiftest and neatest typewritten notes I had ever seen. Outline form. Perfect! And the questions he asked…and answers he gave? Sharp! 

He was very gracious to me at the break, offering to get a drink for me. I thought, “This is a remarkable young man!” But when I left that classroom, I didn’t think another thing about it.   

Until…the next day at a conference…I ran into him again, this time with his father in tow. Again, so warm and hospitable. And his father was obviously so proud of his boy. The more we talked, the more impressed I became and finally…(I know…you’ve heard the story before, but I love to tell it)…I pulled out my business card, gave it to him and said, “When you are done studying evangelism and actually want to come do evangelism, give me a call.” 

A few weeks later, he called! Asked if I was serious about my invitation. I said I was. And he told me that he and his new bride would be in Vancouver BC that spring and could come down to interview at that time. 

The rest…as they say…is history. Ellis and Rachel White did come see me and I was as impressed with him then as I had been in Oxford, not to mention being wowed by his incredibly gifted and smart wife.   

That was 13 years ago. Although I saw great potential in Ellis, I had no idea what the Lord had in store. But last Sunday, we found out. At our congregational meeting, we voted to confirm the recommendation of our Pastor Search Committee to call Ellis White to be our next Senior Pastor, succeeding me upon my retirement September 1. The vote? 273….to zero! Unanimous! As I mentioned at the time, it certainly wasn’t unanimous when the congregation voted on me 37 years ago! (There were 13 “no” votes!!! But I’m not bitter 😊) 

I am convinced that God has had his hand on this process from the very beginning. And we now have the opportunity that is too rare among larger churches with a longstanding Senior Pastor: we have the chance to pass on the baton virtually seamlessly. I am convinced that, under Ellis’s leadership, we will go from strength to strength. 

Cyndi and I will take a six-month hiatus away from Chapel Hill to allow for a little breathing room. But we hope to return next spring and rejoin…as faithful congregants and servants. I am eager and proud to call Ellis my pastor and can’t wait to see what God is going to do in and through him.  

This Sunday will be my last Mother’s Day as your Senior Pastor. I look forward to seeing you all for what I know will be a very special celebration of our moms…and of our Lord! 

Pastor Mark