Passing the Baton
An Interview with Pastor Al Pino
Twenty-six years ago, Al Pino moved his family to sunny South Florida to plant Palm Vista Community Church. In a couple of weeks, I will be taking over the pulpit as Al hands off leadership to the next generation. I sat down with Al to ask him about the transition.
First, you're healthy, scandal-free, and in the prime of your gifting as a preacher. Why make this change now?
It is time to make the change precisely because I’m moving at full speed. When we announced the transition to the church, I used the illustration of a relay race. There is a crucial baton exchange that occurs in the 20-meter passing zone where the runner holding the baton races in at full speed, and the runner receiving the baton accelerates to top speed. Done correctly, the exchange is made cleanly without a loss of momentum. I am racing in at top speed, and you have been accelerating over the last few years to top speed and so now is the time to pass the baton.
Done correctly, the exchange is made cleanly without a loss of momentum.
It’s also important to point out that the timing of this change was made in collaboration with the full elder team. After years of praying about and preparing for this transition, it became clear to the whole team that the time for the handoff was now. We keyed up the change years beforehand by positioning you in visible leadership roles and giving you time to earn the trust of the congregation.
After years of praying about and preparing for this transition, it became clear to the whole team that the time for the handoff was now.
You demonstrated your competence by humbly leading and caring for the church, and that prepared you well to step into the lead pastor role.
Twenty-six years is a long time to serve in one place. Any advice for young guys like me on how to last in ministry for the long haul?
I would begin with living a life of repentance before your wife, your kids, your fellow elders, and the church. The very first of Luther’s 95 theses, and arguably the foundation for all that followed in the reformation, was: “When our Lord Jesus Christ said ‘repent,’ he meant that the whole of the Christian life should be repentance.” You don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to be repentant. A repentant life is the canvas on which the gospel is painted in your home, on the leadership team, and in the church.
You don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to be repentant.
I would also caution you to slow down and listen to your team. Those who last in ministry have a biblical view of success that keeps them from making decisions out of expediency and pragmaticism. Expediency is a dangerous enemy that engages in quick decision-making processes and disregards the collaborative wisdom of the team. It tempts us to go it alone. Pragmatism sacrifices biblical values for rapid results in numbers. At the core of expediency and pragmaticism is the foolish belief that we can be like God in his fame and independence. But God defines success in his kingdom as following Christ into obscurity and interdependence.
Expediency is a dangerous enemy that engages in quick decision-making processes and disregards the collaborative wisdom of the team.
I’m reminded of an African proverb that Corey Schmatjen shared with our team: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”
You’ve still got gas in the tank. Now that you are not preaching every week, how will you spend your time?
There is still plenty of gospel work for me to do as I support and train the next generation. That work begins right here in the local church. My heart is full of faith for the young leaders that God is assembling around you, and I’m excited to partner with you in training and deploying them.
I also have a heart to come alongside pastors in South Florida and the broader church body. Pastoring is hard, and I want to spend my free time deploying “the gift of hanging out” to listen to and encourage men who are serving faithfully in the trenches.
My heart is full of faith for the young leaders that God is assembling around you, and I’m excited to partner with you in training and deploying them.
I’m also passionate about the joy of biblical exposition and will continue participating in workshops that equip pastors to preach the Scriptures with precision and conviction. Expositional preaching is crucial to the health of the church in the Americas, the Caribbean, and beyond.
There is much yet to be done, and by God’s grace, I will labor with all His energy that He powerfully works within me to present everyone mature in Christ (Col 1:28-29).
Amen! Thank you for the example of your life and ministry, Al. It’s a privilege to serve alongside you as we step into an exciting new season.