Pastor’s departure heightens fears but also opens doors | Faithful Living

I am a member of a local church that is experiencing great transition. Our longtime pastor, ever-present and reliable beyond measure, a man we trust, love, and respect, has retired. On one hand, we celebrate his decision, for his health is good and he can truly enjoy a new era of life. On the other hand, those of us who remain must re-work our sense of normal.

For some members, his parting was especially difficult. Our pastor had stood beside them through many profound and life-changing events. That he would no longer be there for future events was experienced as a substantial loss.

For our military members, the change in pastoral leadership has been a routine exercise. They experience changes in commanding officers and hometowns on a regular basis. Their ability to regroup has added nice balance to those who don’t embrace change as comfortably.

Our pastor’s exit has prompted a time of self-evaluation. This fall we will, in fact, conduct what is termed a “mission study,” guided by an enthusiastic and well-trained transitional pastor. We will be asked to thoroughly understand who we are as a group of believers as well as who we think God may want us to become. We will respectfully consider our attitudes, common traditions and all of the activities that have to this point built a loving fellowship of friends.

And through the process we will pray for our church and for a future, full-time pastor who will feel “called” to join us in ministry. We will pray individuals and regularly as a corporate body of believers each time we gather. Church leaders will make no decisions in haste. Instead, they will bring to the table all views and cover all considerations with prayer.

For those of us who have lived through these transitional times in other churches, we positively view the next few months as a time of valued soul searching and growth. Because our pastor left without trauma and our people have training, experience and confidence to lead in their own spheres of interest and influence, our church life continues with few interruptions.

All of this gifts us with time for meaningful conversations and prayer. It’s our belief that when people are respected and given opportunities to think out loud, to express aspirations and hopes, to dialogue and converse, God’s plans will be revealed through those conversations and always in public. There are no back-room decisions. We work to witness God’s work together.

For me, the experience began in earnest this week when a small group of us found ourselves eating lunch at the same location. A friendly greeting and a wave turned into an impromptu invitation to eat together. Small talk in some minutes turned into fascinating conversations about a number of issues we will face in the coming months. Away from the formality of a worship service and gifted with a few minutes of free time, our ideas flowed. Tasks were clarified. Our words drew us closer. Upcoming changes suddenly seemed workable and exciting.

I truly love the people with whom I worship and serve. I thrill at the opportunity to watch God work and lead us through this process.


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