Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pastoral Transition

Our congregation is going through pastoral change.  Our pastor of nine years was called to a church in east Tennessee.  On his last Sunday in our pulpit, he wisely chose to share with the worshipers the discernment process that led to his decision to leave.  As we listened to how he had considered his own gifts and calling in the light of the new challenge, we had the opportunity to consider how this might apply to our own lives. I don’t think I have ever heard this done before, and it was certainly refreshing.

So we are in a time of transition.  The reaction of church members covers the spectrum.  Many grieve the loss of a minister that they had come to love.  An effective pastor walks with us through the difficult times of life—birth, death, sickness, job transition, family challenges—so it is natural to miss such a person.  

Others experience some uncertainty.   A good pastoral leader provides stability to the congregation at large during the changes of organizational life—selection of lay leaders, developing and funding budgets, making staffing decisions, conducting capital campaigns.  Even if one does not agree with every leadership decision made by the pastor, he or she is a steady point of reference during times of change.

Many will miss thoughtful and challenging messages based on scripture.  When it is clear that the pastor has not only studied the text but let it flow through him or her, the words spoken have much more meaning and impact.  We all hope for such preaching during the interim.

And, of course, there are always those who welcome the change because they think we can probably do better!  I have not personally encountered such a person, but I am sure they are out there.  After all, we are Baptists!

For most of us, however, there is gratitude for the past and anticipation for the future.  We seek God’s leadership and meditate on these words from Jeremiah 29:11:  “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

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