Monday, March 31, 2008

Ch - Ch - Changes

At the end of his sermon yesterday, our pastor resigned.

It was kind of shocking. I had glanced over at him during the singing time and noticed him getting quite emotional - I just thought it was great that he was really getting into the worship. Later he announced they were leaving. It was an excellent resignation speak, definitely one of the better ones I've heard. He managed to be quite honest without giving too much information. He used his sermon as a nice set up to normalize the idea of transition. He didn't try to sugarcoat it all yet he didn't use the "God's telling us we have to go" thing; he took personal responsibility and even used the word "choice." He let us in on some of his reasons for wanting something different and even gave us some of his ideas for what he's looking at next. He didn't blame the church, he showed sorrow, and he let us know how hard this was for him. He helped us to empathize with him by mentioning his previous time of burnout but not dwelling on it or using it as an excuse. It was exceptionally well done. At the end, the elders came up and prayed for him. There were hugs all around with the elders and I could tell it was emotionally difficult for many of them.

So how did it affect me? Basically, I reacted like I usually do (I have seen a few of these over my time): I feel a little bit sad, fairly excited, and extremely curious. We have only been at this church for a few years and I've been so busy during this time that I have had very little time or energy to connect with the pastor (or the church for that matter!). So for me there isn't a large personal loss. I am sad a little bit because our pastor's preaching when I first heard it was probably what made the decision on which church we were going to go to. I was in a pretty spiritually brittle spot when we first visited Cornerstone and I felt like God spoke and ministered to me through the pastor. I have been both challenged and annoyed by his sermons but rarely bored - a blessing I think. I will miss him. On the other hand I feel excited because, hey, change is coming! Our pastor will move on and experience exciting new challenges (I'm happy for him) and so will our church. If anything excites me in the world it is change. I love watching churches change! Whether it's by choice or by necessity, church change is one of the most fascinating things I know of. Transitions are when big challenge happens; the potential for growth and learning is amazing. I'm not going to lie, I look forward to it! Who will the next leader be? What will he look like? Will he bring the church up or down? Will the church choose someone the same as the previous pastor or someone different? Periods of change in a church are like Christmas to me - I can barely wait to see what we are going to get. During the transition people will be stretched and some challenged to use their gifts that they have never used before. All in all it should be a great time.

Yup, so I'm sad to our pastor leaving but excited at the same time. What is God going to do next with him and with us? Only He knows . . .

May Light increase!


Stacey said...

I can totally relate to basing your decision to attend a church on the pastor. For me it was a combination of the pastor and the worship music. But it's funny you post this, I was thinking just the other weekend as I was listening to my pastor speak, 'what would I do if he ever left this church?' I thought, well I would have to find another church! I don't know what that means exactly. But I agree, change is good. And moreso, being open to change.

Always exciting to think "what's next"!

Keith said...

I'm not sure if I share your same enthusiasm with Change ;) but I do believe that Will was sincere and this was God inspired. So with that said, I too am excited to see what God has in store for us.

Julie said...

I am definitely not very enthusiastic about pastoral changes in churches. It's actually something I've been struggling with lately. I need to have faith and hope in what God can do and is doing in His church, but so often hopelessness and discouragement prevails. Maybe it's because I haven't experienced a very succesful switch. I think it's not a matter of not believing God can bring a body of believers through change, it's that I don't have faith in us human's ability to follow Him. I'm still processing that one...

Mark said...

Hey Julie, I hear what you're saying about successful switch's. Unfortunately it's often a case of the church or the pastor not being ethical in the changing process. The church can be cruel, the pastor can lie, etc., etc. People get hurt. And it can be nasty. The worst fallout is usually with those closest to whoever is wronged. And of course there are always at least two sides to every story.

When we left Mennville we thought we managed the transition well. Many were sad to see us go, some were happy, and a few were ecstatic! Leaving is an art form I guess. There are good ways and bad ways to go about it. Waiting til you are forced out is bad. It would be very interesting to interview a thousand churches and find out what the ones who managed the change (both pastor and congregation) did to make it work. I'm guessing that they had highly ethical leadership and highly ethical pastors.

May God bless you as you struggle with it all . . .

Lifelines said...

A good pastor friend of ours decided it was time to close his church down (it was a seeker-friendly church plant that existed for almost 10 years). He had a celebration luncheon and invited close friends and several other pastors from around town that he knew, to come and celebrate what God had down through that particular church. It was awesome! I had never heard of that before. There were prayers and blessings and kind thoughts and remembrances. The members were allowed to grieve, but also to have closure. Much better than just shutting down and leaving everyone to grieve and work through their feelings alone.

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