Changing Pastors, Changing Churches

I have never liked pastoral changes. I was raised in one church from birth to age 19. During that time, we had 5 pastors. It seems every time I got used to a pastor’s style and felt close to him, he was moved. The positive side is our church never became dependent on our senior pastor and I got to know and be shaped by 5 different and very gifted men of God.

When I was ordained, I remember that key question: Will you go where you are sent? I answered yes, so you may say I asked for this nomadic and transitory way of life. I have now served 5 different congregations and each appointment has shown God’s hand and the bishop’s wisdom in sending me to a particular place. It is miraculous how well these matches work out given all the human factors and the nature of relationships.

Paul sent Timothy to Ephesus and Epraphus to Colossae. Both struggled with being in a strange place, trying to make disciples and bringing order to the life of the church. Both knew detractors and supporters. Both wrote letters of complaint and seeking counsel from their leader, Paul. Both served with courage, faith and learned important life lessons. I stand with them in this itinerant ministry. It comes with blessings and challenges. In every church there are folks who try your nerves and challenge your authority. In every church there are many saints who warm your heart and remind you of the goodness of God.

At times like this, it is important to do certain things for your pastor and his or her family. First, pray for them and thank God for what you have learned from them. Every pastor leaves his footprint on the life of the church. We always stand on the shoulders of our predecessors. Second, celebrate their ministries and write them a letter or email naming the blessings they have brought your way. Third, forgive them for their mistakes and shortcomings. I know I have not been perfect or always been as responsive as people expected. Forgive and make peace with those who have shepherded you as best as they could.

Pastoral changes are difficult on both pastors and churches because we love one another and serve faithfully for kingdom purposes. Always remember that the real head of the church is Jesus Christ. He is the same yesterday, today and forevermore.  Our churches stand on this firm foundation. We are to keep our sites on Christ and remain loyal to his call on our lives. Pastors come and go, the mission of Christ for his church stays the same. Glory to God. Amen.

(more on this next week – like how best to welcome a new pastor and their family…)

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