The move is done! Sort of… The boxes are for the most part unpacked. This means things are getting back to normal. Normal for me means an opportunity to read. So, a few days ago I ran across an article by Thom Rainer. Rainer writes a lot about the state of the church, so I usually enjoy his perspective. Coincidentally, the article was entitled, “When Is It Time for a Pastor to Leave a Church?”. I was curious; so, I read on.
Some of the reasons listed for why pastors decide to move were: “A strong sense of call to go to another church”, “I became weary” “In my current church, I no longer felt like I was a good match”, “Family needs”, “I’ve been hurt”, etc., etc.
As I pondered the reasoning given by pastors, I realized ministers and church members alike tend to move (or change churches) for many of the same reasons.
The reality is, a lot of Methodist Minister’s move, and a lot of members change churches for all the wrong reasons. To explain my thought process, let me first share why I believe United Methodist Minister’s move. Sure, we may get a call from a District Superintendent, maybe even the Bishop. Or we might ask to move, or a church might decide it’s the right time for a new pastor. Yes, all of this and more happens. But I believe the only real reason a pastor should move is because of the leading of the Holy Spirit. I believe this is the way God intends it; and I believe this is what John Wesley had in mind and would have desired for Methodism. Yes, we have all this hierarchy that makes decisions, but I believe somehow in the mystery of it all, God is still central in the process. If I thought otherwise, it would literally be time to move on.
In a prior appointment, I served with a Lay Leader that said the same about church members leaving the church. In essence, she said if we go church shopping, or church hopping, or minister following, or family following, we’ve done a disservice to the Holy Spirit. In other words, did we allow God to be involved in the process that precipitated the move? More often than not, the answer is no.
Over and over, I’ve asked members moving their membership or changing churches, have you prayed about this? And I never cease to be amazed that almost all tell me they didn’t think about praying or trying to discern what God wanted before they acted. We truly tend to move for all the wrong reasons.
Ministers make this mistake, Pastor Parish teams make this mistake, churches make this mistake. Church members make this mistake. Every denomination I know is capable and likely has made this mistake. The question is why?
If we moved or sought change every time we or someone else questions our motives or calling, or because we grew weary, or because the honeymoon was over, or we no longer feel like the match is perfect, or any of a thousand other reasons, none of us will likely be around to see true ministry happen.
The fact is, we all have doubts. There will be seasons of life where we are tired, where life events nearly break us, times when the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Been there, thought that and done it. And it’s all a lie of the devil.
Make no mistake, moving forward under tough circumstances in this life is hard. And yet, we who call ourselves Christian do it. Why? Because we believe and trust in a power much greater than the church itself, a district, a conference, or ourselves. We do it because we’ve learned that it is in the valleys and the tough times of life that we learn to depend on God; and in the process, He grows us and changes us.
Because I believe God is in our midst during any season of change, I expect and believe the time Annette and I spend with you will mold, shape and change us for the better, I pray the same will be true for our FUMC Valdese family.
Isaiah 43:18-19a, 2 Corinthians 5:16-18