when pastors leave

There are a lot of good things about being in the body of Christ.

  • Forgiveness
  • Baptism
  • Questions that provoke discussion during Bible class
  • Hearing children belt out the Lord’s Prayer
  • Kneeling at the Lord’s Table together

That list could get long enough to break the Internet. church2

But there are also some rough things about being in the body of Christ.

  • When pastors leave

I guess that list could get longer, but really, there are few things a Christian faces that are as tough as when their pastor leaves to take another call or retires or simply ceases to be their pastor.

Our pastors are our fathers in the faith, the ones who look out for our spiritual well being, who tell us what we don’t like to hear and what we need to, the ones who devote their lives to the care of our very souls.

No other job is like that of a pastor.

And that means that when a faithful pastor, a father, moves or leaves, even when it is to care for other children of God, it is still hard.

Now the congregation learns from a new pastor, and over time, and as he cares for them, the difficulty lessens. They may still call their old pastor “my pastor,” but now he is pastor to others. Slowly, the new pastor becomes “my pastor” too,  and he tells them what they don’t like to hear and what they need to, just like the one who came before him.

And so the Church goes.

There are some really good things about being in the body of Christ. And there are some really rough ones too. But the sadness of saying goodbye to a good pastor, to a spiritual father, to a faithful shepherd who delights to care for wandering sheep means that he did what the Lord had for him to do, and perhaps, if we’re still putting things into lists, that’s not so rough after all.

3 thoughts on “when pastors leave

  1. My husband and I are both PKs, and when our previous church’s pastor accepted a call and left, we were really fascinated by the whole experience of being in a church without a pastor. We’d never experienced that before — we’d always been the ones leaving with the pastor and going to the new church. The whole call process was very interesting to me, and also the way the congregation prepared for their new pastor once he had accepted the call. Upgrades to the parsonage, spiffing up the church — things that I’m sure the previous pastor would have appreciated happening while he lived there, but that didn’t happen until he left, which made me sad. We actually moved here about two weeks after the new pastor arrived, so we didn’t get the full get-used-to-the-new-pastor-and-his-family experience.

    At our current church home, our pastor has been here for more than a dozen years. He receives at least one call a year, and just declined the latest one two weeks ago. We are friends with Pastor and his wife, and kids are friends with his kids; my seven-year-old son’s prayer request every night for a month was, “Please don’t let Pastor leave.” And for the last two weeks, it’s been, “Thank you that Pastor didn’t leave.” I know that our Pastor will not stay here forever, and preparing my kids (and myself) for the reality that he will some day accept a call has been hard. (Though he could be like my dad, who has been at his current parish for 22 years!) But I remind them (and myself) that our church will still be Our Church even if we have a different pastor heading it, and that is what important.

  2. “They may still call their old pastor ‘my pastor’ …. Slowly, the new pastor becomes ‘my pastor’ too…”

    My predecessor had served this congregation for nearly 35 years before retiring to the other side of our town of less than 600 people. For some in the congregation, it was nearly a decade before the nomenclature of referring to him as “Pastor K—” and this young seminarian assigned to their midst as “Rev. M—” was shaken and they were comfortable calling me “Pastor.” It was difficult, at first, to hear that. But eventually I came to know that it was their deep love for God’s faithful servant who had previously served them (and not disdain for the one currently serving) that motivated them. Praise be to God for the healing power of His grace!

    1. Adrianne, dear sister in Christ, we know we are also members of the same Body, because you speak so eloquently to what our little flock is experiencing right now, down to the list of good things, which our dear pastor helped us make before he departed to his new assignment. Keep us in your prayers as we await another good shepherd whom we trust our Bridegroom and Good Shepherd is preparing for us even now, to faithfully give us the True until He comes again.

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