This morning, I attended the final service for a church in the upstate that is closing. As the pastor shared about saying “goodbye”, I couldn’t help but reflect on times in ministry when I had to say goodbye (or at least “see you later”). Many people take offense to pastors having to say goodbye, but it is harder on us than you think.
When I resigned as a pastor, it was amid great duress in my life. My family life had crumbled, and there was no way I could have handled the stress at the church at that point anyway. Despite the group that “had it out for me”, there were many who supported my leadership. Still, I walked away feeling like a failure…as a pastor, husband, father, and on every level imaginable. “Goodbye” at that time felt like failure. Many pastors feel the same way. Just because a pastor leaves a church, it doesn’t always mean he is happy to go elsewhere!
At times, it is exciting to take on another ministry venture. I can remember times of excitement at what God could be doing in a new place, but I also remember sharing life with people who are still like family and weeping at the time of separation. When God knits the hearts of people, you laugh together, cry together, scream together, etc. The bond that Christ forms between likeminded people cannot be put into words. I just know that God has put people in my life that I will never forget.
So when your pastor or someone else leaves your church to go elsewhere, please don’t take it personally. It’s a change for everyone, so pray through the transition. Pray for your pastor and his family and for you and your church family as you move forward in faith, trusting an unknown future to a known God.