In a couple of weeks, our church will begin a time of transition as Neil steps down from his position as senior pastor. For many, the loss of their pastor brings up many different emotions as well as expectations for what’s to come next. But before anyone gets too carried away with those emotions or expectations, I’d like to offer a word of guidance and encouragement as we prepare to enter this next chapter…be flexible.
While the journey from losing an old pastor to gaining a new one seems like it should be a straight line, it rarely ever is. Instead, there’s all sorts of twists and turns that we end up going through. When you have very rigid expectations of what this process looks like (and how long it takes), you’re going to be disappointed and frustrated more often than not. But if you’re flexible, and remember that you’re following the Holy Spirit, you’ll be better able to see the twists and turns as a spiritual exercise…one that ultimately reveals whether we’re willing to settle for what comes quick, or to seek and find that which is hidden just around the corner.
And what we come to find around the corner brings its own expectations and emotions as well. Most everybody in the church has a picture in their minds of what our “ideal” pastor looks like. Maybe you’re picturing an older man with white hair and a soothing voice. Perhaps you’re imagining a young woman with a wealth of educational experience. Or maybe, you simply want someone who can pack the pews with their sermons. Regardless, it’s safe to say that we all have opinions regarding what type of person is best suited to lead our church. But if each member is dead set on finding and hiring their “ideal” pastor, then we’re going to be a church full of disappointed disciples. Instead, we need to be flexible and admit that while we have our own “ideals,” God’s “ideal” should trump ours every time. So be flexible and pray for the person that God’s raising up to lead our church, regardless of whether they fit your mold or not.
Lastly, remember that just as we’re beginning this time of transition, our next pastor soon will too. They’ll have to navigate the challenges of saying goodbye to one place and hello to another. As they do, the best thing we can do is be flexible. While we might want our pastor to be in the pulpit the Sunday after we call them, we need to be flexible and allow them the space and grace to say goodbye to where they’re already serving, to relocate their families in a responsible manner, and to not overwhelm them with too much too soon.
So, as we begin this time of transition, I hope you’ll remember to be flexible. And as you do, don’t forget to be in prayer each day for our church, our leaders, and our next pastor.