Sunday, July 20, 2008

When Good Pastors Leave

Since I only believe in a Godly coincidence, perhaps I should not have been surprised when my friend's blog about changing churches came out the same week as my pastor's letter announcing that he was changing churches.

I have not yet experienced a pastor's leaving that I have enjoyed. I was a few months into my return to the church when the pastor left. An invaluable interim pastor that I helped bring on board was let go too soon. And then, there was the pastor who really focused me on my place in ministry, the one for whom I gave a speech at his "early retirement" party.... I would later learn he committed a trespass that would have led to his ouster from the ministry. Not an enjoyable time!

I've been in few churches, but I have known some fine pastors. My current pastor is no exception. He's spent 20 years at my church, overseeing its growth from a congregation of less than 100 to one now some 1,000 in number. He is a gifted educator. A teaching pastor. Reformed theologist. A sports afficionado. One who doesn't care if it's traditional or contemporary or blended so long as God is praised! A wordsmith. A storyteller. Thoughtful devotion writer. A Dad and a Grandfather. And a wonder with names! When your church is a Godly AND personal place--the pastor knows your name, welcomes you by name, asks how you are doing by name--you feel at home.

"Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."
--Mark 9:37

I've known my pastor since 2001. He helped me make the decision to join my church. He supported me in my Mothers of Preschoolers and handbell ministry leadership. He could tell when things weren't right with me and pulled me aside to ask. He referred me to some outside help when my circumstances required the caring touch of another, and prayed through all my rough patches that he knew about. He knows his limitations and he's never shied away from sharing his "liabilities," as he puts it in his letter.

* * *

So, I'm ricing sweet potatoes today thinking, "I know there's an analogy in sweet potato ricing...."
Good pastors are like sweet potatoes that go through a ricer--the best are soft, warm people who, when called to go through the church ricing plate, influence many fine relationships that foster the development of the Christian, while maintaining their own integrity and flavor.
Now, there are different numbers and sizes of holes in ricing plates, depending on the output one is seeking.
Thin puree is produced with the plate that has the tiniest and largest amount of holes, and made easiest with water-logged potatoes. A thicker puree comes by using a plate with wider, sparsely placed holes, and potatoes that are rich in substance.

Today's church (i.e., church "model") has grown so big and complicated that the pastors are asked (NOT!) to be pressed by the church through the tiniest and most densely packed number of holes, to meet the needs of multitudes upon multitudes. To accomplish this, pastors often become water-logged (i.e., trend-focused) rather than meaty (i.e., Biblical) potatoes. Whether today's puree is worth the product of ricing our pastors so thin is a blog for another day. (It's a culinary trend gracing too many menus--a churchy nouvelle cuisine that ain't good soul food!)

* * *

As my pastor leaves for a church with a much smaller congregation that dreams of having more holes in its ricing plate, I pray that he will remember all his gifts, remember his limits, remember his true callings, remember our names (occasionally), and continue to be the God-fearing, "meaty potato", man of prayer that he is, finding joy in the making of not mush but a fine sweet potato casserole, topped with God's sweet blessings (and lots of sunshine

Bon appetit!


Chatty Kelly said...

What a sweet tribute to a wonderful man. It's a sad time at your church no doubt.

I sent "the Pastor" my blog from Monday and the quote, and he said the change quote will be making a come back before he leaves.

You may even see an old face or two at the end of August to come say a fond farewell.

The Patterson 5 said...

I know Sue J, he will remember your name and will pray for you and your ministries. He is just that kind of a man. A man of God who prays. May this God coinesidence become a blessed one for those in Florida and here.

My ADHD Me said...

I love your paster and don't even attend your church. The few times I visited I felt like he was talking directly to me. I'm sure he'll be missed.
I actually almost changed churches years ago just because of his sermons.
The only reason we stayed where we are is that I need the repetition and solumnness of the Lutheran Church. Otherwise I start to Zone out or float away.
We Lutherans like to suffer. Kneel, stand, sit, kneel, stand sit etc.
Ok, I gotta go. It's 1:00 AM and I am feeling a bit loopy--er than usual.
Good Night.