Monday, June 25, 2007


When I was a kid, I thought it must be so great to be an adult. Adults could go to bed when they wanted to. No one told them what to eat (or, more importantly, what not to eat). Adults got to choose what they watched on television. They did not have to follow anyone else's rules. I thought that adults answered to no one, which in my mind was the greatest freedom imaginable.

Now I am an adult, and I can smile at that childish way of thinking. It's true that the liberties are nice. I'm glad there is no one telling me what to eat or when to go to bed. But being a "grown up" is so much more complex than I could have imagined as a child.

Yesterday our pastor announced his resignation. He is not leaving out of any sense of animosity or hostility. He has not been offered a job elsewhere. He and his wife simply believe that God is calling them to leave. This came as a great shock to our congregation. Our pastor started our church thirteen years ago. He was an associate pastor at another congregation in our area, and he and his wife were called to minister in a neighboring town. They and some other families from their old church started meeting in a school, I believe, in the town to which our pastor was called to serve. They grew and moved into a renovated office space in a business park. The space was a cookie factory before the church moved in. They were in that space for a number of years - I want to say nine or ten - and that is where they were when Andy and I started to attend. We were newly engaged and looking for a church that we could attend together. We had visited many different churches - everything from a very traditional Lutheran church to a tiny, struggling Bible church where we were told, in no uncertain terms, that Democrats are among the damned (we were so told by the pastor's wife, who did not bother to ask about our political views first) to a rock 'n' rollin', 15-full-time-pastors, you-need-opera-glasses-to-see-the-speaker megachurch. The process of finding a church home is tiring. After months of looking, a distant relative invited us to attend their church, a family-like congregation that met in an old cookie factory. It was a bit of a drive - Andy and I both lived in the city at the time, and the church was about 20 miles away - but it was worth it. I may be misremembering, but I think we did not visit another church after that.

The church was not perfectly suited to our desires. We found very few people our age there. The music, while superbly executed by a professional conductor (they didn't intentionally hire a conductor; he happened to be a congregant and offered his services), was definitely more to the liking of, ahem, older generations. There were many physical constraints due to the building structure, and when I taught the kindergarten Sunday School class, I found those constraints to be very frustrating. But those things were cosmetic. We found the congregation to be worshipful, prayerful, and hospitable. And we found the pastor to be completely above reproach.

Shortly after we started attending the church, we joined a small group at the pastor's house. We were the youngest by far - 22 and 21 - and we were welcomed by all. They all took great interest in our wedding plans, prayed with us through difficult family times, and encouraged us as Andy searched for a job. (He had been working at an aerotech company and, like so many others, was laid off after September 11.) It was a great group.

We really got to know our pastor and his wife in that group. We found them to be kind, virtuous, and intelligent. They were obviously devoted to prayer and to God's Word. They were completely submitted to the lordship of Jesus. Andy and I asked the pastor if he would lead us in premarital counseling, even though we had already asked Andy's childhood pastor to perform our wedding ceremony. Our pastor agreed and refused to take payment for his services.

A few years into attendance, we had a major disagreement with the way our church leadership dealt with a conflict within the congregation. Some friends of ours - the subjects of the disagreement - left the church on very negative terms, and Andy and I felt bruised by the experience. We, too, considered leaving, but after much prayer and discussion, we decided that we would not let a tiff separate us from the church. We do not want to "church hop". So we stayed, and we have never regretted it.

Three years ago our pastoral staff changed somewhat. Our beloved associate pastor, a wise teacher, moved to be close to his grandchildren and to answer God's call to him to minister to pastors and their families. He is still missed. Our church hired two people to "replace" him - one associate pastor to share in the teaching responsibilities, and one part time associate pastor to take on the role of business administrator. Godly men both. A year after they were hired, our congregation moved into their own building, which we had spent several years planning and building. Two years after that - that would be just a few months ago - the new full time associate pastor announced that he was leaving, also to be near his grandchildren and to fill a different ministry role to which he felt called. (I'm seeing a trend.) So, as you can see, the last 3 years have been full of change for our congregation. We are now in our own, rather large, building. We have grown to such numbers that it is impossible to recognize everyone. We've taken to implementing the policies that large churches must have these days, such as security procedures in the nursery to ensure that only custodial parents pick up their children. Sad but necessary measures. The musical style has adapted to the growing congregation, not without growing pains and heated discussions. There are now many people our age in the church, and some of them have become close friends of ours. And through it all, our pastor has remained a steady and calm leader, trusting and obeying God in everything, and teaching us to do the same.

And now he is leaving. Andy and I, and our entire congregation, are filled with sadness. Ironically, we just became members of the church last night, during the same meeting at which our pastor announced his resignation. I can honestly say that this man is the most humble person I have ever met. There is not a shadow of a hint of pride in him. I think it must be easy for a pastor to submit to pride, especially one who has led a congregation through such growth, but in six years I have never once glimpsed any pride whatsoever in him.

Sorry does not begin to describe our feelings about his departure. Of course the announcement is new, so no one knows what is to come. We don't know where our pastor's family is going (they don't even know), and we don't know who will come to replace them. We trust in God's sovereignty and grace. We are thankful that this parting has come out of our pastor and his wife's obedience to God, not out of dissension or animosity. But we are very sad.

Being an adult isn't as easy as I thought it would be.


Bob said...

Six years and you're just now members? Is there a probationary period?

Holly said...

Normally, yes, but we were in the accelerated program. ;)