“It’s Not You; It’s Me” and other things a pastor says when he leaves
Betrayal. That’s the first thing I felt. How can he do this to us?
Then came confusion. Why? Why would he want to leave us? Did something happen?
Next, anger. Who do they think they are? This is wrong!
I don’t know what is normal in these situations. I have never been part of a church that had the pastor announce unexpectedly that he might be leaving to take a position at another church.
All the explanations in the world wouldn’t smooth this over. In fact, the ones that seemed like they should have been the most comforting were actually the most frustrating and, yes, hurtful.
For instance, when he said that this exploration of another church was part of the Lord’s calling, I felt like scoffing. Really? What is this, a 9th grade break-up speech? You’re using the “the Lord doesn’t want us to be together” defense? What’s next? “We can still be friends”? Give me break.
My instinct was to hear it as one of those “it’s not you; it’s me” platitudes. Of course, it’s not us. We are great. It’s that there is someone else that he’s eying up.
So, I put on a strong face and pretended that I believed the thing about the Lord’s calling. But I didn’t. Not completely. And that’s when the Spirit whispered in my ear, in that way the He does… the whisper that makes your guts drop and your heart skip a beat… the whisper that is louder in your heart than someone shouting through a megaphone in your face.
You weren’t angry when your sister followed her call.
Of course not.
And there they were, staring me in the face—the two giant, glaring reasons why I was so very wrong.
When my sister decided to move to Papua New Guinea for two years because she felt the Lord’s call to go, I didn’t feel angry. I didn’t feel betrayed. I didn’t feel confused. I felt excited for her. Sure, I was worried for her safety. Sure, I was sad that I would be missing her. Nonetheless, I didn’t feel any negativity about her decision, because I knew that the Lord wouldn’t call her to something unless He needed her—specifically her.
When the Lord calls, it’s no suggestion. It’s not up for debate or discussion. He has a reason, whether it makes sense in our small-time, one dimensional frame of mind or not. Our job is to follow His leading wherever it takes us.
When a pastor is called to leave his church, if it feels like a bad breakup, then something is horribly wrong. If a pastor seems like a church’s boyfriend, then that church is cheating on Christ, since the church is Christ’s bride.
The people in a church are brothers and sisters to each other in Him. A pastor is another brother. A teaching, leading brother, but a brother nonetheless. That’s how twisted it is for a church to put their pastor in the place of Christ—it’s like a wife cheating on her husband with her own brother.
Ew. (And I don’t even have a brother.)
A church is greater than a single charismatic leader, no matter how great he is. If it’s not, then it is not a Church of Christ; it is a cult of personality that deserves to crumble.
So, is my church a cult of personality? Is my church cheating on Christ? I don’t think so. Not yet. Not as a whole. Every church has its weak parts and weak moments… We’re a body of dastardly sinners, after all.
Beneath all of my indignation and anger at the idea of our pastor leaving was fear. Fear that place I have come to call home will stop feeling like home. Fear that all the plans we had set out to accomplish together will not come to fruition. Fear that our next leader will not want or need what I have to give.
Fortunately, I have scripture to help me with that.
Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)
So, where am I now? Past those initial feelings of anger and betrayal? I hope so. Past the fear? Not quite, but I’m working on it. The unknown is always scary, but it is comforting to know that the future isn’t unknown to everyone.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139:16b (NIV)
I wouldn’t wish this purgatorial waiting on any church. It is hard, gut-wrenchingly hard, to wait months to find out if the teacher and friend we all love is going to stay or go. But we can do it. We will survive it. No matter what the outcome is, it is already ordained. Now is the time to prayerfully support our pastor, allowing him to wait on the Lord’s leading without having to worry about what the congregation is thinking or feeling. It’s not about what we’re feeling. It’s about who we’re following.
Like our old capital campaign slogan constantly reminded us, we’re walking the path, and together, we’ll follow Him.