Sunday, May 3, 2015

Thoughts On "Being Sent"...

"The apostles and the elders... agreed to send some delegates chosen from among themselves to Antioch, together with Paul and Barnabas." (Acts 15:22)

If you were at worship today you'll know that it was announced by our District Superintendent that after serving 10 years as our church's Senior Pastor, I will be reappointed ("sent") by our Bishop to serve a another church beginning June 26th.

While this news at first came as a surprise to my family and I, upon subsequent prayer and reflection we have come to see God's hand in it in the some remarkable ways. Not only are we excited about the possibilities  for ministry in the place to which we (like Paul and Barnabas) are being sent, but I'm confident that the person God is sending to follow me as Senior Pastor here at East Cobb UMC is His choice to lead you in into the next phase of growth.

Most of you know that the process of moving (or "reappointing") pastors every so often (called the "Itinerancy") is one of the unique qualities of being a United Methodist congregation.  Based on the early church model of "sending/appointing" leaders, while it's often difficult for everyone when there is a pastoral transition, it does mean that churches don't need to have "search committees" or hire interim pastors, and pastors don't have to go "sell" themselves on the "open market" in order to find a new church. Instead, "no church is ever without a pastor," and "no pastor is ever without a church."

What's more is that since no single pastor possesses all the leadership qualities necessary to lead an individual church, over the course of several pastoral tenures (over, say, 20-30 years), a congregation led by several pastors will be more well-balanced than one who's had only one or two in that time, since each pastor will bring to them differing leadership skills:  some pastors are better speakers; some better organizers; some more people-oriented; and some better with evangelism or missions; etc.  While all of these are important, each pastor brings differing strengths to a congregation at differing times in its history.

Most importantly, when our Itinerant system works properly, it encourages congregations to be built around the people, rather than around a particular pastor.  In doing so, it lessens the likelihood that church members turn the pastor into an idol by becoming merely a "cult following" of that pastor.  So as you can see, while our system is challenging when there are transitions, there are plenty of good reasons to have it.

You may know that in order to protect the relationships of persons in the other congregations involved, we will not be sharing where I'll be moving or the identity of who is being appointed here until May 17.   After then, I'll be sharing a variety of sermons geared to help ease the transition.  In the meantime, however, I hope you'll join me in praying not only for me and my family as we prepare to leave, but for our entire congregation as we make our REACH journey commitments also on May 17 (I'll be making one, as well!), and for your new pastor as they prepare to arrive and begin leading  you in late June.

Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!

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