Thoughts for Micah…
Sometimes we are too close to the transition to see its full effect. Others are too close to the ending they cannot see the good in it.
Church transitions are hard. Here’s looking back on one of mine…
23 years, 14 and 9 separated by 8 years in the interval. At least three different titles, maybe more…
My first office in this church building was…unique. For a brief time I shared an office, two desks pushed together. There was barely elbow room to operate and I think there was only one phone, but I really can’t remember. The preacher’s office was on one side and the preacher’s wife was the secretary on the other side and the preschool director and I shared the small space in-between. Everyone knew everything in that very cozy arrangement!
My first choir rehearsals were in the parlor. In what is now the hallway near the “old preacher” photos, there was a closet for music and robes. I was so new and so scared that I remember I couldn’t look the choir in the eye. I was following a choir director that had been here for several years, so I imagine the choir thought I was a joke. But they came and sang anyway.
My first summer also required going to church camp with CYF and it was so very different than my upbringing. I wasn’t sure if I was in the right church. The 70’s weren’t very far removed from the 60’s and those early camp directors were children of the 60’s and I was the son of a conservative farmer…just about as great an opposite as you could create.
About my third week of employment that first summer I took 6 JYF kids to camp. The plan was to return on Friday and bring them home. I didn’t give it another thought until late Friday afternoon when a parent arrived in my tiny office to inquire when the kids would be home. I was in shock! I had forgotten to go get those kids.
I called all the parents, begged their forgiveness. I called the camp and told the director what I’d done. The kids were having supervised, extended pool time, so they were in heaven. I called Enid on the way out of town and told her what I’d done and that I was sure I would be fired.
I delivered all the kids home. I didn’t get fired.
My first major youth event was a ski trip to Ruidoso, NM. They had no snow and while we were there they experienced the worst flood in 50 years. We have pictures of buildings sliding down hillsides. Two of our youth became ill and were hospitalized on that trip and they, along with one adult sponsor were left behind…just days before Christmas. I was sure it was the worst trip ever and I had no idea how we would go on.
But a generous church member sent a plane to retrieve the kids. They were home for Christmas. All the other participants couldn’t wait until we could plan another trip and go to Colorado and see real snow. And we did, for about 8 years in a row. Grown men and women from those trips don’t talk much about the snow or lack thereof, they talk about the spirit of the youth group. They talk about finding God because of those trips.
I left, you had others and nine years later you called me back as your pastor.
What were we all thinking?
The rest, as they say, is history. I grew yet again. I learned to preach, on the job, in your pulpit.
We’ve done many great things together for God’s kingdom. We have all been blessed. I know you must tire of my stories. The good news is you only have to listen to them one or two more times.
All I know is that my life, my career, my calling, my family, even my faith, is forever intertwined with this amazing place. It is, in God’s time, time for me to lead and follow in another place. But because I know God has been at work in this place, in all situations, in hundreds of people, and in spite of this one very flawed me, I am confident that your future is exciting.
I will love you from a distance. I will always do that.
Years have passed since I first wrote those words. I’ve found another place, more gifted people there and I’ve come to learn that it wasn’t so much me as it was God. And the more we recognize God’s working and get out of the way and don’t care who gets the credit and mostly get over ourselves when we’re in it, the more God can do with us.
How do I know these things? Because God keeps working on me. Sometimes painfully, sometimes joyfully, often somewhere in the middle. Just when I’m sure something has failed, or someone hasn’t noticed, or someone else took credit for something I’ve done…
God finds ways to remind me it was a partnership and I was the minority stock holder. Others holding stock may never see it clearly. Some may give me too much credit or too much blame on any given day to cause my head to swell or wound my heart deeply. I must remind myself my name, if listed at all on the sign out front, is the smaller letters. The whole church would do better if they went out there and saw whose name is there and whose is not…and then acted more like the sign.
But this ministry calling never was about getting my name on any sign, was it?
(Original content written August 2009 and edited March 2015 )