I am about to start another pastoral transition assignment that could last up to nine months or longer. I arrived today for an introduction to the church this weekend. The experience so far has made me reflect on what it is like to get acquainted with a church in order to become their pastor for this period of time. I have had the privilege of doing this several times now and am finding each time that the experience has a significant level of angst connected to it.
How do the people feel about someone coming in to take over for this period of time, having never met me before in most cases? What kind of impression will they receive the first time they meet me? Will I have the rapport with the people and the leaders that is necessary to do an effective work? Will they be willing and able to agree to a suitable contract agreement that will make it valuable both for them and for me? Will I be able to work with them well enough to genuinely minister to their pastoral needs while at the same time set a direction that will lead to the right kind of pastor and a progressive future in the life of the church? Will I do what God expects me to do? What will it be like to commit myself to be away from home for long periods of time, sometimes for more than two weeks?
Today, this first day of being here, I flew on a small plane to this coastal BC community and met the couple who are my hosts for the weekend. I am so impressed by their hospitality and commitment to make me feel comfortable and informed about all that I need to know to find my way around. They have given me a freedom to make myself at home that is very relaxed for me. Another family gave me the use of their car this weekend and so I spent most of the afternoon getting to know the town which has some very attractive features — including a nice recreation facility and a well-stalked library. Tonight we had a lovely dinner together with my hosts who also had extended hospitality to a few other people in the church. This made it possible for me to get to know others from the church and a little more about the church and community.
It is late but I wanted to take these few moments to say how much I already enjoy this challenge, even though I know it won’t be easy. I love to hear the stories of people and to ask questions that draw them out concerning their lives and experiences of faith. I am finding that people are the same everywhere in that they have the same concerns and issues of work and family and church life. It is so good to be able to get to know people that have been made by God in his own image and redeemed by his sacrifice. I keep thinking of how each one is so very precious to him and how much he longs for them to experience all that he planned for them in Christ.
On this first day in my new role, I see that there are many needs. And I feel the challenge deeply about how to encourage a congregation that is a bit discouraged by all kinds of problems — in church life, and in the community. But I know that God is able to bring life and renewal of vision to this congregation. I am trusting him in a very special way to help me to be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might for this task. It’s hard to be away from home but it’s always nice to return there. I am blessed with a gracious and understanding wife.