“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing: now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19
About fifteen years ago, a dear friend of mine told me about her new church. I went for a visit and it was the first time I felt like I was a part of a church family. So many wonderful experiences happened at this church. I met my future husband there and were married by the pastor. I participated in many church outreach programs. I made wonderful friends and felt so loved. But change happens…
One Sunday morning, about seven years ago, our pastor made an announcement. He stood there, hand in hand with his wife and said they had been given a position to lead a new church congregation in Boston, Massachusetts. He went on to say more things, but honestly, I don’t remember anything. I was in shock. I actually got up and left the sanctuary and began to cry.
I realized, I can’t be selfish now. I had to pour my heart out into prayer for their new calling and for the new pastor and staff that would enter into this church. I still felt stung, but knew this is no time to bail as many would and did. My husband and I decided when the new pastor was chosen to give the process 6 months before we decided to stay committed to the church or go somewhere else.
Over the next month, we had potential pastors come in a give a sermons every Sunday. We had an interim pastor overseeing the process too, since our original pastor and family had to move across country. One Sunday, there was a man who came and I knew this is who will be our new pastor. He was charismatic and friendly. Sure enough, the decision was made to make him the new pastor. He had a church already, down in another city about 30 miles south, and his church would merge with our church. This is where our little church’s world turned upside down.
Let’s just say, things did not go as well as we hoped for. A lot of changes were made, as we knew there would, but it was done with an iron fist and not with love. Instead of a church merger, it was a church take over. We made it to month 5 of 6 of our goal when we both said, I think we need to leave. As for the church we left, it end up changing pastors again. It was truly a confusing time. Why Lord did this happen?
We decided to seek a church that our old church had a good relationship with. I set foot in the church six years ago and knew from day 1, this was our new church home. About 3 years after our move to the new church, this pastor made an announcement. He said, I have been asked by a neighboring church if I could become their new pastor. He agreed and said we would be merging with them in about 6 months. I could feel my heart sink and a lump in my throat.
I felt all of these emotions well up. Here were my thoughts, “Not again….Are you kidding me, I have to look for a new church?…That was such a horrible time and so many people were devastated?…Why Lord?” I began to pray to help me understand. Then I heard the Lord say, “It doesn’t have to be the same.” I felt this immediate peace. I knew again, I would need to pray my heart out during this transition. I knew that if anyone could lead this merger, it could be our pastor. He said, we will consider this process as if we were looking for a spouse. Take steps as courtship, engagement and marriage. We won’t call it a merger.
I realized, yes people would get mad and leave, there would be staff changes. But I prayed, as did the entire church, that the transition would be smooth. Honestly, to my surprise, the church remains! It has been two years since the marriage and the church is going strong.
There were still people hurt by the original church take over. Some people stopped going to church altogether. Some staff aren’t even in ministry anymore. I saw a couple at church that went to the original church. He was a part of the decision to go with the pastor that didn’t end up working out. He said, he still felt guilt for the decision. He was so heart-broken how many people were hurt by the change. I told him, you can free yourself from that burden because if the takeover didn’t happen, I would never have come to this church and have an even deeper relationship with God. I said God can restore any bad situation. And we have the wonderful memories of the last church and I am so thankful that I experienced them. I gave him a hug and he looked like he felt a sense of relief. Thank God, it doesn’t have to be the same!
Lesson Learned: Change is scary but expect God to still do an amazing work.
“Dear Heavenly Father, I realize change is inevitable and scary! I thank you that you are our safe harbor and guide. Anytime, I encounter change, may your hand be upon the situation. Holy Spirit remind me to call on you when I feel unsure. Even if situations do not work out, may we see your glory! In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!”