When Your Pastor Says, “Good-Bye”
Jesus Christ is a gift of God (2 Cor 9:15). The Holy Spirit is a gift of God (Lk 11:13; Acts 2:38). Thus, salvation is a gift of God, given by the sovereign grace of God (Eph 2:8–9). There is a man who has beautiful feet (Rom 10:15); for He has been sent by God to bring good news of great joy to a particular people. He proclaims Christ and preaches salvation.
Sadly, many Christians hold these servants of the Most High God in low regard. They take their presence, in the midst of the flock, for granted. Pastors are slaves of Christ (Eph 6:6), gifted by God (Eph 4:11–12), for feeding and protecting the flock. Yes, your pastor is a gift of God, too!
The measure of a pastor/elder, appointed by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28), is His devotion to the Word of God. Or put another way, the pastor’s love for the Bible is representative of His love for Christ. The more given a pastor is to this magnificent obsession, the greater the gift he is to the people.
Pastors are men of God, hence, men of the Word of God. They devote their lives, like Ezra, to knowing the Word of truth. They meditate on the Law of God, day and night (Ps 119:48). They exude the light of Christ (Mt 5:16); and their words, nay, their lives exemplify Christlikeness (Rom 8:29).
Although pastors are not God’s Word incarnate, the Spirit of truth hides God’s Word in their hearts. The Law of the Lord is the pastor’s delight. Or at least it should be!
Pastors have a stewardship entrusted to them, for God has bestowed the mystery of Christ, unveiled, to their care. They have this treasure in earthen vessels, and it is for them to distribute the riches of the glory of Christ to others (Mt 24:14; Mk 16:15; Acts 1:8). Paul claimed he had preached nothing else because he valued Christ supremely. Everything else was skubala to him!
Pastors suffer, immensely, to fulfill their calling to be ministers of the Gospel of grace. Paul’s resume demonstrates the extent of suffering one may endure in service to the King of kings (See Gal 2; 1 Cor 4; 2 Cor 11–12). The devil despises truth tellers because they expose evil (Eph 5:11). They expose him (Jn 8:44)!
Pastors go where God sends them. They heed this special calling to serve a specific flock of God, in a particular location. They are apostles, in the missionary sense, in this regard. They serve with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, apportioned to them (1 Cor 12–14). They preach the Word (2 Tim 4:2). They teach sound doctrine (1 Tim 4:6; 6:3). In this, pastors serve God, as they serve the little flock belonging to the Lord Jesus Christ (Lk 12:32).
Pastors fight off wolves in their care for souls (Ps 23; Jn 10; 1 Pet 5:1–5). Sometimes the sheep are unaware of this work done for their benefit. The Spirit employs the sword of the Word in this spiritual warfare, which can weary a man of God (Eph 6:10–20). In his exhaustion, even exasperation from the fight, the pastor may succumb to the temptation of sex or money or football. He may flare with anger because of the lack of appreciation by the flock. Still, he presses on with his high calling in service to Christ, the Lord. He is fallible, but he does not preach himself. He boasts in Christ, who is infallible (Gal 6:14).
There may be a time when the Spirit comes to the pastor with a new mission. New missions are obvious when the pastor is devoured by wolves in sheep’s clothing. He must move on. All of this is in God’s providence, so it is important for pastors to not become bitter, nor leave their calling to the ministry, in unbelief.
The pastor is God’s man. He does not belong to the church. God has given this work to the ones appointed and called and sent. When the Lord puts it upon the heart of a pastor to leave his current flock, he will find the irresistible nature of this call. It is from the Lord. It has been brewing for some time. The aroma of change and the fragrance of refreshment are in the air. Anticipation builds for the pastor. All things, in the ministry, suddenly look new to him. It is a season of revival for the pastor! God knows he needed it.
Congregations who must say “good-bye” to their pastor have God’s promises to retain their hope. God is not going to leave them, nor forsake them (Heb 11:5). A departing pastor may be God’s deliverance for him and discipline for a disobedient flock, or it may be a time of refreshing, coming to the church congregation, as well.
When God says, “Behold I do a new thing,” He is showing His sovereign grace to gather and sustain both, a pastor and a congregation. In the world, we have change, and the church is very much in the world, albeit an embassy of Christ’s ambassadors with a ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:20). God creates and He recreates, but He gives His people hope and a future, regardless (Jer 29:11).
If your pastor announces his departure from your congregation this Sunday, then give thanks to God for the blessing of His presence, in the life and ministry of the angel (messenger), God appointed for you, for a season. At the same time, you are giving thanks, do not lose hope, for God is at work in this change. In His providence and by His grace, He will surely send you another man of God, to continue to prepare you for the day in which you will be presented complete in Christ. Your pastor had a hand in that, so give him a hug, and by all means, show up to load the moving truck…and say, “good-bye.”
Spokane Valley, Washington
November 30, 2021