A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I’d heard some news that caused me to panic—because it was news that I’ve heard before. The news: our pastor and his family were leaving for another church– in Texas. In fact, they’re moving this week. So, yeah, I’ve heard that kind of news before. And the last time it happened, things kind of exploded and left my life in wreckage for a while. So it’s understandable that when I first heard this news, I was terrified that my life was on repeat.
In the past few weeks, that terror has given way to peace. Though the situations are slightly similar, the circumstances are very different. Though I will certainly miss this godly, wonderful family, I have, by God’s grace, some odd and comforting sense that everything is going to be alright. It’s not going to be like last time.
Nevertheless, I’ve been contemplating what I want to say to my church—or to any church without a pastor. But, like usual, my words really aren’t enough for this situation. Two passages of Scripture have been popping up everywhere in my life lately, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we can draw some fitting applications from them:
- “I will never leave you or forsake you.” — Hebrews 13:5
It’s easy to feel abandoned in this situation. Your pastor has left your church for another body of believers. Then there are always the church attendees who think the time when a church is without a pastor is the perfect time to go on vacation, get their kids into sports, or try other churches (This is actually when your church needs you most. Don’t cut and run because it’s a little challenging!).
The great thing is, as long as there are true Christians in a church, God will never leave it to its own devices. God never forsakes his children. Even the last time we lost our pastor, and we (in general) did not respond in a Christlike manner, God brought us through it. No matter how abandoned I felt, he was with me through all of it. Even when I was yelling at him– “WHERE ARE YOU, GOD?!”– he was right by my side.
It’s not that we don’t need a pastor. New Testament church structure is pretty clear about that. It’s that though we might be temporarily without a pastor, we aren’t without a shepherd. We’ve got a leader. In fact, God should be leading our church at all times– pastor or not. We can depend on God to enable us to fulfill the roles he set for us. There is no one more eager to see us live out our kingdom purposes than God.
2. “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”– Romans 12:1-2
This was our key verse for CentriKid Camps this year. For my personal Bible study time, I’ve been reading through the Old and New Testaments without a set plan– starting several months ago. Get this: the night before my first day of camp, I read the end of Romans 11, setting me up to read Romans 12:1-2 on my first day. The intricate details God works out to get our attention sometimes… wow.
Those verses are great, but how do they apply here?
One of the mercies of God is that he will never leave us. Boom– Romans 8. In light of that and his many other mercies, we are to worship God by living holy, sacrificial, transformed lives. But we’re not to only live in a holy way when we’re feeling good about ourselves. We’re not to only act differently– transformed– when the changes are easy or pleasant for us. We’re not only to sacrifice when it’s convenient. We’re to live out these ways through all circumstances– even when tragedy strikes, even when the jobs don’t come, even when the drugs fail, even when pastors leave. In this sacrifice-based, Christ-honoring transformation, we will begin to understand God’s will.
When we look back at the context of Hebrews 13, it actually sounds very similar to Romans 12:
“Therefore, through Him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name. Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.” (vv. 15-16)
“Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus—the great Shepherd of the sheep —with the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with all that is good to do His will, working in us what is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ. Glory belongs to Him forever and ever.” (vv. 20-21)
Sacrifice. Worship. Doing good. Living for God’s will. All because of the mercies of God through Christ. That’s our cause… whether our churches are pastor-less or music minister-less or youth minister-less or under poor leadership. God is our Shepherd. We follow him and we give our lives to glorify his name.
But, in the midst of this, it is awesome and fitting that the writer of Hebrews adds some words about leaders, including: “Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith” (v. 7) and “Don’t be led astray by various kinds of strange teachings” (v. 9).
Not all leaders are good. None of them are perfect (with the obvious exception). But God, in more of his neverending mercy, does give us strong, good leaders at times. And we are to imitate them– their sacrifice, their holy living, their unwavering faith. If we are truly imitating the godly leaders in our lives, what does that make us? Godly leaders.
God provides leaders for his people. Throughout the Bible, they came in different forms: prophets, judges, kings, priests, missionaries. Today, leaders come in different forms, as well. You don’t have to have your name in the bulletin or worship program to be a leader. You don’t have to have a seminary degree to lead God’s people. You do have to be sincerely, faithfully following Him.
Let us lead others in following our Great Shepherd.