1 Corinthians 3:5-11:
(5) What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. (6) I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. (7) So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (8) He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. (9) For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.
(10) According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. (11) For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (ESV)
As our congregation knows (any many others have heard) I have accepted a call to a congregation in northern Minnesota. And while it makes people chuckle to hear that we're moving to what sounds like a made-up town, there has also been a lot of grief expressed at the idea of our leaving. All of which makes sense - it can be a hard thing when your pastor leaves.
Pastors fit into a category all their own in many ways. We are welcomed into the most trying and vulnerable moments in people's lives; we are called on to give spiritual guidance; we teach God's word; and we walk with people as they grow in faith. It's only natural that when someone with that sort of access to our lives follows a call somewhere else that we can feel lost, betrayed, even directionless.
As a pastor in that position, I want to say one thing: We feel it, too. We spend years gaining trust, building relationships and praising God for the privilege of walking with someone through a difficult time, even when we feel wholly unprepared. And it takes years to start seeing the fruit of your work.
So to feel like God is calling you to leave those relationships, to start over somewhere new, to continue mission in a new city - it feels like leaving family behind. And just as those under our care mourn at the thought of us leaving, we do, too. But if God calls, we follow.
The same thought crosses the minds of both the congregation and the exiting pastor: What happens to the church? While there are no easy answers to that question, the best thing we can do is turn to God's word. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul reminds the church of an essential reality: God is in control.
God began the work of salvation. God is building his kingdom. And while he uses certain individuals in certain places at certain times; each of those are pieces in his greater design. God is the one who gives growth. God is the one who will bring about the harvest.
For the workers, we have one job: to preach Christ in every season and circumstance, and to equip the body for the work of ministry. Others came before me, and others will come after, but this is his church, and he will see to it that his work bears fruit.
Whether we lead or someone else, whether it is here or somewhere else - the mission remains the same. The same God is in control, the same plan is unfolding, and we all (even pastors) need to remember to trust God, especially when things are uncertain.
God will see this thing through, and it is our privilege to serve where he wills when he wills, and all for his glory.
"On Faith" is a weekly column in the News-Chronicle written by area religious leaders.