by Joe Chambers, Mountain Heights Baptist Church, Buena Vista, CO
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. – Paul
Every congregation is a congregation of sinners. As if that weren’t bad enough, they all have sinners for pastors. – Eugene Peterson
I know of a church that parted ways with her pastor in ways that left both pastor and people wounded. The pastor remained in the small town and continued to raise his family there. The church members would see him or his wife in the only grocery store and the meeting was polite but awkward.
Perhaps leadership mistakes were made by the pastor, but his doctrine and integrity were beyond reproach. Yet it seemed that the pastor and people were not a good fit. A lot of divorces could be avoided if the marriage had never happened in the first place.
A group in the church decided it was time to make a change and through a series of meetings the die was cast. Before the young pastor was fired at a business meeting, he resigned. Technically, the church didn’t fire him, but the result was the same.
Five years passed.
A few weeks ago, the Church invited the former pastor back for a meal to celebrate his ministry at the Church. At first, both people and the pastor were a little reluctant about the encounter. However, the evening was a beautiful expression of what it means when
Paul said, If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
What do you do when you want to bring a group of people and a former pastor together? Everyone gathered in a huge circle in the fellowship hall and held hands. A gentle prayer requesting grace to be our balm was whispered. Each person was invited to come to the pastor and his family and tell them how much they loved them.
There were tears.
There were hugs.
There was laughter.
There was love.
During the quiet moments of that night, you could almost hear the soft sound of sandaled feet walking among the pastor and people.
Later the pastor’s wife said this:
aThank you for tonight! When I walked into the fellowship hall, I felt the grace you prayed about. I felt love. I felt peace. I felt at home.
Joe leads Sacred Journey Retreats along with pastors Mike Atkinson and Jeremy Frye. These retreats are designed for pastors and leaders to focus on rest, prayer, and identity leading to a better way to care for our souls. www.sacredjourneyretreats.org