So, as most who know me have learned, I was involved in a last-minute appointment change and will be moved to a new church at the beginning of July (a little later than most of my North Georgia clergy friends… a blessed reprieve given the last-minute nature of the move and all the preparation involved in moving). The plan had been for me to remain at my current appointment, where I began serving last year. We had done some wonderful work together as a church and I was looking forward to continuing the efforts for a second year. But, God had other plans as I learned I would be moved.
This last-minute change has taught me a few things. First, is that it isn’t over till the bishop fixes the appointments at the end of conference! (And even then, things can happen mid-year) Second, and perhaps most important, was learning some humility for myself. I had worked very hard at this church and felt that things had gone very well under my leadership. And because of this, I had started to have the creeping sense that I was responsible for the success of the church. Naturally, then, my first reaction when I learned a change of appointment was imminent was, “What would this church do without me?” Once I had that reaction, I knew I needed to reconsider my role and prepare myself for the fact that this church would need to make do without me. And, most importantly, I needed to remember that this church has had a savior long before I got there, and my arrival did not bring salvation to this church. Though it had had a difficult few years, this congregation had managed for 40 of its 41 years of existence to survive without my leadership. It can be very easy as public leaders of congregations to take credit for success (and just as easy when things aren’t going well to receive all the blame for failure… but that’s a topic for another post). It’s easy for us to get so caught up in our own skills that we forget that God has been at work for a long time without our help.
Remembering that God has been with this church for all of its life, and that God would continue to be with this church even when I am not there, was an important lesson for me and one I’m continuing to struggle with. God’s church prevails even when we as humans fall short. God’s church needs human effort, but God has a way of working both through, and in spite of us.
Part of the lectionary Gospel for one of my final Sundays at my current church has really convicted me: “Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts a hand on the plow and looks back is fit for God’s kingdom'” (Luke 9:62, CEB). It is tough to trust God and not look back, wondering what my efforts might have produced. But I’m called to move on to a new place of service and trust that God will provide in all places and will continue causing the growth after I have tended the soil.