Ministry Inside.136

ImageAfter 20 years of ministry in one congregation, I am about to leave.  (My last Sunday here is November 24.)  Charlotte and I will move to Memphis, Tennessee, to begin working with Harding School of Theology.

Twenty years is a long time.  That is 20 years of sermons, conversations, and cups of coffee. That is 20 years of waiting in emergency rooms with families and well as celebrating with families.

Leaving and transition bring grief.  Charlotte and I certainly feel it.  I know many in our congregation feel this as well.  It is simply a part of transition.

I have been thinking about these 20 years.

I am so thankful …

… for the trust of this church.

Preaching to the same group of people week after week requires trust.  They must recognize that you are attempting to live out the Gospel in your daily life.  Trust either emerges or it remains a questionable issue in a congregation.

As I look back upon these years, I think of the many conversations with people — deeply personal conversations — about life, sin, failure, and grace.  I don’t take this for granted.  After all, a person believes their minister will handle this conversation with maturity and respect.  I am moved as I think about conversations in my office, in living rooms, and over cups of coffee about life.

… for the love of this church.

The people in our congregation have communicated to me how much they love Charlotte, me, and our two daughters, Christine and Jamie.  I am so grateful for this.

At the same time, I love our congregation.  Recently, our children’s ministry reserved the local skating rink for our church.  I was there for about 45 minutes and enjoyed watching the children of our congregation (and some of their parents) have so much fun.  I want to see them do well and grow up loving Jesus.  Because I love our congregation, it is very important how I leave.  When a minister abruptly leaves a church and gives the church little or no time to process what is happening, damage can be done that can have ramifications for the future.  It is very important to me to leave well.

… for the faithfulness of God.

Life as a congregation is something we do together.  That means that we experience not only joy but also pain.  Yes, pain takes place in every congregation.  Most of the time, ministry involves some sort of pain.  Divorce.  Death.  Sickness.  Unfaithfulness.  Sin.  These all take place in the life of a congregation.  Yet, as I look back, I see how the faithfulness of God gave us, as a congregation, the power to persevere even in difficult times.

More later.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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6 thoughts on “Ministry Inside.136

  1. Warmest congratulations, Jim, on a score of years’ service with the Crestview church. Your ministry has blessed, enriched, encouraged, and instructed so many people from Waco throughout the US and beyond. We pray the very best for you and Charlotte as your new work at HST begins, and for God’s gracious care of Crestview in the interim and beyond. You’re an exemplary minister, a dear brother. Grace and peace, now and ever.

  2. Best wishes in your new position.

    You wrote, “As I look back upon these years, I think of the many conversations with people — deeply personal conversations — about life, sin, failure, and grace. I don’t take this for granted. After all, a person believes their minister will handle this conversation with maturity and respect. I am moved as I think about conversations in my office, in living rooms, and over cups of coffee about life.”

    My advice for you is to make sure that the ministers you educate of both genders are taught what you wrote above re handling conversations with maturity and respect. Talking with people is how you find out what Is happening in their lives and in the real world. Sitting cloistered in an office is not how to achieve this. Listening is also necessary.

    A catholic priest taught his seminary students that “you will learn a lot from the people you serve before they ever learn anything from you.”

  3. Mark, thanks for these words. Good point! What you are stressing is so important for all of us and particularly for any minister. Thanks again.