The Church Is a Mystery: Transitions

Chris Hay —  February 5, 2013 — Leave a comment
This entry is part 10 of 10 in the seriesThe Church is a Mystery

Change and transitions are always hard. But of course the old cliché is true: if there is one thing that never changes, it is that things are always changing. The school year ends; friends move away; marriage is forever changed with the addition of kids; the kids start going to school; the kids leave home; health deteriorates; and of course the ultimate change I suppose is death—as a believer it is changing from this corruptible body and fallen earth to a glorified body and eternal glory.

Churches change too: a church plant that moves out of a living room into rented space; the changes that come with growth where we no longer feel like an extended family; the addition of staff; the change of a lead pastor. All these changes can be handled poorly and cause great stress and upheaval. Or these changes can be handled well and allow the church to continue growing, moving forward, and advancing the kingdom.

CarpetChanges. Transitions. They must be handled well. Or there can be trouble. I have a construction/remodeling background and one of the most important aspects of a remodel job is handling the flooring transitions well. Carpet to hardwood; tile to carpet; hardwood to tile; and so on. Done poorly and the whole job looks shoddy. Done well, and the job looks clean and professional. I suggest the same is true in life and in the church: we must handle the transitions and changes well.

I was recently privileged to observe a rather significant change in a local church. The senior pastor, who had planted this church several decades earlier, resigned to take on a new assignment. It wasn’t the smoothest process initially, which could have created a rather ugly scenario. But I was blessed to be in the presence of a gracious, humble, final parting, a transition that was handled well.

TileThe Holy Spirit clearly was at work creating a tender atmosphere for this incredible transition. The text for the day was 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20:

For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.

This pastor had invested in countless lives over the years. Though there were tears and sadness at his parting, there was great joy in knowing that this man of God had influenced so many lives. Though there had been some difficult days in the process of transition, they were handled in such a gracious way that the final service was delightful, if a bit sad.

Change and transition is often hard. Sometimes we plan for it, and sometimes it rudely intrudes into our lives unexpectedly and uninvited. Regardless, smooth and gracious transitions are part of living a life centered on Jesus Christ. I would imagine that the vast majority of the readers of this blog are in the midst of some life change or transition. Handle it graciously, even if it is a painful, hurtful, and unexpected intrusion. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we can make life’s transitions smooth and gracious, just as demonstrated by this local expression of the bride of Christ. What a great example for us to follow! This mysterious thing called “church” once again reflecting the true source of her life and energy!

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Chris Hay

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Chris is the Director of Church Relations at Eternity. He grew up as a pastor’s kid and served in the pastorate for over 20 years, both in associate and senior roles, before coming to EBC. He is passionate about seeing people live out a radical life-changing commitment to Jesus, and he is deeply burdened for the spiritual health of pastors. He and his wife Dawn are the founders and directors of Zarephath Ministries (ZarMin.org) which provides spiritual retreats for pastors. His hobbies include reading (history, biography, Puritans, mystics), woodworking, and being in God’s glorious creation. He and Dawn homeschooled their two amazing children.