Three Thoughts on Changing Gears in Ministry

My assumption is that if you are reading this, then you likely know that this past Sunday I announced my transition off of staff at The Chapel. I’m not leaving immediately, but will be leaving in the coming months. I’ve been a part of talking about staff transitions at The Chapel, but I’ve never been the subject.

It is different to be on the other side of the announcement. The past few months for me have had moments of grieving, joy, and encouragement. As I’ve talked through decisions with numerous friends and family, I am confident in God’s faithfulness and sad to be leaving people I love.

As I’ve processed the past few days (and weeks, and months, and years), I have a few thoughts. These thoughts are simply preliminary as I try to work out how I’m actually feeling—or at least put words to it.

  • I am *not* like [Insert Bible Character]: I think sometimes we add a little too much personalization to our heroes of the faith. “Well, Abraham set out too, Hans. You are doing the same.” Not quite. Abraham left everything for a promise. I’ve received that promise in Jesus—I was in the stars that Abraham counted. I want to walk by faith like Abraham did (Heb 11:8-10), but I do not consider myself Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob (or Moses, Joshua, Elijah, or Isaiah). I’m not like Noah building a boat while people laugh at me (Heb 11:7). I’m Hans. I want to be more faithful, but the way I see those heroes of the faith make what they did and what I am doing so different. I think we have to be careful when assigning “just like so and so” status to our transitions.
  • I am *definitely* like you: It is weird being a minister (at least a paid one) because, try as we might, we are viewed as different from congregants. Somehow, me changing what I’m doing is unique. The reason it is unique is because what ministers do is often a personal part of people’s lives—”So and so is my pastor.” I have never felt different than anyone in my church. I’m honored to be a pastor and to do what I do in the local church, but I’m not special. I would hope that anyone changing jobs—whether it be in the same company, new company, or new career altogether—would make the change soberly, and loaded with prayer and counsel. We are all ministers of reconciliation, should all be engaged in a local church, and all of us need to take seriously whatever place God has us, for however long he has us there.
  • Faithfulness, to me, is a more important calling: I know some people who had clear and indelible moments where they knew what they were to do for the rest of their lives (or at least the next portion of their lives). These people would—without a doubt—say that they were called to what they were doing and I do not doubt them. However, I have generally been more reserved on the word “calling” and have had few moments where I was clear on what I needed to do. The Scriptures call believers to all types of activities. All believers are called to walk upright and in a manner worthy of Jesus (Eph 4:1-3), all believers are called to make disciples (Matt 28:18-20), husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph 5:25), believers are called to be saints together (1 Cor 1:2). These callings belong to all of us and are themselves deep enough to take a lifetime to work out and an eternity to realize. Faithfulness to what I already know to be true wins out over feeling “called” to do something else.

Are there differences between ministry changes for me (or other pastors) and job changes for other folks in the congregation? Absolutely (and I hope to write on that in the coming days). However, from my vantage point, much more similarity exists between the congregation and me than dissimilarity. It is there—in the similarity—that I focus, and it is there that I find encouragement that what the family and I are doing is nothing special. We’re in the trenches with you, figuring out how to live faithfully.

I'd love to hear your thoughts