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A simple analogy helped us overcome this hurdle. “Imagine that you are the pastor of a church, and you’ve been sharing ministry with your congregation for many years,” we explained. “Over those years you have grown to know and love the people, and they have grown to know and love you—even though there have been some serious conflicts along the way. But now it has become apparent to you that your vision for ministry is becoming very different from the congregation’s. They feel passionately called by God to move in one direction. You feel passionately called in another. Your values, perhaps even your core theological beliefs, are in conflict. What can you do?” This, of course, is a situation that most pastors and elders can readily relate to.
Continuing, we said, “On the one hand, you can stay and try to persuade the congregation to go the direction you believe God wants them to go, while at the same time they try to persuade you to go in their direction. There may be multiple votes about specific programs, and endless politicking. Meanwhile, not much of any ministry gets done. On the other hand, you can passively submit to the congregation’s vision for ministry. It keeps the peace, but inside you are miserable because you are living in conflict with your own core values. Passion wanes.”
Then, stating the obvious, we offered: “But there is a third alternative. Even though you love the congregation and the congregation loves you, there may come a time when God calls you to use your gifts in another part of Christ’s body. Parting may be painful, but if you and the church have a healthy relationship, you can acknowledge your differing calls and bless each other as you separate to pursue your God-given visions.” We explained that we loved the people of our presbytery, but we felt great passion and excitement as we believed God was calling us to pursue a new path in our journey with Christ.
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