Sunday, June 14, 2009

Watching People Wave Goodbye.

Saturday evening after our worship service I slipped over to the Roosevelt Community Center where the good people of Prairie Street Mennonite Church were celebrating the ministry of their soon-to-depart pastor, the Reverend Andrew Kreider.

The reason I went, sat in a corner of the room, and watched this church family say things like "We love you," "Thanks," and "Goodbye" is -first- that I was invited to the party.

I raced over late, and slipped in after missing the meal, for another reason: Prairie is a lively Christian community and they have been especially strong under Andrew's leadership. You can tell, you can sense, when a congregation has a strong heartbeat. When they are alive. Making a difference. And I have sensed that about Prairie Street. When I heard Andrew had resigned so that he could support his wife in a new chapter in her work, I was surprised and saddened. Because I love this community, I know how healthy, vital churches can make a difference in a neighborhood, and I don't take outstanding pastoral leaders for granted. The truth is people who can do ministry the way Andrew does ministry are few and far between.

So I sat there...and listened to the stories.

As people talked about Andrew's preaching and the movement of the Holy Spirit, I found myself wishing I had slipped over there to worship on a Sunday morning. And I could tell what preaching means to a community of Christians.

I also found myself thinking about the night (or day) when the people at Trinity will gather together to say goodbye to me. Bless me and release me to whatever is next. Who will be there? When will it be? What will people say?

And I sat near the back of the crowd and began praying for that congregation. Every church is much more than the pastor who happens to serve it at the time. I know that. I say that. I remind laity of that when pastors come and go. But I also know that some "matches" are really amazing. Particularly effective. So I was praying because you could hear, in the people's voices, their recognition that this change meant something profound to all of them. While they were saying they were confident the creative ministries and outreach efforts would continue in the future, if you listened closely enough you might have heard them wondering if it would be okay.

I remember when Lucchese's -one of Elkhart's fine local, Italian restaurants- changed bakers. You'd think finding someone to bake the bread your customers have come to know and love would be pretty easy to do. But it -the transition- proved to be tricky. The new baker did it differently...some people liked the change. Others didn't. So the new baker tried to learn the old recipes and also introduce something new.

Guess ministry and baking bread may have a few things in common, when it comes to change and transition.

In this letter to a young Christian leader, 2nd Timothy 4:2-8 (NIV) likens Christian ministry to running a race...being in a 15-round fight:

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. {3} For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. {4} They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. {5} But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

{6} For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. {7} I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. {8} Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Maybe this sounds odd coming from a pastor, but I am so thankful to those men and women who love Jesus and serve creatively, local congregations. I'm grateful, Andrew. I've been watching from across, town and you have done good work, my friend. Good work!


BJson said...

You write with compassion; it's valued.

Tony said...

interesting comments on Michael
Jackson...however the passing
of Gale Storm that same week
was much more significant. Grand-
children...gee your
older than me.

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