Grief of a Pastor's Leaving

By Pastor Bob Myers

When faced with a decision you do not want to make, the pressure is intense. When the choice before you is one that you do not want to choose, it becomes a deep wrestling.  The decision that the Lord’s call was to bring eighteen years of ministry as your pastor to a close has been wrenching in a most difficult season of ministry where I have desperately needed each friend I have. Leaving this ministry is a kind of death to me. It feels like the loss of a loved one, and it is that and more complicated than that. 

The ministry fit, at least to me, seemed in so many ways so good that eighteen years is not enough. It seemed like it could go on forever.  We certainly were thinking longer, partly out of the delightful triumphs by God’s grace in ministry.  But an omnipotent and sovereign God uses all things to get us to the place He wants us to be.  I see all the ingredients that led us to this decision as under God’s mysterious ways of guidance.  I bow to that.  But it does not take the feelings of grief away.

People talk about buildings and numbers, but anyone on the inside of ministry knows that it’s not the building projects but it’s all about the individual lives that made the building projects a necessity.  And after the buildings are built it’s all about the people who make that building serve Christ’s purpose.

I love being a pastor. I will be a pastor in some form or the other until I am called to Jesus. A pastor is someone devoted to helping people find their way to Christ and continue to cling to Christ through all that life in its messiness and challenges throws at us.  A pastor is called to remove obstacles and barriers to the God whose heart is restless until His love is felt.  To be a pastor is to be invited into others’ heartbreaks. To be a pastor is to walk beside. To be a pastor sometimes takes words, and often simply by presence reminds people of the divine words they already know by heart about the grace the heart cannot rest without. 

To be a pastor of any church is the most sacred privilege. It always involves effort and aim in teaching and preaching the God-breathed scriptures in an authentic, accessible, and missional way. To be a pastor tries to peer into people’s ears and hearts and pitch the truth so that it can be received. Usually I’ve preached three services.  Each sermon will be different, and I’ll let you in on a secret as to why that is.  Each time, I’m influenced by seeing someone’s response, feeling someone’s need, being led by the Spirit to change it up. Why?Because the desire is always to try somehow to show how incredible Jesus is, the sermon can always reach higher. I’ve never preached a sermon that has “arrived” but by God’s grace I have preached and felt Him use it to arrive, to arrive right into someone’s life in a new way. 

Yes, I’m always preaching from a text of scripture.That scripture will challenge pre-conceived notions. A pastor is not a parrot, repeating back at you what you already believed. So a pastor has to be willing to so unflinchingly proclaim truth that it may cost him dearly. To be a faithful pastor requires being relevant to the unchurched, the people who are not yet here. It requires speaking up for the marginalized and weak and forgotten. There is no authority in preaching without that God-spoken, timeless, text. But there is no beauty without showcasing Jesus. My greatest honor has been to represent Jesus despite my flaws. To seek for Jesus Christ to be represented well at Covenant in all of our ministries. To make this place as “Jesus-y” as any place on earth. To be “Jesus-y”  in the vibe, feel, and culture. To get rid of the IANITY so that people can see Christ. To be a faithful pastor will always involve thinking through the best use of resources and strategies and who to hire. But in the end it all comes down to the people. It’s all for the people but it’s not people centered.It’s for the people because Jesus Christ has a high purpose for His people.  And of course, sometimes the journey gets crazy and the enemies of the soul get fierce.

In my mind’s eye, I see streams of people who have waded into Covenant. MY calling is to recognize something sacred. To recognize that the Holy Spirit is already at work in each of them. My role is to come alongside the Holy Spirit in tenderly beckoning them to close with Christ. Seeing that happen at Covenant and in homes and hospital beds has been an unfathomable privilege for me.  I thank you for letting me serve in this way. 

For eighteen years I’ve carried Covenant in my heart. That won’t and can’t be shut off. I still carry all of the people in my first congregation in my heat. It never ends. I love you all. I’ve learned so much about the human heart’s cry for Jesus through you. I’ve learned so much about Jesus’ infinite adequacy to satisfy the human heart.  And I know better what faith, hope, and love look like because of you. 

So what exactly is next for me?  I’m praying Psalm 71. That has become my prayer. The prayer of Psalm 71 arises from one who has followed God in his youth but is no longer young, but is also not yet old. I see this as the prime of life. And his prayer for the prime of his life is simple. Let me proclaim your greatness to a people not yet born. I don’t have any grandchildren yet. But I want to build the kind of Christ-centered church that they would be irresistibly drawn to be part of. I think I’ve learned what those necessary elements are from you over these eighteen years. Thank you for schooling me and growing me by sharing your lives with me.   

My heart is feeling the weight of love for you and for all who have made Covenant a remarkable place of ministry.  For me, when Covenant Church gathers, in whatever space or place it gathers, that place has been to me, the sweetest place on earth. Thank you for opening your heart to me as your pastor.

I love you all.