I’ve been Senior Pastor of Grace Lutheran for eight months and sixteen days and have now come to the end of my honeymoon. I got the first real complaint, though it was minor, and really more about the past than the present. But it was there and I am so glad I received it.
Glad? Certainly. First, because the person with the concern called me first, voiced his concern and listened to my response. Second, he said “others” agreed, but named names! Third, when it came up in a meeting, the person listened to my response, appreciated my assurance I would re-evaluate and look into the issue, and then said words I’ve heard rarely in my ministry: “Ultimately, you are the spiritual overseer of this congregation and your decision will be respected and followed.”
Wow. That makes me really want to work toward a good solution and compromise!
But the real reason I was glad? Because it means people are growing comfortable with me. Comfortable enough to bring complaints. Comfortable enough to show true colors. It’s like the first fight with a girlfriend, or the first fight after the (real) honeymoon. It is the reality of sin and the necessity of patience, of forgiveness, of listening and seeking understanding, of bearing with one another, of submitting to one another, even in matters of great importance, and of restoration and cooperation. It shows the relationship is real, and worth the work. A pastor who is never opposed is as fake and plastic as a wife who never fights with her husband, or children with their father.
I have been so very thankful for the relatively peaceful transition to this office, and now I find myself appreciating and loving this congregation all the more, and thanking God for His mercy and generosity to me, one unworthy of it all.