How can a local church survive / recover when its pastor leaves?
One of the hardest situations a local church can face is when the pastor leaves. This is especially challenging when the pastor leaves under difficult or negative circumstances. How can a church survive when a pastor leaves?
First, the church can survive by focusing on who the leader of the church truly is—Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:18 teaches, "And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent." Ephesians 5:23 adds, "For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior." The loss of a pastor is difficult, yet Christ is the leader of the church and can help the congregation both survive and thrive in the days ahead.
Second, the church can continue by focusing on God's sovereign control of all things, including the loss of a pastor. God knows and understands the reasons for pastoral change, even when we do not. As Romans 8:28 declares, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."
Third, the church should take time to evaluate why the pastor left. If the pastor left under negative conditions, changes may need to be made to prevent the same problem from occurring again.
Fourth, the church can focus on involving current members according to their abilities and gifts. The church is a body (1 Corinthians 12) and each member has a role to play. When a pastor leaves, it is especially important to focus on church members becoming more involved in needed areas of service, making sure the essential functions of the church are accomplished. In addition, a temporary plan for an interim pastor may be needed. A church's denomination often offers help in recommending a person for this role or help for weekly teachers until a new pastor is found.
Fifth, the church can take time to evaluate its future and refine its focus. All change is difficult, yet change can be highly beneficial when church members work together toward accomplishing God's goals for the church. A close look at the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40), the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), as well as the early church in Acts 2:42-47 and other passages can help offer insight into how to move forward in preparing for the next pastor.
Finally, a church can both survive and recover through a renewed prayer focus. If the church's ultimate leader is Christ, a focus on seeking His wisdom is essential for future help. Through dependence on the Lord, working together in unity, and planning for the future, a church can move forward in ways that make the future church far better than what it experiences after losing a pastor.
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