We had a member meeting after church today. Our Senior Pastor, Efrem Smith, has been called to be Superintendent of one of our denomination's conferences.
It's not a big deal to us--we've been through plenty of pastoral changes. At the church we were at in Iowa, we went through three pastors in less than five years. That's bad phrasing--we didn't go through them like we chewed them up and spit them out. The first was called to a conference leadership position. The second, admittedly, didn't end up working out well. The third is still there. But having had those changes also means we had two interim pastors (three, actually--one of the times was a husband-wife co-pastor team).
But it's a big deal to a lot of people in our church. This is the first time they've gone through it. Efrem was the planter of the church. He's a dynamic speaker and competent leader. People attend because of him. Very few people in our church have had previous experience with the Evangelical Covenant Church, either. They're a little apprehensive of what's going to happen next.
In our church, a search committee is voted upon (they try hard to get most segments of the church demographic represented). The denomination helps filter through applicants, but they do not decide who the next pastor will be. The search committee narrows down the pool of applicants to one person whom they feel is the person God is calling to our church. After several days of face time with that candidate, the members vote upon the candidate. It requires a lot of trust in the search committee, but ultimately we should all be trusting the Holy Spirit's guidance in all that.
That process is scary for people that haven't experienced it before. There was plenty of concern voiced today: concern over just having one candidate to vote upon (it was pointed out that having several candidates would just divide the church), concern that the senior pastor isn't involved with filling his replacement, concern of bringing someone in who doesn't know the church.
Pastor Efrem has been asserting for years that it's God church, not his nor anyone else. Why do we, in God's church (I speak for all of Christendom), have such a difficult time trusting Him? I guess because we have to trust Him to work through sinners (albeit redeemed ones). And sometimes we put too much weight on the pastor and not enough on the church as a whole. I have little doubt that some people will leave our church because of the pastoral change. That's our current church culture--we lack commitment, searching for the meeting of our own needs, instead (but that's a whole separate post). St. Paul did tell us that the church is the body of Christ: not a body and a pastor who is somehow separate from that body in a special way. Now, I know a pastor (and their personality, leadership and vision) is an important part of the church, and that the wrong fit can have big ramifications. This is all the more reason for us to depend upon the Holy Spirit--and not one person or group of people--and trusting God's Hand in all things.