While working out of my office in my basement today, I have heard my wife taking down the Christmas decorations. I am always a little bit sad when the Christmas season ends and for us it ends when the decorations disappear into the storage space. By the end of the day I will be able to walk through the house and not see anything that makes me think of Christmas.
As I have shared, I just accepted the position as interim pastor at New Dundee Baptist Church. The job is a little intimidating in that I’m there because the previous pastor just retired after nineteen years at the church. Not only was he there for a long time but he was loved by the people about as much as they could love a pastor. I think that most of the people in the church hoped that he would just go on serving as pastor for another nineteen years.
One of the big changes in our lives this year is that my wife is retiring after thirteen years at the same job. We are getting used to the idea that she won’t be going to work in the morning. We won’t have to set an alarm clock any more. She has mixed feelings because on the one hand she loved her job and on the other it is time for someone else to do it.
Life is lived in seasons and seasons always have to come to an end. We wish that they didn’t but they always do. Often we wish that we could hold on to them but there is nothing that we can do to stop or even slow down their passing.
When our youngest child left home to attend university, my wife and I didn’t want to go back to our house. We drove the couple of hours home and then drove past our house to the beach about fifteen minutes away. We walked on the beach until we had no choice but to get in our van and drive home. We just didn’t want to face the empty house that awaited us there.
Sometimes seasons are difficult. My wife’s youngest sister died a little over a year ago and that marked a very sad ending to a season in Gloria’s family. Never again will all her siblings get together. There will always be a vacancy there that can never be replaced. We praise the Lord that her sister is with Jesus in heaven but for those of us who remain, life will never be quite the same.
Seasons pass in all of our lives and as I said above we can’t stop them.
Seasons in the church
I served as the pastor of Grace Bible Chapel in Parkhill, ON for about eight years. When I went there, one of the annual events that I looked forward to was a church camping weekend on the Labour Day long weekend. We shut down our services at the church in town and transferred everything to the campsite.
It was a great family time. For a church our size we had a lot of children and a good mix of teens and they enjoyed it as much as the adults did. We had games and leisure times where we could visit. We had campfires every evening with singing and skits and a pile of other things. The whole weekend was a great bonding time for the entire church family.
Then our teenagers grew up and became young adults. The children became teenagers. For some the long weekend became a time for them to get their children ready for university. The teenagers had jobs that limited their being there for the whole weekend and numbers began to wane.
A couple of years before I moved on from that church we made the difficult but correct decision to cancel the camping weekends. We realized that as great as those weekend had been, they were a season in the life of the church and it was time to close down that season and move on to a new season that God had for us.
A question to ask
Life is filled with change. Every church is confronted with that reality at some point. It is estimated that about 10% of any group will fight change no matter what it is. Another 10% will change at the drop of a hat. It is the other 80% that need to be convinced that it is the right thing to do.
One of the questions that always needs to be asked when considering change in a church is whether this a new season in the life of the church family. Is God closing down one season and opening a new one?
I miss the season of life in which Gloria and I raised our small children. If I want to feel good for a few minutes, I think back to tucking them into bed at night, playing with them in the park or wrestling with them on the floor. But even with all the fun that I enjoyed in that season of life, I would not have wanted them to remain there. They had to grow out of that season so that they could experience all that life had for them.
As great as the past might have been in your church, God may be preparing you for a new season. You can leave the decorations up all year or you can see that Christmas is over and it is time to move on. Look back in the history of your church and identify the seasons that have been. Then look ahead and ask yourselves what are the new seasons that God has planned. Seasons are never meant to last forever.