“When a new pastor comes to a congregation, things naturally change,” a friend once told me. While this statement is true, I think it’s safe to say that different people will respond to it in different ways. Some may approach the inevitable changes with apprehension or downright fear, while others may embrace the changes wholeheartedly and seek to encourage an attitude of moving forward. Some may mourn the loss of a beloved, longstanding pastor who had walked with them through many joys and sorrows, and become a part of their family. Others may look forward to the new ideas and fresh approach the newcomer brings. Please understand, I’m speaking in generalities, but I also can see the truth of these ideas playing out here among us, as I have before in other settings, and for brother pastors as I’ve had opportunities to hear their stories. Perhaps you have, too.
I believe that one of the most difficult dynamics in congregational life to navigate is how to preserve the historic treasures of our tradition without remaining stuck in the past. Or, inversely, finding a way to move forward, to pursue new avenues for the Gospel to spread, without losing or abandoning our base, our foundation. Our doctrine and traditions give us a firm place to stand, certainly, but we should be vigilant so that they never become cement shoes. On the other hand, we should never play fast and loose with the truth of God’s Word and His promises. It’s pretty clear to me that it’s easy to fall off the mountain on either side, and from there, it’s a slippery slope.
Both Jesus and Luther had to push up against the power structures of their day that had run far afield from the solid rock of the Gospel, God’s unconditional love for His people, even though their sin constantly put them outside His good graces. Jesus had to contend with the Pharisees and Sadducees, whose adherence to the Torah and its structure of institutional and political power left them little room to live out the freedom they had received from God. Jesus was incredibly disruptive to this system, pushing those around Him to embrace the Kingdom of a King who loves His people and would do anything for them. Even send His only Son to die for them. Luther, likewise, was disruptive to the power structure of the medieval Roman Catholic Church, challenging it to return to the truth of the Gospel. It almost cost him his life on multiple occasions.
Changes had to be made. But change is difficult. Especially when it hits so close to the things that people hold dear, and are foundational to their worldview.
I want to be like Jesus. I want you to be like Jesus, too. And if we’re going to take seriously His call to walk in His footsteps, it means we’re going to be disruptive to the world around us… in all the right ways! I’ve been struggling to describe what this looks like, and how I want to be. The best I’ve been able to come up with is that I will seek to be “respectfully disruptive.” Jesus was disruptive to the lives of everyone He met, challenging their assumptions and presuppositions, pushing them to reexamine what they believed. But He never sought to disrespect the basic human dignity of those around Him. In fact, He wanted people who met Him to become more dignified, more alive, more human, not less. I want the same for you.
All that to say: if I ever do something or say something that disrupts your assumptions or rattles your heart a bit, please understand that
I mean no disrespect. I’m just trying, as best I know how, to encourage you to be like Jesus. Here’s to being more like Jesus, and embracing the life He gives!
Adventure is out there! Pastor Aaron