Everything is permitted, but everything isn’t beneficial. Everything is permitted, but everything doesn’t build others up. No one should look out for their own advantage, but they should look out for each other. – 1 Corinthians 10:23-24
I honestly did not expect that much response to yesterday’s post – “Derek Goes to Church – Episode 4“. It all goes to demonstrate how impossible it is to predict what will interest people at any given moment, and why. It’s often that way when Rebekah preaches, too; the most popular messages always take her by surprise.
But I guess I have to acknowledge the facts: Messi left Barcelona; Harry and Meghan moved to Los Angeles; Rebekah retired from WFPC – it’s all pretty much the same thing. 🙂
Clearing something up:
It has become clear, however, that I need to address our decision to stay away from Wake Forest Presbyterian Church for the time being (yes, of course we will visit sometime in the future). First, some basic facts:
- Every other time we have left a church (twice) it has been to begin a new call in a new city.
- Retired preachers also typically move, either close to family or to a retirement location they have planned on for years.
- So long as my parents need the house next door, we really can’t go anywhere.
- Rebekah is still a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the PC(USA), and a member of New Hope Presbytery; her calling is very much intact.
- Ministry has never been about us, it’s about equipping the saints and strengthening the Body of Christ.
Okay, that being said, I have to comment on a couple of things. First, I received some surprising (to me) pushback from some of the groups I worked with at church: i.e. “I don’t see why you can’t continue to lead the men’s groups and teach Sunday school?”
Then, a lot of people have said variations of the following: “We thought you and Rebekah would just be part of the congregation now she has retired….” and, “Why can’t you just attend WFPC?”
Personality has a huge impact:
First, regardless of our best intentions, the personality of a high-profile leader absolutely impacts both the character and the trajectory of a church. It has always been God’s church, but God uses people like Rebekah in unique and profound ways.
That being said, when such a big personality steps aside, it is essential that they step completely out of the picture. The focal point for a vibrant church such as Wake Forest Presbyterian must be Jesus, and the forward momentum must be anchored in the singular desire to follow Jesus.
If Rebekah and I and were to be involved or present, then we would be a distraction. We are happy to be cheerleaders for WFPC, we will remain friends with our friends (coffee… golf… dinner…), we will be interested observers, but we will not be any kind of a distraction.
Transitions are spiritual incubators:
When a church with the enthusiasm, the history, and the vibrant life of WFPC takes pause to recalibrate between senior pastors, there is this amazing opportunity to listen to the Holy Spirit and to reimagine the path forward.
Especially now, as WFPC (and every church) must engage a new vision for what its purpose and ministry might look like coming out of this pandemic.
What better time to partner with a new senior pastor and head of staff? What better time to dive in head first with a leader who has the imagination, the work ethic, and the stamina to look forward into the next ten years?
All of this requires faithfulness, commitment, belief, trust, reflection, self-examination, and – maybe most importantly – a new vision. It is next to impossible to engage God’s invitation into a new vision when we keep glancing in the rearview mirror!
So let me round out this post with the following quote from the words I shared at Rebekah’s epic retirement celebration:
Love love love!
I love the good people of WFPC – I always will. And my heart is deeply rooted in the men’s groups I helped to facilitate.
And because of that there is no way either one of us would ever want to be any kind of a distraction to this most beautiful and authentic part of the Body of Christ.
Not because we are not allowed to, but because we love you.
Because we love you (the members and friends of WFPC), and because we love God, and because we still serve and listen to Jesus. – DEREK