By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
First Baptist Church
My theme is “The pastor and his former pastorates.” Before I get into the subject, let me say that I have deliberately referred to the pastor and HIS former pastorates, not HIS or HER former pastorates, for the simple reason that the Bible, the only infallible handbook on such matters, very clearly does not endorse women being pastors. I do not know all the reasons why God calls only men to be pastors, but I do know it is taught in the Bible. And because the Bible is the infallible Word of God, we do not need to know all the reasons for any of its teachings. We just need to accept them and follow them. If you will open-mindedly read what are called “the pastoral letters/epistles,” you will find God’s mind on this subject. Those letters were written by the apostle Paul, and are his two letters to Timothy and his one letter to Titus. And if you read other parts of the New Testament, such as the Book Acts, you will find that God had only men put into positions of pastoral leadership in local churches.
Now, back to my theme: “The pastor and his former pastorates.” The main point I want to convey on this subject is that pastors must take their hands off their former pastorates. Their role of leadership in a local church ends when their role as pastor ends in that church. They no longer are to be involved in providing leadership to a former pastorate, unless officially asked to do so by the leaders of that church. And even then it must be done very carefully and only temporarily. But what often happens is that a former pastor has difficulty giving up his role in a church, especially if he had been with a church for a long time and was well-liked by the people of that church. So, even though it is done with good intentions, he continues to assert some influence on a former pastorate. His friendships with individuals from a former pastorate do not end when his role in that church ends. Those friends often want to keep him informed of what is now going on in his absence, and seek his advice on church-related matters. Longtime church friends miss his leadership, and might tell him they do not like the changes that have taken place since he left the church. In such situations, it is easy for a former pastor to take sides with those friends, which only makes matters worse.
So, what should a former pastor do in such circumstances? He should tell them that their relationship with one another can never be same as it was when he was their pastor. He should tell his friends that they should not talk to him about the inner workings of his former pastorate. He should tell them to talk, instead, to the leaders of the church about their concerns. He should tell them to not stir up controversy in the church by secretly talking to others about their objections to the new leadership and the changes that have been made in the church. He should tell them that change is inevitable with new leadership. He should tell them to accept change, so long as it does not contradict the Bible’s teachings, or the church’s church covenant and by-laws. In other words, a pastor should help the people from his former church make the transition to new leadership, and to accept harmless change in the church.