It’s a common issue – so common that few are disciplined or held accountable. But it damages congregations in the long term, even though intentions are good.
I’m talking about pastors who leave a church through retirement or resignation, and yet they don’t break pastoral ties with the church.
Believe me when I say that I understand. You marry young couples, baptize their children, sit with them in ERs, bury their loved ones. You sit through fertility tests, court procedures, unemployment, and graduations. They are your family.
But if we really love those people in our former church, we have to say “No.”
When your favorite parishioner whom you baptized as an adult finally finds a life partner and wants you to marry them? You say no.
When the older couple, who took you in and supported you as a young pastor, die together in a car accident and you are asked by their grown children to officiate at their funeral? You say no.
When the ladies of the church tell you that “nobody does Bible studies like you” and they want you to keep doing them in the local diner- because you’re still in town? You say no.
It’s not that you don’t love them. It’s not that you don’t care. It’s that you are no longer their pastor. And as long as you act like their pastor and do pastoral things, they will not move forward. They will not identify someone new as their pastoral leader.
It’s not about the new leader’s insecurity. It’s about yours. You don’t want to be forgotten. You don’t want to be replaced.
But you are no longer their pastor. It’s not up to the new pastor to say no for you.
If you love your former church, let someone else serve them. You left. That was a good thing.
And now God is doing something new.