After nearly eighteen years as senior pastor at the same church in northwest Georgia, I’ve relocated to a new congregation in a growing area in Metro Atlanta. It was a move I prayed about and anticipated for quite a while. Nevertheless, the transition has not been as easy as I thought. Here are several things I am learning.
Loneliness is real.
Because my wife is finishing out her year as a school teacher, I had to make the move by myself. She comes down as often as she can, but still has many obligations in our former location. Evenings are the hardest. I busy myself during the days, then return to an empty house most nights. Through this, God reminds me people everywhere experience this on a permanent basis. As believers, we must be on the lookout for these dear souls, build relationships, and get them involved in our church families.
Television is addictive.
Arriving in town, I moved into a small rental house on a temporary basis. There’s a satellite dish on the property, yet I decided not to connect it or even bring a television in the house at this point. It’s been tough, especially during college basketball March Madness. Yet, I’ve become aware just how hooked on television most of us are. I’m sure I’ll watch more once we’ve found permanent residence. But for now, I’m not missing it much—especially the repetitive, argumentative, and negative news.
GPS is wonderful.
Until recently, I’ve scoffed at those using satellite assistance to get around. I knew the road and got around quite easily, thank you! Navigating around suburban Atlanta, however, is a different matter altogether. I’ve used my Maps app more in the last few weeks than the previous eleven months combined.
Practice what you preach.
For years, I’ve challenged folks to move from their comfort zone to the battle zone. Now, I’ve done what I’ve been saying all these years and said “yes” to my sermons. I was in a good spot and probably could have retired there. However, just like with Elijah, God provided me a fresh task.
Clean slates are great.
This fresh task places before me a blank canvas. With brush in hand, I’m prepared to paint a masterpiece that only God could orchestrate. What better time could there be to let bygones be bygones? Transition provides the perfect opportunity to shed bad thoughts/habits and develop good ones. Obviously, I love those I served for nearly two decades. We left great friends behind. Yet, like Paul, it’s time to “Forget what is behind and reach toward what is ahead” (Philippians 3:13).
Visitation still works.
To avoid going back to an empty house, I’m visiting church members in the evening. Here, I’m in my element. People have been so receptive. There’s nothing like dialoging with folks on their home turf. Makes me wonder why I haven’t been doing this more often. Don’t let familiarity breed contempt.
Spiritual warfare is real.
God paved the way and is happy that we made this move. Satan, on the other hand, is furious. We’ve seen him and his henchmen at work already, seeking to thwart what the Lord is already bringing about. Thankfully, “Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
The battle belongs to the Lord.
Selling a house, renting a house, buying a house, learning the names of hundreds of new people and getting established in a new community are overwhelming—yet no one wants me to succeed more than God does. He called me here. If I follow His lead, He’ll make sure it works.
Love is the key.
Evangelism is lacking. Discipleship is necessary. Yet, love reigns supreme. “God is love. By this all men will know that we are His disciples, if we love one another” (1 John 4:8, John 13:35). Drawing crowds is nice, yet I’m going to focus more on building a church in my remaining years. That said, it must be built on a foundation of love.
Change is difficult, harder the older you get and the longer you’ve served at a place. But God is faithful, teaching valuable lessons and providing bountiful blessings in the process.