This is now the second Sunday that the Rausch family has been gone. As parents to Sarah and grandparents to those four young children, Ruth and I are going to miss them all greatly. In addition, as a pastor, I am also going to miss them: their attendance, their involvement, and their overall contribution to the work of Burning Hearts. But they serve as a reminder that in church work and life "people come and go."
Indeed, if one were to ask me what lessons I have learned after 36 years of pastoring, that point (that people come and go) would likely be near the top of my list of lessons learned. Back when I first started pastoring, I had the mindset that the only way OUT of the church was that you either move away or we carry you out (meaning, in a casket). It was assumed, in my mind, that everyone in the church was basically committed to staying involved with each other until the day God calls us home. I don't think that way anymore. For I have simply seen too many people come and too many people go to hold on to that as a workable view of what church life should look like.
It was back around the year 2000 that I became heavily involved in the "Regional Church of Lancaster County." This was a fellowship of pastors and church leaders from around Lancaster County that came together once a month and had very serious conversations about how we could minister TOGETHER to evangelize and impact this county for Jesus Christ. As a result of those many meetings I came to have a much bigger view of the church than I had had before. I came to see that while I personally may have had some theological differences with the pastors of a number of those churches, what those pastors and churches were doing was often a very good work. In time I came to see that just as we have various spiritual gifts (teachers, administrators, mercy, helps, etc) WITHIN our individual churches, entire churches could be viewed in the same sort of way. So, while one church may be known for its evangelistic zeal, another church may be where one would want to go to receive a much deeper understanding of God's Word. And still another church might be a church where the healing ministry of the Holy Spirit was and is especially present. Once I began to view the various churches and pastors this way, I began to see why someone might be actively involved in church 'A' for years only to leave church 'A' and then become involved in church 'B'. What's the old line…"Different strokes for different folks"? In much the same way, different churches can be what someone NEEDS at a different time in their spiritual journey. This does not mean I am for people jumping around from church to church. I am not. But it does help me understand, at least in part, why people may "come and go" as they do.
You are never going to totally satisfy everyone. And the same goes for Burning Hearts. So don't take it personally when people come or go. The best is to be true to yourself and true to God. Preach and act as you believe God would have you to preach and act and then let the chips fall where they may. Some may follow and some may leave. That is just the way things are. It has always been that way (see 2 Timothy 4:9-16) and it will continue to always be that way.
By His Grace,