A Pastor Quits. Who's to Blame?

One Sunday he was there, the next Sunday he wasn’t. It came as such a surprise to me. I did not know him well but I loved his preaching and had learned and grown so much in the short time he had led our church. After he was gone I was left wondering what had happened. I was only 17, and like most of the other young people blamed the older people for the young pastor’s departure. I could not point to any specific person or group but I had heard things and it made sense that the old guard was to blame. Most of us young people did not know any of the leaders well enough to ask for an explanation but we were convinced that there was something seriously wrong with the church. Over time most of us moved on.

Those difficult days come back to my mind whenever I hear of a pastor resigning his position. Thoughts of that time returned this week when the pastor of my current church announced he was leaving after only 3 years in the position. He is dynamic and gifted and is loved by many. It is difficult to make sense of his decision. After the news came out the responses I have heard in conversations and have read on social media echo the feelings of those of me and my friends 35 years ago. People are convinced that something has gone seriously wrong and that they are not being told the whole story. A common theme is that someone needs to be held accountable, that either the pastor, the elders or maybe some of the old people, must be to blame.

This is the natural response when something bad happens. We want an explanation, want to know who to blame and to know how we can make things right or punish those who are at fault. This desire is natural but it is not biblical.

Jesus addressed the natural desire to assign blame for tragedy and loss in His interaction with His disciples in John 9. They had come across a man who had been born blind, a man who as a result was condemned to poverty and social isolation. His was a very bad life. When confronted with the man’s plight the disciple’s instinct was to try and assign blame. They asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus’ surprisingly answered that it was neither, but that the man was born blind so “The works of God might be displayed in him.” Jesus did not say that the man and his parents had never sinned or done anything wrong, like all men they were sinners. Jesus did make it clear that their sins had nothing to do with the blind man’s terrible circumstances. No one was to blame. God allowed tragedy so that He could do something wonderful.

The blind man’s story seems especially relevant this week. Something bad seems to have happened at our church and things seem wrong. People wonder, “Who sinned?” and seek to assign blame. But what if there is no blame to be had? What if no one’s sin is the cause? What if God has a plan? We see something terrible, but we could be overlooking the truth that God is working in a way that will result in His glory.

As the church moves on in the coming months it is my prayer that we will avoid the trap that befell the disciples. I sincerely hope that instead of trying to assign blame we will choose to hold on to the truth that God is working, even in difficult circumstances.

It is what He does!

-          Bart

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