The Grief of Transition

On Thursday, March 5, I met with the elders of Oasis Church to tell them I was transitioning away as Lead Pastor. It was an announcement I dreaded. Why would I dread it? God made it clear to me that He called me to dedicate this next season to being an interim/transitional pastor or worship leader. God and I had wrestled it out for a few months. So why would I grieve this transition?

Transition is never easy. Oasis Church was the community of faith I had been seeking for many years. The people were real. It was an atmosphere that lacked pretense, and they gave me liberty I had experienced in no other established church. Had I stayed a little less than a month after my final Sunday, I would have celebrated 2 years there. Some would say, “Matthew, you chose to leave, so it would stand to reason that you couldn’t wait to leave.” That would be a complete and total assumption. Because I loved these people deeply and the people reciprocated that love, it was one of the hardest decisions of my life. It was a transition I grieved.

The grief was definitely on multiple levels. Initially, it was a grief of what didn’t happen under my leadership. I couldn’t understand why God didn’t allow me to see much growth there. I felt like a failure as a leader. Most would assume you’re a sorry excuse for a pastor if more and more people aren’t pouring in at least on a monthly basis. As I asked God why we weren’t seeing numerical growth, He made it clear that I was just getting them ready for their next pastor. I had no idea their next pastor was going to come through a merge. Truthfully, I’m excited for them because the larger church is one I would have handpicked for them had I had any say in the decision.

As in any transition, I will grieve a little while. With the exception of a small group of people, I left on a great note with the vast majority of Oasis Church. I knew I would miss them when I made the announcement. My wife became very attached, as did my kids. Some of my kids only remember this congregation. I know, in time, God will allow some good strong connections to be built where I am. I’m only going into my fourth week, so it will take a while.

John Fawcett penned these hymn lyrics that best describe the pain of transition. I think he says it best:

Blest be the tie that binds
our hearts in Christian love;
the fellowship of kindred minds
is like to that above.

Before our Father’s throne
we pour our ardent prayers;
our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
our comforts and our cares.

We share our mutual woes,
our mutual burdens bear,
and often for each other flows
the sympathizing tear.

When we are called to part,
it gives us inward pain;
but we shall still be joined in heart,
and hope to meet again.

This glorious hope revives
our courage by the way;
while each in expectation lives
and waits to see the day.

From sorrow, toil, and pain,
and sin, we shall be free;
and perfect love and friendship reign
through all eternity.

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