Column: "One Layman's Outlook": Of pastoral change and comings and goings

Monday, November 24, 2003

by Larry Elkins

Well, our new pastors started a few weeks ago. Some people came back to church; some left. To borrow a thought from Abraham Lincoln, you can't please all the people all the time.

I've never been through a pastor change before. It seems to bring out different things in different people. Many people in our congregation were saved under our former pastor's ministry. They have never known another pastor and are understandably concerned. Others have been through pastor changes, church splits and other things that pop up whenever humans are involved.

One man told me, "God saved me at this church and He hasn't told me to go anywhere else!"

I like that. It's a plain spoken approach to Christian living. As Jesus told Peter in John 21:22 (King James Version), "what is that to thee? follow thou me." The New International Version says, "you must follow me."

These words ended all the dissention among the disciples, and they should end all ours.

Back in Matthew 4:19 Jesus first called Peter with the words, "Follow me." Now at the other end of the four Gospels (John 21:22) He says, "you must follow me."

It seemed Peter no longer had a choice. He had tried to go back to his old life as a fisherman, but it only reminded him that he had been made a "fisher of men."

Back in his own house, Peter's mother-in-law, who had been healed by Jesus, was a reminder of Mark 16:15-18. He was supposed to be one who would, "lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."

Every time Peter looked at the water from his fishing boat, he would hear the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20, "baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

Each morning when the rooster crowed he recalled Luke 24:46-49, "repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations."

Soon even the clouds in the sky would declare Acts 1:9-11, "And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight ... they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up ... This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner."

Peter's life had been changed by what he had seen and experienced. His spirit was born again by the sacrifice of Jesus. He was not the rough Galilean fisherman who three years before had begged Jesus to "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord." Nor was he the frightened weakling who only a few days before had denied Jesus three times, then ran away crying.

Jesus now tells him, "you must follow me." Did Peter have a choice? Do we?

God never takes away our free will, but He already knows what we will choose. That's the definition of omniscient, all knowing.

I can't tell what God is speaking to any other person. I can't say what that person will do with what God tells them. That is between them and God. All I know is what is between me and God, the "one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."

Ephesians 4:8-11 says, "Wherefore he saith, when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men ... And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers."

So, I welcome our new pastor as a gift which Jesus has given our church. I will submit to him, as the authority that God has placed over our church. I hope to build a strong relationship with him, but if God calls him somewhere else tomorrow, what is that to me, I must follow Jesus.

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Editor's note: Larry Elkins is chief pressman at Carroll County Newspapers and a member of Harvest Assembly at Oak Grove. His new pastors are Leonard and Debbie Hodges.

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