For over seven years I learned under a great senior pastor. He gave me opportunities to preach, lead, make hospital visits, and lead committees. After 22 years of leading First Baptist New Orleans, he retired. The man who was not only my boss but my pastor was gone.
I remember vividly, the first day after he left.
Our church had quite a few people in the hospital that day, so I awoke that morning knowing that I would spend a good portion of my morning making visits. That evening the deacons had their first meeting without David Crosby as their pastor. The hospital visits and the deacons meeting were fine.
That first day without my boss, pastor, and friend was very much business as usual.
We have been without a pastor for 15 months now and it has been a growth opportunity for me. I have been the primary preacher at our church--the one people view as “their pastor” without technically being the pastor.
I have embraced this opportunity to lead our church even though I am not the senior pastor. I have seen the love and respect that church members have for their pastor. I have also seen the strong personalities and opinions that church members can have about decisions that pastors make. I have learned that being a pastor is hard but rewarding.
More importantly though…
Our church has continued to love one another, serve the vulnerable in our community, and welcome new people with open arms. The church is not simply the building or the personality of the person preaching every week. The church is comprised of the greeters who show up early to put worship guides out in the sanctuary, the faithful small group leader who diligently prepares their lesson each week, and the people who mop up the floor after baptism.
The church is the people of God making a difference for the kingdom of God.
I miss my pastor and friend, but his retirement was the opportunity that he had been preparing me for since he began investing in me.
He did not teach me how to lead under the authority of a pastor. He taught me how to be a pastor. Therefore, when he did retire, I was prepared for the various tasks and challenges that came my way.
He taught me how to lead without a leader.
All ministers need to remember that we are not called to work with a certain personality, a certain church, or in a certain part of the world. We are called to serve the church of Jesus Christ according to the plan that he has for us.
Let us not be the ones who put conditions on how Jesus can use us. Let us instead be obedient and willing to submit to his leadership, no matter how hard or uncomfortable it makes us.
That is what I learned that from my pastor.
Taylor Rutland, PhD is an NOBTS grad, the currently transitioning from the associate teaching pastor at First Baptist New Orleans to the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church of Dothan, AL