It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye
On May 2014, as a recent graduate of ACU’s Master of Divinity program, I felt like a spiritual orphan without a church home. After three years of studying missional theology, my heart was broken towards the Christian church as a result of her not being all that she needed to be for God and the world. Knowing that this was not a healthy perspective to have toward the same entity that taught me about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and life, I knew that I needed to step back into the Christian church to be a part of her again and to find a renewed appreciation and love for her. At the recommendation of one of my collegiate mentors, I metaphorically knocked on the doors of the Oak Gardens church, inquiring about employment opportunities. On August 11, 2014, I started working as the spiritual formation pastor for the Oak Gardens church under the leadership of the founder and senior pastor Dr. Paul Day and the executive director Jackie Medlin. For three years, we, along with a super team of staff members and a dynamic deacon board, elevated the spiritual culture of Oak Gardens. We led the church in revising the atmosphere of our worship services by creating a casual, come as you are environment for individuals of all walks of life to feel safe to worship God in ways that are authentic to them. We established small group ministries that grew from three to 15 small group leaders. We led the church in adding an instrumental worship service on Sundays, which was historic for the African American churches of Christ. With these monumental experiences along with others, the cohesiveness of the staff and leadership was like the 1992 USA Basketball "Dream" team. We were inseparable, harmonious, and a force to be reckoned with. Everything was going well, until I felt something happening in my spirit.
As much as Oak Gardens provided spiritual healing and mediated reconciliation between me and the universal Christian church, during the summer of 2016, I began to feel the need to begin working on transitioning out of the spiritual formation position. I wrestled with this feeling because everything was going well and it didn’t make sense for me to leave, especially when we were thriving as the momentum was high. Nonetheless, I had to realize who I was becoming and take the necessary steps to transition out of the position so I and Oak Gardens could continue to grow.
As much as I was enjoying the ride as the spiritual formation pastor, I knew that I was not called or wired to remain as the spiritual formation pastor for a protracted amount of time. Since I was 16 years old, I’ve always envisioned myself being a preacher. Therefore working under the leadership of Pastor Day coincided with that vision. However, the vision changed as my perspective on the gospel and the mission of God expanded. I transitioned from being a preacher/pastor of an institutional church to becoming a leader who would establish house/neighborhood churches. Therefore, being an institutional pastor, though it was necessary for a season, was not a part of the overall agenda God had for my life. Holding on to the spiritual formation position even though God has something else in store for me would only delay the move of God happening in my life and the lives of others.
Work on Transitioning
Though you may have made up in your mind that it is time for you to move on from the position you currently hold, as much as you can help it, you must prepare your organization or church for your transition. Prior to leaving your position, you want to do your best with putting systems in place that will continue the work that you started or managed. Consider creating a transition manual that provides details that will answer the "how to"s of every ministry/initiative you were involved in. When thinking about transitioning, the list can become endless. Therefore, as a general rule, imagine what will happen with your initiatives after you have left. What was it about you that kept certain initiatives thriving? How can you duplicate what was within you in order for the initiatives to continue to thrive and even excel? Perhaps, taking a few days off and having one of your lay leaders document their observations of what occurred during your absence can provide constructive feedback as to what you need to put in place before your departure. Lastly, after your departure, go back to the place of employment or position and notice if your initiatives have crumbled or if they are still thriving. Allow whatever you’ve noticed to be lessons you can add to your leadership toolkit for the next time you are led to transition out of another position.
When it was all said and done, on Sunday, June 18, 2017, I said goodbye to the position that fostered an opportunity for me to exercise my ministerial ideas. I said goodbye to the position that provided healing towards the universal church by allowing me to work through my disappointments. I said goodbye to the position that pointed out my arrogance and flaws. I said goodbye because it was time to say goodbye. Sometimes God would position us in what we deemed to be the perfect situation for our lives for just a season. Do we trust God enough to fill in the void when we say goodbye to the places and people with whom we desire to spend additional time?
It is hard to say goodbye. When you say goodbye, you open yourself up for the next opportunity God has already prepared for you. When you say goodbye, you leave the space available for God to send the next person that he has prepared to occupy the position. May we love God, the church/organization and ourselves enough to say goodbye when God says it’s time.