By L&T Columnist Gary Damron
Springtime for some reason seems to be the preferred season for change. Many groups right now are going through a transition of leadership.
Principals and superintendents resign their post for new assignments, and many job transfers occur around this time.
In some denominations this is the prescribed schedule for moving pastors, and even though there’s excitement with newness, individuals and organizations go through separation challenges.
We stayed at one church for twenty-one years, and when we left, there were no doubt feelings of abandonment on their part as well as loss and loneliness on ours.
Emotions rarely come in neat packages, no one’s experiences are the same, and sometimes we’re left simply in survival mode. Not unlike after the loss of a loved one, in a leadership change, it’s helpful to understand the stages of grief as each person in the process works through feelings of upheaval.
Anger may arise, either at another person, or even toward God, for allowing the loss. Blame toward others, or guilt at one’s own shortcomings or “what if’s”, is often a possibility. Depression or withdrawal from hurtful situations is normal and even necessary, but eventually gives way to acceptance of what has happened: Life will not be the same. The person who left will not be replaced, but new connections will be formed and often the new leader brings a fresh approach.
During times of disruption, we’re not left to our own devices but have friends, family and Scriptures to help stabilize us.
As Jesus prepared to leave his disciples, he spoke at length about what was to transpire and gave guidance, comfort and strong exhortation. “’My children, I will be with you only a little longer. … Where I am going, you cannot come. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another’” (John 13:33).
In the next chapter, Jesus promised, “’I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever. … I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you’” (John 14:16, 18). Any group which has been totally dependent on its leader will never be successful. But a church founded on the Rock of faith in Jesus can survive any groundswell and remain strong.
People in organizations sometimes don’t live closely enough in order to avoid interpersonal conflicts. I may get along fine with folks in a group because relationships there are superficial. But to follow the command regarding the people who know me well, I need love that only the Spirit of Christ can bring.
“’My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you’” (John 15:12), they were told, and then soon he demonstrated what he meant by laying down his life for them.
Jesus further explained, “’It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you’” (John 16:7).
With the help of the living Christ, anyone can emerge with love and confidence from any circumstance of change and disarray.