Changing While Staying the Same
Bambi is our family Facebooker. Through this online social network, she reconnects with long lost friends in surprising and wonderful ways.
As news of our upcoming move to North Carolina ripples through Bambi's ever-widening circle of Facebook "friends," more and more people pop up on her Facebook page, saying, "Hey. Remember me?! I knew you and ‘Bobby' (that's me!) when . . ." From time to time, Bambi calls me over to her computer screen and points to the photo of someone arising from the murky mists of memory. As I peer over her shoulder at the image of someone I haven't seen in years, the strangest thing happens: I recognize him or her!
Usually, there is more fullness in the face and often, graying hair. And if the picture is full-length, there is sometimes considerably more girth on the person's frame . Nonetheless, despite marked changes in virtually every facet of the person's appearance, he is still undeniably him and she, undeniably her!
In aging, an essential identity is maintained amid profound changes in appearance that sooner or later assail us all. As the New Testament says it, "Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16).
The same constancy is true of churches, even those faced with a change as unsettling as the departure of a long-tenured pastor. When a pastor leaves, the most public "face" of the church may change, but the church's heart, the church's core identity remains intact. That heart, that core identity is not vested in the pastor, at least not in a church as mature and fully-formed as our own. That core identity rests in the corporate memory and practice of a people, namely, God's people at the top of Poplar who are the First Baptist Church of Christ at Macon. As one dear First Baptist saint said of a former pastor's departure, "They go but We stay."
The "We who stay" holds the church's essence, her spiritual DNA, the church's intuitive sense of who she is. Thus, the search for a new pastor is not about finding someone to tell us who we are but to celebrate who we are and to grow with us, into who God yet wants us to be.
Long after I am gone and the next pastor is gone and the one after that, the First Baptist Church of Christ will surely appear different in some ways. But I hope and believe her generous, open spirit, passion for Baptist freedom, and mission heart will remain. That's who FBCX has been through her first 29 pastors and by God's grace, that's who she will always be.
Just remember, dear brothers and sisters: You are the magic that makes this possible. Because "They go but We stay.