As relational as we are, this one is probably going to hurt a little. Get this: Everything this side of eternity is temporal. Even relationships. Sure, we get that on some level, but then we are absolutely shocked when it affects us.
Church-planter, you need to hear this early on in your goal to see God do a work through your life. Workers, core team players, essential members, dedicated assistants, the list goes on - we have them for a limited time.
Everyone will experience it - at some point people depart. The experience need not be debilitating, when you consider two compelling thoughts.
1) Since there are many factors that can occur, longterm tenure is unlikely.
Here are a few reasons:
- Economic issues: Businesses transition and opportunities will be presented in other locations.
- Health restrictions: A particular season of life necessitates focussing all available energy on physical health issues.
- Spiritual growth: We can bring people only so far. Additional growth may require additional coaches outside our skillset.
- Disagreements: Doctrinal, philosophical or strategic disagreements mean that continued partnership is unrealistic.
- Failure: Moral, ethical, chemistry among co-workers, wrong skillset for the assignment - all these point to dismissal, not patient rehabilitation. Reestablishing a child of God is a ministry task, but should not be confused with holding a ministry role.
- Loyalty: In a post-modern, pragmatic driven worldview, people will not necessarily remain longterm simply due to the fact that you have invested heavily into their lives. You have an opportunity to minister the love of Christ - do so without strings attached. Being committed to Christ does not mean that people will remain committed to you.
- Temptation: Some will become distracted with secondary preoccupations.
- Generational needs: A younger demographic will be much more mobile than those that have established deep roots. Opportunities arise, a desire for something fresh, financial doors open as a person scales the ladder of success.
Some people transition and it is a healthy thing: Paul and Barnabas departed from Antioch because God called them to do so. Some people will transition and health is not the driving factor. It will happen. It will hurt. And you will have to deal with it. Somehow.
2) As a steward of Christ, take your cues from Him.
- Invest in others for as long as you have them. Fight the urge to use people. No one deserves that. Add value to their lives; it is the right thing to do.
- Focus on the goal. There will be soldiers that fall in any battle, but the hill must be taken. It comes with great sadness, but we still take commands from our commander, Christ.
- Guard against withdrawing emotionally. Fight the temptation to pull back from future relationships.
- Bless those departing: This is not about granting undeserved accolades, it is all about keeping your heart free from bitterness.
- Do not receive your self-worth from anything or anyone other than Jesus. It is never about outward success, but your total devotion to Jesus. Even when a Judas has hurt you.
Allow for transition. Keep the door open for others to return. Remain the example of graciousness, even when your heart breaks. This is where others will learn not to be vengeful, by your example.