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God’s call: the anchor for pastors changing churches

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Grief can be a real issue for ministers who follow God’s call from one church to another, said a pastor during a retreat for pastors and their wives at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
But: “God’s call on our life is the anchor that will hold us in times of storm or in times of transition,” said Carroll Marr, who moved from Louisiana to Texas last November to become pastor of Southcliff Baptist Church in Fort Worth after an eight-year pastorate at Zoar Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.
Speaking at a Renaissance II retreat for pastors and their wives at the seminary Feb. 1-3, Marr related how he and his family are still grieving over the people they left behind in Baton Rouge while trying to adjust to life and ministry in Fort Worth. He warned the couples Satan is aware that transitions make people vulnerable and uses the time to attack marriages, children and churches.
Using the life of Moses as a model, Marr gave the following advice for people in transition:
— Realize the grieving process is not quick or linear.
Marr said the process isn’t always as fast as people would like and sometimes steps are repeated several times and out of sequence.
He said he and his family are still in transition from their move to Fort Worth, but knowing they are following God’s call makes the transition easier.
“God’s call is a reminder that he won’t abandon us,” Marr said. “God doesn’t call us to a new place to leave us.”
— Remember the past for the right reason.
“Look back only to establish your bearing. Don’t look back and dwell there,” he cautioned, adding dwelling in the past will lead to bitterness.
— Don’t look for a burning bush for every call from God.
“There’s only one burning bush experience,” Marr said, recalling expectations that
God would confirm the call to Southcliff the same way he had before.
By using different methods, Marr said, God was communicating in the best way for who Marr was at the time, not who he had been eight years ago.
— Understand that God’s call is bigger than you.
“Transitions are never comfortable, but they are necessary,” Marr said. He said that the minister should realize the call involves family and churches and is “a bigger picture” than one’s personal desire.
— Accept that God’s call doesn’t always make sense.
Marr said he wasn’t interested in moving to Southcliff the first time he was approached. He and his family were comfortable in Louisiana, Marr’s home state, at a church running more than 1,000 and growing. Their children were in strong children and youth ministries and good schools. And they had just remodeled their home.
A year later, Southcliff called back, and the move happened in November of their oldest son’s sophomore year, outside the “window of opportunity” Marr and his wife had given to God if he wanted to move them.
“I had to recognize that God was up to something,” he said. “I needed to be open to that.”
— Face the fact that life will go on in the place you left.
From the numerous e-mail messages he receives from the Baton Rouge church, Marr realized “they’re not grieving my loss.” Jokingly he added, “It would have been all right if they would have suffered just a little bit or if they would have missed me just a little bit.”
— Don’t try to live on yesterday’s manna.
“In times of transition more than any other, we need a fresh call from God,” Marr said.
At Southcliff, Marr knew he could fall back on sermons he had preached at Baton Rouge. But he recognized that these were different people in a different time who needed a word especially for them.
— Surround yourself with others who will lead with you.
“You can’t lead alone,” Marr said.
— When people are ready to lead, let them go.
Marr recounted all the reasons he wanted to stay in Baton Rouge, and then gave the two reasons God gave him to go: the church no longer needed him and God had another pastor prepared to lead them.
Renaissance II was sponsored by Southwestern’s Center for Ministry Empowerment, a service of the Hultgren Chair of Pastoral Care, currently occupied by professor C.W. Brister.

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  • Matt Sanders