Last spring, our church experienced a merge with another local body. Our pastor wasn’t quite ready to retire, but when the suggestion came up, he decided to leave earlier than planned. He wanted to go on a speaking circuit of churches in our area and spend time with his family. The merge made this happen for him.
When the new pastor came in, he brought his staff and members of his church and soon, it did not feel like home. Friends my husband and I had had long term relationships with were jumping ship to find a new place to attend services. We finally made the switch as well, searching for a new place to worship and make new friendships. (It’s been a tough transition, but that’s another story.)
We landing at a mega-church for a while, but soon got lost in the crowd. It was a great place to unwind, but we missed working in the church. We began attending a small church in town, a place where we already had established friendships. But still, it was painful not to be in touch with the folks we’d gone to church with for so long. There is a connection in the spirit, an abiding sense of family, when you go through life and death, good times and bad, with a group of people. Starting over on one hand is exciting, on the other hand daunting, but we continue to find our place in the kingdom in this new season.
So why am I telling you this story?
Last weekend, our retired pastor spoke at the new church we are attending. We put the word out and friends we hadn’t seen for months came to the service. It was old home week, except now we had new friends joining in the mix. Our new pastor had no reservations at having this retired pastor share with his church, no jealousy that some of the folks at the service would not be back again, as they have found different houses of worship. He was just happy to see all of us happy, hugging and catching up. That spoke volumes about his character.
My point is, friendships are important. Whether we see special people every Sunday or just a few times every month, the memories we’ve created cannot be taken away. We have new adventures to look forward to, just not on a regular basis. We need to work harder to maintain those old friendships, but they’re worth it. And as for new friends? It’s fun getting to know these people. I’m seeing how God uses different people to fulfill His purpose, finding new co-laborers to do God’s work here in His kingdom. The amazing thing is that old or new, we all work together.
So while leaving my old church was tough, it has shown me how important it is to keep in touch with my old friends, and how awesome it is to find new folks to work with and make a difference with on this earth.
God always has a plan, even if it takes a while to understand. I’ve learned to walk hand-in-hand with folks I might never have had an opportunity to meet if we hadn’t looked for a new church, while knowing my old friends are there if I need them. God has spread us all around. To touch lives? Maybe. To advance the kingdom? Definitely. These friendships are developed by our shared love for God and will only grow stronger with time.
So hug the friends you’ve known and cherished forever and enjoy and value the new friends you’re going to make. They all enhance our lives.
Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA TODAY bestselling author of fourteen novels. She is currently working on new stories for Harlequin Heartwarming, The Business of Weddings series, as well as books in a new series, Amish Inn Mysteries. Look for The Wedding March, a March 2017 Heartwarming release. Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books