Installation is such a funny word to describe what happened to me this past weekend. Maybe that’s why people used every word imaginable: coronation, inauguration, commemoration, ordination, indignation… (just kidding about the last one).
Though I have been functioning in the lead pastor role for a few months now, there was something so powerful and beautiful about the Church gathered to witness the goodness of God over my life. I say “the Church” with a capital ‘C’ because there were pastors, church leaders, and congregants from all over the region together to support and encourage what God has done.
I wanted to share a few highlight moments that stood out to me from this weekend.
- The elders’ charges. I was deeply moved by the gravity of all that they were calling me to, yet I did not feel burdened by it. Their love and concern for me and the flock were evident in the things that they charged me with. Devotion to the Word. Shepherding and caring for the flock. Preaching the Gospel to the lost. Praying continually. Caring for my family. These are things I would expect of anyone who is a Christ follower, but I understand how important it is that I stay focused on these things for the sake of the church. I felt their authority, and I sensed God’s good grace.
- Mark Norman’s baton. I thought I was going to make it through the service. I really did. During the first two songs, I was overcome with emotion thinking about God’s good favor in my life. It’s more than I deserve. Once I got through that, I thought I’d be ok…until I saw that man’s face. His humility, gentleness, and my great esteem for him brought all my tears to overflowing. It was a mixture of missing him, thankfulness that he would entrust this sacred group of people to me, and awe over the work of God. I’m looking at the baton as I write this, and I’m overwhelmed again.
- Praying together as a church. I look back on the pictures of the gathered church with hands extended, and I am so grateful to be a part of the body. God knew what he was doing when he knit us together. He knew that no one of us were sufficient to make Christ known on our own. He put us in community – locally and universally – for the sake of experiencing the power of what it means to have Christ in common. When we exploded in singing the anthem, “Be Thou My Vision,” I was undone.
- The Intergenerational Gathering. You may or may not know, but Sarah and I grew up at Korean Immigrant Church in Silver Spring. There were about 50 folks who came to support this moment in Grace’s history. Many of them had aged to just barely being recognizable to me. When my uncle from Korea prayed, his words connected the dots for me. He prayed something like, “Lord, you opened the doors of this country to immigrants many years ago, and now it is an opportunity to return the blessing – to prepare this church for the second coming of Christ.” Wow. I realized then and there that there is so much more going on in the greater story of history and time than any of us realize. The generations and the nations gathering together at Grace. What will God do?
I could go into lots more details and anecdotes about the weekend, but I’ll leave you with this. Several people congratulated me that evening saying, “we’re behind you.” While I am grateful for the sentiment of support, as I thought about that imagery, I realized that it’s not the most accurate. As God has called me to lead, I believe that God is calling me to lead in a contrary way to the usual picture of leader-follower. Henri Nouwen captures what truly excites me about our road ahead.
Jesus sends us out to be shepherds, and Jesus promises a life in which we increasingly have to stretch out our hands and be led to places where we would rather not go. He asks us to move from a concern for relevance to a life of prayer, from worries about popularity to communal and mutual ministry, and from a leadership built on power to a leadership in which we critically discern where God is leading us and our people.
I’m so proud to be a pastor at Grace Community Church, and I’m even more humbled as I rely on God’s grace to be the kind of pastor this church deserves.