She looked sad. Vulnerable. While others departed worship, after the post-sermon handshakes and “Good message, Pastor” comments, she lingered. After a few moments, we were alone near the entry to the sanctuary.
Like others, she offered nice, neutral words about my sermon, and then she asked—
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This was my second or third Sunday at a new church. What I already suspected, and what was confirmed as my beard grayed and my accumulated sermons eventually numbered in the thousands, is that everyone in a new congregation appears similar during the initial Sunday encounters. As a new pastor, you can’t tell who will be supportive or critical. You don’t yet know the quiet person who shares healing responses when a committee fights over a divisive mission project. You don’t yet know why a woman often cries in the back pew, why a family is always late to worship, or why a man sneaks a single rose in a vase on the table in the narthex. You don’t know the gossips, peacemakers, hotheads, or dreamers. Continue reading →