Posted by: gmscan | August 9, 2010

On Losing My Pastor

Pastor Brian Gawf, whom I have mentioned here, announced last week that he is leaving our church. He is taking a new assignment at the First Presbyterian Church of Asheboro, North Carolina.

I have had decidedly mixed emotions about this. Pastor Brian had everything to do with my joining (or re-joining) the church. He is young, smart, and faithful to the Bible. His sermons are intellectually challenging. I have to take notes and reflect on them after wards. I have learned a whole lot in the  short time I have been attending services.

But he is also great with kids. Many Sundays he invites the children up to the front of the church and sits down with them to explain some theological principle in words that they (and we) can understand. You don’t have to be Art Linkletter to know how risky this can be, but Pastor Brian manages it with warmth, humor and love.

Members of the congregation tell me he has also been organizationally solid and helped put the church on a firmer financial footing and reorganized the leadership structure to be more focused and purposeful.

I will miss him a lot. But I have been surprised to discover that I am not really upset. I don’t feel abandoned. In my short time in the church I have already discovered that my faith is not based clinging to any man, but on clinging to Christ. People come and go, but Jesus is forever.

Plus, as valuable as Brian has been to this church, its real strength lies in the congregation, not the pastor. There are families here who have been leading the church for generations. They are wonderfully dedicated Christians who retain a sense of humor about their own faults, and are able to extend that generosity to the flaws of others. We are all imperfect and in need of a whole lot of forgiveness.

Brian’s last Scripture reading was from Galatians 5 – For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word —  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The families in my church are a living embodiment of those words and I am blessed to be surrounded by such people.

Brian Gawf had a lot to do with restoring my faith, as God knew he would. But I am delighted that he will work the same miracle on many more people in North Carolina. Meanwhile I am looking forward to what else God has in store for me and this community.


Speaking of community,  many readers of this blog aren’t very comfortable posting public comments, but they have been e-mailing me with suggestions for further reading. I thought I would share them with you here. I do not have permission to name these correspondents, but many are people I have known and admired for many years.

  • Francis Collins, who led the Human Genome Project and since has become Director of the NIH, wrote The Language of God, wherein he refutes the stereotypes of hostility between science and religion.  In his journey from atheism to Christianity Collins was moved to belief by the arguments of CS Lewis in Mere Christianity.  For all scientists The Language of God is a must read.
  • One book that very much influenced me in college years ago was John Henry Cardinal Newman’s response to Kingley, Apologia Pro Vita Sua 1864.
  • I would like to suggest two books that you may find helpful:  American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation by Jon Meachum, and American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century by Kevin Phillips.
  • An interesting resource is Krista Tippett’s book, Einstein’s God.
  • May I humbly suggest reading The Language of God and The Language of Life by Francis Collins.  Listening to his sermon concerning his background and conversion might be equally as rewarding since C.S. Lewis was instrumental in his own personal journey and you both share an interest in the health care industry.
  • May I mention a recent publication, Already Gone, by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, with Todd Hillard? (Available at with many other great resources.) It relates the overwhelming numbers that fall away due to the disconnect between preaching, scripture, and science. After all, if “real answers” are not to be found in church, why go?
  • I may have missed the complete list of your readings, but in case you haven’t read it, I think you’ll like Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ.  He describes how he came to know and accept Christ through his research as a journalist.
    To pick one book , aside from the Bible, that has been instrumental in my life, I’d have to say J.I Packer’s classic, Knowing God.
  • If you are not already familiar, would suggest My Utmost for His Highest by Osward Chambers.  I think you would like it.


  1. Thanks for sharing. I too have lost my pastor/mentor recently so your thoughts resonate.

    For those seeking to find a His path during these changing times, I highly suggest reading Bob Buford’s book – Halftime. It provides good thoughtful insights on how to get on the Lord’s plan of helping others rater than just doing what you want to do. Getting on His plan is the key to a happy and fulfilling life.

  2. I, too, belong to one of those large international churches — 400 or so in the conference in my part of the state. Thousands of churches worldwide. Shifting pastors is something done regularly. It’s always a time for growth. For all of us.
    Our current pastor started with us about 12 years ago. God’s Mysterious Ways have opened the door for us to form a friendship deeper than most church relationships. He’s on the boards of several community non-profits and has re-vitalized our congregation. His presence behind our capital improvements have made attendance easier for our older members and a joy for our younger members. Our services and events are televised on the local public channel for shut-ins and the unchurched.
    He’ll be rotated out in June. His leaving will have a ripple effect that makes us sometimes wonder if moving around such important people in our lives is wise. Just as I’ve experienced with other pastoral exchanges, some will leave – most will stay. How will I handle this?
    With an accounting background, it is habit for me to “bottom line” things, to cut to the chase, get at the nitty gritty. All I can really control in my life are my attitudes and my actions. How will I think about an event, situation, or circumstance? How I think will determing how I will behave. As I see it, I can choose from two alternatives. I can either accept the change as positive, or not.
    If I accept something outside of my control as God’s Will, then I am working – as I see it – as a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. If I complain and criticize, then I am in effect saying that I know better than God. I am exerting my will, which is my EGO acting up again as if it were in charge.
    EGO = Edging God Out.
    If my self-centeredness dominates my thoughts then I lose sight of my basic Christian business which is, as I see it, to love God and help others. My definition of ‘love’ here is ‘unconditional acceptance.’ Do I truly believe God is perfect or do I just say I do? In other words, whose will needs to change if things don’t go my way?
    As a recovering perfectionist I realize I don’t need to know all the answers. God doesn’t consult with me on the running of the world. I need to have faith that His will is running the show and my job is to trust Him, even though I don’t understand.
    That’s growth for me.
    My faith is a journey, not a destination. Report for duty, not issue orders. So even though I don’t like the fact that our pastor is leaving, I’ll grow to understand that it is the best that could happen. A blessing in disguise.

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