26th September 2022

‘Every change of pastors in a congregation is bound up with all sorts of human emotions. How is it going to be with the new pastor? Will things feel the same with him?

‘A change of pastors is a situation in which we get stuck in our very personal feelings, but we should be encouraged to see something larger, which does not concern persons at all, neither the old one or the new one, but rather concerns the mission that is entrusted to both of them, no matter who they are . . . The one important matter between you and your pastor, wherever we meet, whether in serious or joyful moments, is always Christ. So then we are ambassadors for Christ . . . That means we do not work under our own authority. We do not send ourselves on mission . . . it is Christ who gives us the mission of delivering his message . . . Not our word, but God’s Word: yet even so, God’s Word speaking through ours.

‘But, we ask, what human being can do this? . . . Who can carry this burden without breaking down under it? . . . Many a pastor has failed because he wanted to carry his congregation, but the congregation did not carry him. A congregation that does not pray for the ministry of its pastor is no longer a congregation. A pastor who does not pray daily for his congregation is no longer a pastor.’

From the sermon (on 2 Corinthians 5:20) that Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached on arrival as pastor of the German congregation at Sydenham in 1933.

Keith Clements