There is a saying that goes, “Life is full of changes. Sometimes they are painful, other times they are beautiful, but most of the time they are both.“ A church always goes through changes: the arrival of a new member, another member’s transfer, children who grow and begin to participate in different ministries of the church. Considering the dynamics of the Lord’s work, it is common to go through changes. However, nothing mobilizes the church as much as a pastor’s transfer and another pastor’s arrival. Truly, this is a painful moment that may become pleasurable and sublime. But how?

In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, we find an excellent advice: “And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves“ (1 Thes. 5:12, 13). The apostle’s brief advice has two practical aspects that could help us to face changes in a better way.


As a pastor, Paul understood the importance of being accepted and respected. In his ministry, he noticed that it was impossible to be in contact with people without allowing them to be part of his life. He also understood that this relationship would not always exist in close proximity; there would be a farewell moment for one minister and a welcome moment for the new minister. As an evangelist, he understood the church’s need for different pastors with their own characteristics, to occupy, with their gifts, the different branches of the Lord’s work while heartily accepting their members.

That is exactly why he talks about acceptance. Acceptance is an attitude that refers to experimenting with a new situation without pretending to change it, recognizing that, by agreeing with the new reality, he is contributing to his spiritual and emotional growth. Acceptance is contrasted with resistance. Resistance generates discomfort and, if lengthened, may harm the church’s purpose in fulfilling its mission of worshiping God and evangelizing the unreached.


The apostle does not disconnect, at any moment, this relationship from love. When he talks about acceptance, acceptance “with appreciation“ prevails, meaning that it is not given by imposition or obligation but with an attitude motivated by Christian love. He who belongs to Christ should never react with contempt. We should never forget that on a different occasion, Paul said that even if our actions are perfect from a human perspective, if there is no love, we will be nothing. Love should be the central element in our lives, for it leads us to true worship and unity. “We are to be distinguished from the world because God has placed His seal upon us, because He manifests in us His own character of love.“1

Because the elder’s family is recognized as a spiritual and religious example in the local church, your attitude of respect may be a channel to facilitate this process of acceptance. One of the good memories I have from childhood is from my church’s leadership. They always received new pastors with warmth, and part of the merit went to the first elder’s family, particularly to his wife. She was always willing to help in the church services. There was a special touch in everything she led. She knew very well how the church worked, she related well to all members of the church, and her home was a pleasant place. However, what impressed me the most was her special way of welcoming new church pastors.

Before the pastor was presented in church, she tried to get more information about his family. She always offered a meal at her home after the Sabbath service, and from the new pastor’s very first day at the church, she provided a friendly environment. Because the first elder and his wife were much respected in the community, this warm reception helped with the church’s acceptance of the new pastor’s family. The other members felt secure and also helped the new leader when dealing with areas of greater need in the church.

This does not mean we should forget others who have passed through our lives and left memories. Saint-Exupéry wrote in The Little Prince, “You become eternally responsible for those you captivate.“ Church members rarely forget the pastor who was with them for a certain period of time, taking care of them, guiding, exhorting, and leading them to a deeper and more meaningful Christian experience. Love-prints remain. The pastor also keeps in his heart an appreciation for the church and the memory of friendships he had there. After all, at each church he leads, he becomes a part of everyone’s spiritual and emotional growth. Ministerial ties make narrower the shepherd/sheep relationship, so this is another reason to welcome with love and dedication those who are sent as God’s ministers.

As God’s cooperators, the elder’s family has an important role during this time of transition. They ensure that the change of pastors (which might sometimes be painful) is an enriching experience and that there is acceptance and unity from the church. If the attitude is one of respect and comprehension, the response will certainly be positive and will be imitated. Let us not forget that it is the time we spend with someone that makes him or her so important, and that the more we love people indistinctively, the more our lives will be full of God’s light.

1 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, 37.

Jorgeana Longo is a teacher and pastor’s wife in the South Parana Conference, Brazil.