This last Sunday we said goodbye to Pastor Phil at Lewis Center United Methodist Church. We have been attending the church for about five years now, and Pastor Phil has been the associate pastor at the church during that time. The United Methodist Church appoints pastors where their gifts can best be used. In May we found out that Pastor Phil would be going to Etna United Methodist Church at the end of June.
This appointing of pastors and moving them around is hard on churches and the people in them. It is something that I didn’t appreciate as much when I was a pastor. But as someone who sits in the pew, it is really hard to watch someone that you love as a pastor leave and go someplace new. For most people (about 80% of the people in a church), the pastor is the reason they continue to come to a church. If that pastor leaves and they don’t like the new pastor, they are likely to leave the church.
Tom and I made the decision to stay at Lewis Center when the lead pastor, Pastor Tom, retired, even though it was a hard adjustment to Pastor Matt. One of the reasons we stayed was because we enjoyed Pastor Phil so much. He would preach once a month but he also led the Praise Band. We love his preaching, his energy, and his humor. His gifts have been a blessing to the church and to Tom and I.
Lewis Center has lots of young families with young children and teenagers. Pastor Phil and his family fit right in. He has three young girls who everyone loves as well as a wife who is active in the church. When a pastor moves, every member of the family leaves a hole in the church. The love of the church was apparent on Pastor Phil’s last Sunday. As he preached, led the singing, and said goodbye, there were tears in lots of eyes. At the end of the service, the entire praise band was crying.
I know Pastor Phil will be a great leader for the Etna United Methodist Church. Etna is a small town on the edge of Columbus that is poised for growth in the next decade. We are all pleased that he is getting this chance to be a lead pastor. With Pastor Phil at the helm, I’m sure the Etna church will soon be growing and attracting lots of young families.
Goodbye Pastor Phil. Thank you for sharing your gifts with the Lewis Center Church. May you be blessed as you continue your ministry in a new place. And may the Etna Church love you and your family as completely as we do.