Someone from the church asked me the other day how my studies are going. My defense is coming up in March, and if that goes well I’ll be graduating in May. “I guess you’ll be leaving us for greener pastures then,” she said. Her statement sure made me think. I’ve talked a lot about Christ’s command to love each other recently. Our models of pastoring may not be consistent with the type of community we preach about. I’ve found it funny as I look at myself that, as pastor, I am sometimes hurt and offended when others leave the church, sometimes rightfully so. Sometimes, when people leave, it’s because of a failure to love. When pastors leave the church, however, it’s “God’s will” and “God’s calling.” I found myself wanting to leave a few times last year, but not for the right reasons. I wanted to run away from some of the pain of being in community and being disappointed. Times of pain are often the very best times to stay in community. I did stay last year, and I’m glad. If I left, I would have missed seeing how God works through the pain. Pain is inevitable when you are in community as a broken person among other broken people, but God often works through the pain and the mess in ways you could never have imagined. Maybe we need to learn to stick with it a bit longer as we work through the disillusionment and pain of being in community, bearing with and forgiving each other. These acts embody and express the gospel in community. We fail to act as God’s people when it’s tough and we respond by leaving, rather than by offering forgiveness, grace, and mercy, just as God offered to us. It’s easy to preach this to a congregation, because it is something we all need to learn. But maybe nobody needs to learn this more than pastors, especially when things get tough or a better opportunity comes along. That could be the price that pastors have to pay if we are going to experience, not just talk about, real community.