Stepping Out of Comfort Zones

By Pastor Greg Berger, Assistant to the Bishop 

Transitions are all about living life as a journey with God, ready to go where God leads, trusting the changes are for the good of God’s Kingdom and good for your own faith life.

For the last 22 years, I served as pastor to God’s people at Messiah Lutheran Church in Ralston. We were family, lives intertwined. Relationships grounded in God’s love that anchored our love for one another. It wasn’t perfect. We drove each other crazy at times and could get on one another’s nerves. But there was never a doubt that it was love for Jesus and his call to love one another that kept us committed to caring for, supporting and encouraging one another. As much as I was there for them as their pastor, walking through their joys and sorrows, they were also their for us. They helped us raise two fine young men from grade school to marriage and even baptisms of grandchildren. They were our extended family, wrapping us in compassion through the deaths of four parents and two siblings.

All of that is to say we’ve been through a lot together as we walked God’s path! This could have easily been my last call until retirement. But God had different plans for our future!

When I was nominated for Bishop, a large part of my discernment to let my name go forward and through the election process was seeing a call to the greater church, offering my experience and wisdom beyond one congregation to others. That discernment continued when Bishop Scott was elected. I still had the sense that there was an opportunity for serving the wider church. So, I was excited to say yes when Bishop Scott asked me to join his staff.

As with any transition however, there have been challenges. For Kim and me, leaving the roles of a congregational pastor and spouse for over 30 years, means new roles that we are still defining. How do we navigate relationships – and friendships — formed over 22 years with people of Messiah? Where and how do we find a new church home? What is Kim’s new role in a congregation where I’m not the pastor and not even a “regular attender”? We trust God, through family and friends, to lead us!

But even with the challenges, so far this has been an amazing new road to travel! I wasn’t sure how the people at Messiah would respond, but they get it. They also saw this as a way God would use my gifts for the sake of the Church so they sent me forth with all the support and love they had always given us. And while the Synod staff has had its own transitions – continued roles, different roles, leave taking and new colleagues — it has been a staff that has never missed a beat in expressing hospitality, grace, and encouragement with one another. As I meet and talk with leaders and congregations, I am encouraged by the openness to God’s leading in these uncertain times.

With God’s invitation into new roles or circumstances comes the challenges of being out of our comfort zones. But that is when we hear God say, “Trust me. I’ve got this and I’ve got you – always — in the palm of my hand.”