Things are changing

Published 9:21 am Saturday, May 17, 2014

by Brandon Robbins

Nobody likes transition. Sometimes we can make the best of it. Sometimes we can deal with it. But no one truly likes it.

Transition is messy. It’s grating. It turns our lives upside down and forces us to put the pieces back together again in a totally different order.

For Paul, one of the first pastors in the years immediately following Jesus’ resurrection, however, life is nothing but transitions. These days, Paul would be called a church planter. His job was to go from city to city, starting churches from nothing.

Paul didn’t live in a world where everyone knew about Christianity and people were looking for a new church. He lived in a world where only a handful of people even knew what a church is. Almost no one had ever even heard of Jesus. And his job was to go into cities, convince people to follow Jesus, form them into a sustainable group, and then move on to the next city to repeat the process all over again. His life was a never-ending cycle of transitions.

Over time, Paul seemed to get used to this lifestyle. While he made close friends and formed deep relationships in these cities, he knew that God’s plan for his life was to continue traveling and planting. The people in the churches he started, however, did not necessarily agree.

As in any church, the people in Paul’s churches grew attached to their pastor. Their lives had been radically changed when he introduced them to Jesus. They didn’t know how they were going to continue in their faith without Paul to lead them. So at one point, in order to address the spiritual concerns of one of his former churches, Paul wrote this in a letter: “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare” (Philippians 2:19-20).

In other words, what Paul is telling this church is that he is sending them a new pastor. God has called him elsewhere, but he is still concerned for this church. He loves them dearly, and as a result, is sending them the best pastor he knows to lead them.

That is what I believe that God is doing right now at Courtland United Methodist Church.

As you may have seen in an article a few weeks ago, I have been asked to plant a church in Norfolk that reaches out to students, young adults, and young families in that community. The purpose of our church will be not only to bring people in, but to send them out, to truly make a difference in the city of Norfolk, addressing issues of poverty, crime, and violence at their roots. Our vision is to be the type of church that we see in the book of Acts, a church where lives are radically transformed when people meet Jesus, and where communities are transformed through the work of the church.

Of course, this is a bittersweet transition, as my wife and I love this community and Courtland UMC. But this is where we believe God is calling us at this time. And like Paul, I leave with confidence, knowing that God is sending someone after me who will be able to continue the amazing work God has begun in this church and community over the past few years.

The name of the new pastor at Courtland UMC is Andrew Book. Pastor Andrew and his wife Joy have been married since 2005 and have two wonderful children: Anastasia (5) and Isaiah (3), who will both be starting at Southampton Academy in the fall. Joy is from Syracuse, New York, and has spent the last year working as a chaplain at Maryview Medical Center in Portsmouth. She is studying counseling at Old Dominion in Norfolk. Andrew is from Atlanta, Georgia, and attended seminary at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California (where he and Joy met). He has served in a number of different capacities in the church, including youth director, campus minister, missionary and lead pastor in contexts from California to Lunenburg County, Virginia to Portsmouth, Virginia and Mori, India.

Andrew is an incredibly gifted pastor, and will do amazing things at Courtland UMC. But more relevant to you, the reader, he is also a gifted writer who will continue to offer inspiring and thought-provoking columns each week!

Transitions are never easy. And we don’t often enjoy them. But I truly believe that when God’s hand is in it, transitions can be the best things that ever happen to us. And I foresee the Rev. Book’s transition into this community being an incredible blessing to all who encounter him.

So while this is not my last article, I want to thank you for being faithful readers and responders to these articles. And I want to encourage you to stay tuned for the exciting changes coming in just a few months, both in these articles and at Courtland UMC. Greater things are yet to come!

Brandon Robbins is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or