“The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you…and you will be a blessing to others.” (Genesis 12:1-2)
A quick glance at this blog will make it clear that it has been some time since my last post. What may not be immediately obvious, however, is that the sermon posted for December 5, 2010, was the last message that I preached at the First Baptist Church of Marshville. I wish that I could say that this was the result of a healthy and well-ordered process – that the congregation and I had come to a mutual and affirming realization that it was time for us to end our shared ministry journey for the sake of the kingdom. But, as is often (maybe too often) the case, that’s not quite the way things unfolded. Instead, differences emerged and weren’t handled well. Feelings got hurt. And before too long–whether it was “mutual and affirming” or not–it became clear to me (and to a number of others) that my time for fruitful service to the church was at an end.
Naturally, I hate that. I hate it for the sake of the wonderful church family at FBC Marshville, among whom I’ve been privileged to serve as pastor for the past 6-plus years. I hate it for the sake of the kingdom work that I think we were doing together but which has now been short-circuited. And I hate it for the sake of my family, since we had not been planning on dealing with this type of transition at this point in our lives.
But as much as I hate what has taken place, I am also filled with gratitude and excitement. As the weeks have gone by, there have been so many people who–in so many different ways–have expressed support and encouragement. In addition, God has been doing an exceedingly gracious work in my heart to protect me from a bitter spirit. Best of all, the Lord has been opening doors that very well may lead me to my next place of ministry. It’s probably a little premature for me to “spill the beans” just yet (even though most of the folks who might bother to read this blog may know already), but I have been in conversation with a congregation whose search team has been an absolute blessing to me. Our prayerful dialogue has led us to believe that the Lord is bringing their journey and my journey together, and hopefully–in the not too distant future–the church will affirm that belief. It is one of those moments in life that I am able to affirm (in the words of one of my favorite quotes): For all that has been – Thanks! For all that will be – Yes!
The book of Hebrews reflects on God’s call of Abraham (cited above) with these words: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going…For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:8; 10) I almost always wish I had even more faith. But I am ready to obey and go, because I can’t wait to see all that our Master Builder will do.