My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

29 January 2007

A Good Goodbye

Sunday morning was our last time of Sabbath worship as part of the Lafayette Reformed Presbyterian Church. Pastor Long preached on God's character as a sending God and then we had a service of consecration and sending for the folks going to Immanuel RPC. It was a truly blessed morning - not easy by any means, but it was clear to us all that we are following God's will in church planting. There was sadness without bitterness and joy for how Christ has cared so well for us. My only role in the service was to say IRPC's official "goodbye's" to our church family. I really thought I would be fine, but it ended up taking twice as long because of tears (I think I had something in my eye...), which seemed to be plentiful all around. Really, even as I read these goodbyes, I was astounded at how faithful God has been to us through this dear church family. Here, at length, is our goodbye - quoted to honor our "mother" church and to glorify God.


January 28, 2007
To the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Lafayette,

How can we really speak of our love for you and our thankfulness to God for how He has used you in our lives? Certainly better words than these would still fail to make clear how dearly we cherish you, so please accept these words of love and gratefulness with the depth we wish we could express.

God paints several word-pictures to help us understand the church better. In each of these pictures, we find reason to confess our love for you and our deep thankfulness to God for His work through you. Please understand, as we speak of our love and respect for you, we know behind you is our perfect God who has used you and blessed your faithfulness to us.

The Church is an army
As you have you have reminded us day after day, Jesus’ church has an outward focus, a worldwide mission, a passion for multiplication. We have learned this from your words and your example. In fact, if you’re a little sad to see us leaving, realize that it’s mostly your fault – you have given us a vision for pursuing the kingdom of Christ over our own comfort.

Because you have fought for us and alongside us, and because you have equipped us with the weapons of spiritual warfare and are willing to send us, we love you and we thank God for you.

The Church is the temple of God
Paul tells us God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:17 The temple is where and how God dwells with His people. Rather than a building, now the temple is wherever God’s Spirit is. Living and worshipping with you, we know God’s Spirit abides in you – we know this in part because you have driven us again and again to the pursuit of holiness for the glory of God. You’ve never abandoned us when we stumbled; rather, you have consistently walked beside us and held us up as we sought together to live a life pleasing to our Creator.

Because the Spirit in you has led us to holiness, we love you and we thank God for you.

The Church is the body of Christ
God also calls His church a body; specifically, He says we are the body of Christ, united not just in our purpose, but in our head, Jesus Christ. We have seen in you what this means for day-to-day life in the church: some of you are elders, some teachers, some serve in ministries of prayer, ministries of mercy, ministries of service, the grand ministry of raising children…but all of you have a place in the body. You have helped each of us to find how we can serve the body of Christ; you have removed us from the spectator stands and brought us into significant service to Jesus.

Because you have shown us that the church is more than a club, that the ministry lies at all our feet, we love you and we thank God for you.

The Church is the bride of Christ
The Apostle John’s Revelation describes heaven as a marriage feast, when the church and Christ will be finally and fully unified. And so, learning from you, we look forward to the day when all our sins will be purged, when we are clothed in the robes of Christ’s righteousness. And in faith, we see this has begun even now. You have shown us the church is truly beautiful, not because she’s yet perfect, but because she is Christ’s bride. But in you and with you we have learned to look with the eyes of faith and see what the Holy Spirit is really doing.

Because you are beautiful and ever-growing in your beauty, we love you and we thank God for you.

The Church is God’s flock
We are a flock, a rather humiliating reminder of our weakness, our constant need for guidance, our inability to follow Christ on our own. Rather than pretending to be strong, you have shown us how to live in meekness and rejoice in weakness in order to glorify Christ. You who have been our elders have shepherded us faithfully and lovingly, never serving in selfishness, but calling us to follow our Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ. This is especially true of Pastor Long, whose faithful ministry in the Word can now be measured in decades rather than years. All of you have called us to hear the Shepherd’s loving voice day after day.

Because you have shown us how to follow the Shepherd’s voice in the midst of weakness, we love you and we thank God for you.

The Church is a family
Perhaps more than anything else, today we remember that God calls His church a family, a household. We are thankful to God for the meals we have shared together and will share together, for the acceptance we have found in your midst, for the innumerable opportunities for prayer and worship together, the many chances to labor with you, physically and spiritually, and even for the discipline we have sometimes needed. And we believe and want you to know that you aren’t like our family, somehow resembling something like a family but you really are our family. We call you brothers and sisters without qualification, for this is what you are. We truly believe that, although you are sending us out today, you can never get rid of us as your family.

Because you are our loving family, we love you and we thank God for you.

We don’t know and cannot see every implication of this move for us and for you. Certainly many changes will come – but surely God will bless the relationship between two local congregations seeking to do His will. We know that for some of you, it is as hard for you to send us as it is for us to leave – but again we’re going to blame you. If you had taught us following Christ was about being comfortable and seeking our own pleasures, we wouldn’t be leaving. But you haven’t. Rather, you have shown us true discipleship means evangelism and equipping, sacrifice and sending, always looking to the Savior and seeking God’s will above ours in all things.

As you send us forth to pursue the Kingdom of Christ, we bless our great God for the love He has poured on us through you. We are honored to be your letter of commendation, living proof of what Christ has accomplished through your faithfulness.

Love, the families of
Immanuel Reformed Presbyterian Church

1 John 4:11-12
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.

1 comment:

ellen said...

I am bathing you in prayer as you take on the awesome responsibility of spiritual leadership for Immanuel. You are unequal to the task, as I am sure you know, but God is more than able to use you mightily to build His kingdom. Not just an awesome responsibility but an awesome privilege, as well.

I read your good-bye to the Lafayette Church and was struck by how, for all my life - and yours, our church family has been every bit as close, if not closer, than our "real" family - our blood relations. You learned that, not just in Lafayette, but as a little boy in Dayton at Redeemer and as a young man at Grace in Indy and now in Lafayette. Praise God for his family of saints. The world cannot understand how God can take strangers and make them into family - ties that bind for eternity. Praise God!