By Elizabeth Prata
Jordan Standridge wrote today of The Pain of Seeing People Go. His is a timely essay, as I’ve been drafting one exactly like it on the same topic.
I’m talking about when God sovereignly moves fellow believers to a new city. I happen to pastor at a church that has a lot of coming and going. People move to Washington DC for a couple of years, they become part of our family and then suddenly get taken away. It is like your heart is being ripped away.
Our church was founded with the intention of being missional. We are in the heart of a University city with many of the founding members in college or Graduate School. It’s an influx and outflow church. About thirty have left over these last few months, but about thirty new people have been sent in by the Spirit.
Whether a person the elders raised up would be on mission in our local city or across the world, we wanted people to grow, and if they felt the call, leave with the heart full of joy in evangelism and our support. It’s purposeful, but it’s hard, too, to see them go.
And many have done just that. They are veering off to Canada for training as a Wycliffe Bible Translator. They are headed to Malaysia as teachers of English. They have gone to other US states to head up college Navigators organizations or other Christian jobs. They’ve gotten married and headed to different states with their husbands, having been trained up in the Gospel so well by our elders. They have obtained jobs as High School Bible teachers. And many more.
I’ve been happily saddened by the departure of some of our original members this summer. I miss them, their smiles, their fervor, their dedication. But I’ve been uplifted by the knowledge that they are serving the Lord there just as they did here, and that I’ll see them again someday.
Now we are on to the next round of raising up men, guiding families, serving the new members in all ways so that there will someday be a new crop to fly out into the world with the Spirit-given gifts and talents that have been shepherded in them. We are just as busy encouraging the next crop being raised up as much as we support and love the ones who remain. Milkweed seeds that fly on the breath of the Spirit driven wind, into the world to again serve and labor there as they once did here. And so on. Repeat.
I’m grateful for the church’s commitment to raise up men. It’s no doubt wearisome as the people come and go, our lives a cycle of ebbs and flows in saying goodbyes and then creating new relationships forged in His spotless name. The congregation’s own smiles, verve, and excitement at laboring in our God-given tasks is infectious. It helps that we know that the Word of God says do not grow weary in the well-doing. I pray the Spirit gives me just as much joy in meeting new members as I’d had for the ones who helped found the original congregation.
I pray frequently that the Spirit gives us energy and wisdom, as also pray that the Spirit sends us new people. I’m looking forward to the next ring of seeds to come up and waft out onto the winds of the Spirit.
For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. (2 Corinthians 4:15-16a).