Janet and I have spent our last weeks saying our “farewells” to you all. It has been painful for us and many of you have expressed that you feel sorrow as well. What I have discovered is that there is something good in saying “goodbye”.
The goodness of a “goodbye” is found in the very pain we feel when we say it. I believe there are three hidden gifts to be discovered in this pain:
Janet and I have experienced all of these things in the last weeks, and it has been transformative. As your love has been poured into us, we have grown in our awareness of God’s love for us. As a result, we find ourselves wanting to love others more.
Something I’ve appreciated as we have said our “goodbyes” is that a “goodbye” is never final among believers. We know that we will see one another again one day, because we will share a forever home together with Jesus.
The English word “goodbye” is actually a contraction of the words “God be with you.” It shows what believers are actually doing when they say “goodbye”: they are entrusting one another to God. That is what we are doing as we say “goodbye” to you, Bethel.
By 9 am on Friday we, as a church, will have been praying continuously for 5 days. That’s 120 hours, 7,200 minutes, and (if you really want to keep track) 432,000 seconds.
I look at our time spent in prayer as a community seeking God’s face as spiritually significant. First because of how we would honestly respond to the following question: How would we have spent our time otherwise?
In truth, many of us fail to take on the focus of prayer in how we approach God and all those around us. The best comedians find the humor in the most mundane motions of life, not due to their talent and charisma, but because of their refusal to look at life through the lens that it is simply ordinary and unimportant.
The power and purpose of prayer is not that different. We must refuse to meander through everyday life as if it is insignificant. Rather, we must dedicate our time and energy towards embracing the extraordinary Kingdom of God unfolding in our midst.
My prayer is that these risks would become future habits of grace for you, through which God continues to form and shape you in the image of Christ. My hope is that our eyes and hearts have been opened to what God wants to do within us, and that when we encounter crisis, need and desperation we know how to turn to the Father for help.
Leading up to this week, I heard Cathy Ferchau, who helped coordinate this week of prayer, say “may God bless you as you seek his face” numerous times as people picked up prayer supplies at church. And that is exactly right when it comes to the journey of prayer for it’s only the beginning of what God will do next.
The other day I was reading the Bible and realized that I was staring at an unopened invitation. I encountered it while reflecting on these words from Psalm 1 about the person who meditates on God’s Word day and night:
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. (v. 3)
I found myself pondering this question: “Do I believe in this promise enough to bank my life on it?” I knew I wanted the abundance described in this verse, but was I willing to meet the condition for receiving it? The verse says it comes to those who will meditate on God’s Word day and night.
As a way to take God at his word, I recommitted to a life-long practice of mine that had fallen out of use: Scripture memorization. I’m filling up the pages of a binder with verses I have memorized, partially memorized, or want to memorize. I’m selecting a passage to meditate on that I can carry with me into the day.
I want to encourage you to take up this practice. There is something special when we take a little portion of God’s Word and bury it deep within our hearts.
I’m going all out for the abundant life God promises in Psalm 1. Why don’t you join me?
I’m racing against the clock to finish a project for our Shepherding Elders before I leave Bethel Church at the end of May. I’m passionate about this project because it supports a beautiful vision the Shepherding Elders have recently adopted. First let me tell you about their vision, and then I’ll tell you about the project. I think you will understand why I am so passionate about it.
The Shepherding Elders vision is to “grow young”. By that I mean that they are committed to being intentional about identifying gifted younger adults to serve as Shepherding Elders.
It is vitally important that churches grow young. The older generations need to be passing their passion and the keys to church leadership to successive generations or the church will die. We are all aware of churches that have gone totally gray because they failed to bring the young people along with them in their pursuit of the faith. These churches are like a train engine that has been decoupled from all of the cars it was intended to pull.
The movement to grow young started several years ago at a Church retreat when Council, staff and ministry leaders decided to become intentional about pursuing a healthy, inter-generational future for Bethel. Now, years after that small beginning, take a look around the church. Notice the variety of ages represented in our worship bands on Sunday mornings. Notice (next time you are able to come to in-person worship) the many young people running our church’s worship technology. Consider the average age of the staff. Notice, also who is running our church’s ministries, including, most recently, the 24/7 prayer week. You will find that young people are well represented on a continuum of ages from young to old.
God is doing something good and life-giving at Bethel. The younger generations are stepping up as leaders and vision carriers. This is why I am so passionate about the project I am doing for the Shepherding Elders.
The project is to create a training manual for the Shepherding Elders. It will be a way for them to pass on information to incoming office bearers about what they do, how they do it, and why it is so important. As they discuss their role and responsibilities and learn skills together each generation will be able to learn from all the other generations represented around the table.
Bethel has definitely not arrived when it comes to growing young. The church will always be a work in progress, but I believe God will continue to bless the church as we cooperate with him by staying intentional about being truly inter-generational.
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