Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Milestone Sunday: Saying Goodbye

Tomorrow is a significant milestone for us.

I came the Sunday morning before Christmas as a guest speaker to Faith Bible Church, a small congregation on Omaha's near south side that had been without a regular pastor for a couple of years. In fact, they were strongly considering throwing in the towel and merging with a large suburban church.  As a favor to a new friend, I agreed to provide “pulpit supply” to the church for a few Sundays in January. And then that stretched into the spring. And then that stretched into…7 years!

Never an actual member because of a doctrinal difference with the denomination, I was not involved in the leadership of the church nor did I ever seek (beyond the biblical teaching of my sermons) to direct the future course of the church. I was content to be their “perennial guest speaker,” offering ongoing series of expository sermons to “build up the Body for the sake of ministry.”  However, even though my “real job” remained Director of Vital Signs Ministries, leaving my only duty at Faith Bible Church to be delivering the Sunday sermon, the church soon began to describe me as their teaching pastor. And I tried hard to live up to that. Not only did I take my sermon preparation seriously (12-15 hours of study and prayer and writing out my text), but I couldn’t help but get involved in the lives of the people in other ways too. Thus, I ended up teaching other classes, hosted letter-writing evenings, counseled (and confronted), frequently entertained parishioners in our home, did hospital and nursing home visits, led special activities, performed funerals, spoke at AWANA, and so on.

As many of you know, I had done quite a lot of preaching and teaching in the years since my conversion to Christianity in 1970 (including a lot of “pulpit supply” at Pleasantview Berean Church here in town and Tabernacle Baptist Church in George, Iowa) but providing week after week sermons for this length of time has made for quite an experience. Both Claire and I are grateful for the opportunity to serve in this way. And we have made many friends that we will stay in contact with for the rest of our lives…and beyond.

But the time has now come to turn the page. Our obligations related to Vital Signs Ministries have continued to grow and, for the last couple of years now, it has been increasingly difficult to pursue them as we should while still taking those extra hours a week for sermon preparation. In particular, our “When Swing Was King” presentations, hospitality ministries, cyberspace outreaches, and writing projects all need more attention. Therefore, I informed the leadership of Faith Bible Church (and then the congregation) last August that I would be leaving.

And tomorrow is our last Sunday, thus the milestone designation. May the Lord lead Faith Bible Church in the next stages of its ministry. May the Lord guide Claire and I to our new church home. And may He give us joy and effectiveness as we persevere in our many duties with Vital Signs Ministries.