The Church I’ve been a part of for the past eleven years has a colourful history as any body of people will have. For the eleven years that I have attended our Church, and the nine before that, there has been a core of faithful members. We stood faithful and loyal in our community as the Church divided, new leadership came and went, other Churches closed and we welcomed all who walked through the doors. We’ve weathered many storms together, welcomed new babies and stood alongside each other as our families have grown. We met in converted offices, school halls and Club rooms overlooking a beautiful lake. As doors closed, we waited for others to open and we walked through those doors in faith and with a steadfast spirit.
Four years ago we released the pastor to continue his ministry to a very focussed group and we farewelled him and his family in love and with gifts. We honoured them; they were honourable people. We weren’t a large group so when we were invited under the banner of another church from our nearest ‘big’ city, we accepted. It was an offer negotiated by our leaving pastor who had connections with the new church into which we were being grafted. We were consulted and offered support to navigate the concerns and ramifications of transferring assets and funds from ourselves to the larger body. It was of our choosing to become a part of something larger than ourselves. We weathered the changes and valiantly stretched ourselves through growing pains and once more adapted our perspective of what ‘Church” looked like. We thrived. We thrived because we were a malleable group and we were teachable and we were mature in our faith. We hung in there and watched others come into the house of God and settle down and they blossomed and grew in the things of God’s heart.
The logistics of two services each Sunday morning, with the same speakers at both sites and the travelling time between the two locations was nothing short of challenging. Our Senior Pastor, of the big city church, came to us at 9am every Sunday morning when he was in the country> He greeted each by name and knew what was going on in our lives, preached an anointed word and then handed the microphone over as he headed into the city to be in time for the 10am service up there. His commitment and love for the house of God was evident and a blessing to everyone who called our Church home. His teachings were poignant and relevant. He was transparent in his leadership. He embraced us, lead us, loved us, taught us, laughed with us, corrected us in love – exactly as he was called to do. Just like His heavenly Father has loved him, our Senior Pastor loved us.
The year before last he was diagnosed with MND and advised to set aside his ministry as senior pastor and spend time with his family. The details are not important but rather that before stepping aside he made sure we were offered spiritual covering by another larger church; this time a church of global proportions. To say we were stunned at having gone from a faithful few to a satellite church of a larger city church and then be swallowed into a Church of global dimensions would be an understatement. Many left the city church with this last change and some left our smaller church, yet we continued to thrive and in fact we grew. We grew in faith, stature, fellowship and we grew in numbers.
Sunday 9th February it was announced that our satellite church would hold its final service in a week’s time, after which there would be no further services in our community, or at least none under the auspices of that global body. We may well have been stunned at finding ourselves under the leadership of a global movement, but stunned doesn’t come close to how we felt at being summarily dismissed with the expectation that we would travel into the city to attend Church. The faithful members, the body of Christ, the Church, the Bride of Christ, were not consulted, not offered opportunity to speak of our concerns, not allowed time to come to terms with yet another change, such a radical change at that.
Fellowship over coffee and cookies was a subdued affair this morning as we wondered whether the reasons given for the closure could not have been resolved with consultation. We were hurting, grieving and more than a few of us were, quite honestly bewildered. What happens next Sunday? What if we aren’t able to travel up to the city?
There is no doubt that we will continue to be faithful and we will continue to grow. We will continue our journey with a right heart and a good spirit. We will do these things because we are mature in the faith and we are committed to the Son of God, Jesus Christ. And we will do these things because we love and trust God … more than we understand man. Another door has been closed so we wait for another to open and we will walk into that opportunity to continue to grow in faith and trust – together in fellowship, always.