Monday, July 7, 2008

If I Had One last Chance to Tell You

Last weekend was the formal announcement to our congregation that our senior pastor has accepted a call to pastor another church. We've known this was coming for a while as he's been very open about the whole process. There are no issues or conflicts, he simply believes God is calling him to make this move. So as he preached this Sunday, I was thinking about the unique position that he's in. He has about four more opportunities in the pulpit to proclaim the Word of God to the flock that he's shepherded for the past 13+ years. The body of believers that he loves and that love him.

I wondered to myself - if I was in the same position, what is it that I would want to leave people with? With the remaining few proclamation events left to me, what would I want to be sure to communicate to people? If I had one last chance to preach, exhort and teach, what is is that I would focus on? What a challenging place to be.

Perhaps I would respond the same way that the apostle Paul did with his protege Timothy as he faced his imminent death. Recorded for us in 2 Timothy:

For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God. (1:6-8)

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2:1-3)

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, (3:14)

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. (4:1-2)

Or perhaps I would want to go back to the basics of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as expressed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, those things that are of "first importance." Namely this:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

Or I might just want to use the opportunities left to me to communicate the love of Christ that I have for the body of Christ that I have served and served with for these years, as Paul did so often in his epistles. For example, the whole of Romans chapter 16.

So much to say, and so little time and opportunities to say it. If I were in this position, I would hope and pray that my words and my life and my ministry had spoken volumes in the previous years together, so that these parting words were nothing more than a reminder. That certainly is the case with our senior pastor. Godspeed, Pastor Mike, as you go where God leads you next. And God's grace on our church as we seek the man that the Lord has already sovereignly appointed to serve as our next under shepherd.

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