This weekend, my husband took me by the hand, led me onto the stage, and we said goodbye to the church we founded 16 years ago. That moment was the culmination of months of planning the best transition possible, pinpointing the right successor, and preparing our church body to accept a new lead pastor. We announced our intentions to launch our new ministry in June, and it seems we’ve been saying goodbye every weekend since. I’ve hugged necks, held hands, wiped tears, and celebrated memories with friends and strangers for the past three months, and it’s been good.
Everyone should be so blessed as to have 12 weeks of hugs, 12 weeks of encouraging cards, 12 weeks of people sharing how God used you in their lives, 12 weeks of people expressing their sweet devotion and support. Yes, everyone should be so blessed. I’ll carry the moments of these past 12 weeks with me for the rest of my life.
Looking into the crowd of faces as I held my husband’s hand on stage, I was reminded of a recurring question that people have asked since June: “What are you going to miss most?”
To be very honest, I’m going to miss a lot. I’d be crazy not to! God gave Shawn and me a pretty good gig. But, there’s one thing I’m going to miss the most.
I’m going to miss hearing the first-hand accounts of what God is doing in the lives of others. As leaders of the church, we receive countless emails, texts, and personal notes from complete strangers. They tell us of the habit they’ve overcome, the relationship that was rescued, the fear they’ve conquered….all because they’ve found Jesus. They share what they’ve learned about God as they have served in the church. They celebrate the ways they are being discipled. They tell some inspiring, humbling stories of faith and action.
I’ll miss the privilege of hearing those stories.
But, then again, I don’t have to miss it. You see, my amazing church wrote their stories down. Hundreds upon hundreds of stories. Some wrote a few sentences; others wrote several pages. Then, they delivered them to us at a reception where, of course, more hugs ensued. And tears.
But, the stories. I have them. Tangible. Readable. Touchable. Any time I’d like, I can open the box and be reminded of the power and grace of my God…..and of His choice to use my family in His work. Now that we’ve said goodbye, those stories are my most precious gift. You see, God blessed us at Mountain Lake Church unlike any church I’ve ever served. He did so much during our tenure…..and in the midst of ministry busyness it was always far too easy to focus on the next need rather than relish the current victory.
I’m so grateful to my church family for taking time to share their stories and for the generous housewarming reception they gave us.
Mountain Lake Church, we love you. We are humbled by your spiritual maturity. We are proud of your devotion to God and His mission. Keep your eyes on Him and Him alone. Do not waver. Stay true to what He called us to do:
Be a place for people to Belong in a healthy relationship with God and others,
Become more like Jesus each day,
and Bless our world.
Shawn and I will be cheering you on, praying continually, and listening for your stories. I’m praying thousands more stories will be told….