And we know that in all things
God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
We are four and a half months into this time of sabbatical. While in the big picture it is a blip in time, for those of us who are owners of the Church it has been a time of journey and reflection, possibly seeming to be a much longer time. God brought this verse to mind, and I have spent some time reflecting on what it means for us as the Church.
Friends, from what I can tell, God is good and faithful and keeps His promises. During the past four months, God has faithfully kept this promise outlined in Romans 8. He DOES work for our good, and He does this regardless of our intentions or desires.
Pastor Jeff’s sabbatical came as a surprise to most. It was not something we had prepared for or anticipated. And so, our responses have been varied. Some understood and supported this time of reflection and space, while others didn’t agree with it for this time in our church. For some, it has caused great frustration and sadness, while for others it has been a time of experimentation and engagement. Perhaps you have been in a place of wondering, “Why?” or “Was this right?” Most certainly, across the board, we all experienced some anxiety and uncertainty to some degree.
None of these questions or emotions are right or wrong. We each have a unique story and journey at the Church, a unique perspective and reason for our time and place in this ministry. AND YET, in the midst of these varied perspectives, God is good and faithful. He has worked good here. Whether you view the sabbatical as right or wrong or the appropriate timing, God has worked good.
Consider what has happened at the Church in the past four months:
We have incorporated new communication methods to help make information more accessible (family minute, monthly calendar update emails, Meet Your Leader booklet)
We have gathered in forums to help us learn more about the leadership at the Church and to give us space to openly discuss concerns. (Coffee With…, Horizon check-in)
We have at least 20 people committed to being trained in a new lifeGroup curriculum. With this curriculum, more lifeGroups will have the resources they need to have more intentional conversations and accountability in missional living.
We are using faithBuilders time to continue to build the skills and tools we need to love God and love our neighbors as effectively as possible.
The Elders and the Mercy Ministry team have strengthened their partnership with each other to better meet the care needs of those at the Church.
New leadership has emerged in our ministries for youth and children (Kids Connection, tweens, new parent teachers in Life in the Word, new adult leaders in Higher Ground)
We have launched more opportunities for gathering with each other socially, to encourage and build relationships with each other.
We have had hard, open, reflective conversations with each other. This kind of reflective dialogue is healthy and good, and helps us to continue to refine each other.
We have people serving in new roles within the Church.
Ministry leadership has taken on new roles and flourished within the challenges undertaken.
God is good. He WORKS FOR OUR GOOD. Regardless of our feelings about the sabbatical, I truly believe that God has been using this as a time for His good and our good. Struggles aren’t a bad thing. Our response to those hard times can be questionable, but struggles themselves are a way of being shaped and molded into the image of Christ. Hard conversations allow for growth. And when we are weak, God’s strength and mercy is ever more present.
These are truths that are constant in all areas of our lives. We don’t understand cancer. We feel defeated because of a broken relationship. Whether it is a situation in our church or pain in our personal lives, the question stays the same: Will we be open to acknowledging God’s good work, even when it stems from a place that we don’t understand?
The hard part about a time of struggle and uncertainty is that we can’t always see the other side. We don’t know the outcome or even, at times, what we are working toward. But we do have this promise that God will work for our good. And so, we trust Him. And as we learn to trust Him more, step by step, we relinquish more of ourselves and see that the good that God works is often right in our own hearts. I have seen this happening at the Church. We all have our own learning curve, but I believe that God is teaching us to trust Him and give our church to Him.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. God has called us, church, to join Him in HIS purposes. Sometimes we struggle to trust God or see him at work. Sometimes that is part of the journey we are on -- to better know God. And sometimes, we need to ask ourselves if we are seeking God’s purposes or our own.
When we recognize that our homes, our church, our whole lives belong first and foremost to God, then we seek His purpose and we can more closely live out the call He has given to us. We become less. The desire to know and seek God becomes more. That is how we live in unity, even during times of uncertainty.
As the sabbatical comes to an end, we still have questions. Will Pastor Jeff come back? What will the Church look like? What will happen? Will things change yet again? I can’t answer those questions. But I can know this with certainty: God is good, and He WILL continue to work for our good. Whatever happens in the next few months, we will still love God and He will still love us. He has carried us thus far. He has been faithful to His promises thus far. He will continue to be the foundation of the Church and He will continue to work for the good of His church, who loves Him, and has been called according to His purpose.