Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Was it an effective placement?

The church I'd been serving since late 2011 closed its doors almost exactly two years after I got here. Which means that we moved across the country (to Arizona), away from our families and all that we knew, and into a culture very different from anything we were familiar with—only to see the church close in just two years.

I've had others ask me if we regretted it. "Was it worth it?" they would say. I've asked the same question.

Those who have followed my paradigm of "effective placements" might similarly ask: "was it an effective placement?"

Let's get to the heart of these questions. When we ask things like this, what we really want to know is: how could God be pleased and well-served by a church closing?

The truth is, I don't know the answer to the "how" question; not exactly, anyway. But I do know the answer to a more objective question: WILL God be pleased and well-served by a church closing?


As I said, I don't know how He will serve His purposes through such an event. But I can imagine it will include some of these things:
The work of discipline in a family, where the husband had abandoned his wife and children.
The home visitation of an older couple, who reported that it was the first time ever that their pastor had been in their home.
The counseling of a member whose 20+ year struggle with self-doubt and spiritual confusion was eased, if only a little, through the course of multiple counseling sessions.
The introduction to many in the congregation of the importance and value of a richer, fuller worship service—that worship was more than "just" a sermon with some buffer activities around the margins.
The act of disciplining the spouse in another couple who was fleeing the marriage unbiblically.
The bedside care of several who were dying and in need of a pastor, and the subsequent funerals conducted for the sake of the grief of their families (and the congregation as a whole).
The ministry to a single mom who couldn't see her way forward, and who needed to be assured that the messes in her life were cared for by Jesus.
The care of a divorcée who struggled with learning to trust anyone again.
The mounting weekly benefits of the ministry of Word and Sacrament, including a handful of baptisms.
The conducting of several weddings, plus the pre-marital counseling that attended them.
The challenging, encouraging, training, and support of elders and deacons.

That was just during my tenure here—and I'm certain that more of the above (and other things too) occurred before my ministry began.

And that's just the things I know about. There are surely countless others that I do not know now, and may never know this side of glory.

Which is to say: I'm confident in this, above all else: this was an effective placement, because God used me as He would do and did much in our midst in spite of me. I served the "full term" of my ministry here, even though that term was briefer than I or anyone else thought or hoped it would be when I accepted the call.

That's all that I—or anyone called to ministry—can ask.

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