Four years ago today we caravanned into Jacksonville, arriving just in time to close on our new house – a house we’d seen one time for about ten minutes a few months earlier.
Having just said heart-wrenching good byes to our church, friends, and family up north and to all that was familiar, we pulled into the Bold City feeling anything but bold. Dazed, overwhelmed, weak, and insecure described us best.
Our first Sunday, April 13, 2014, was a flurry of excitement. The dear people of (the then) Orange Park Bible Church had been without a lead pastor for over a year. And even though they had been capably led in the interim, they were ready for one.
I don’t know that it’s possible for a church to give a pastor a warmer welcome than we received. They were eager and thankful and their joy was palpable.
They navigated Blanding Blvd. traffic at dinner time (I now realize what a feat that was!) to bring us meals, stocked our pantry, cut down trees, painted our house, pressure washed our walks, mowed our grass, hung moldings and mirrors, replaced toilets, faucets, and shower heads, and babysat our kids. Most sweetly though, they grieved with us because of the church and family we left behind, and pulled us close with their kindness and love.
Matt was coming to grips with the sudden burden of weekly preaching and finding his voice as a new pastor. All the seminary training in the world and even the experience of being an Associate Pastor did little to prepare him for the weight of this serious task.
A few weeks ago as he finished his final sermon in our series in the book of Acts, with what I hope was the perception of an attentive wife, I heard the settledness in his voice and knew it sprang from a tested assurance that God would equip him for all he asked him to do. I remembered those early months, just 4 short years ago, of trusting God for what seemed impossible and knew they had produced in him a humble dependence on the One whose Word he speaks. And I silently praised Jesus, the Chief Shepherd, for caring so tenderly for his finite, and imperfect under shepherds. He has been faithful to Matt and has helped Matt be faithful to him.
Four years of anything isn’t a milestone people usually celebrate. But I’m celebrating it because God has done what he said he would do and he has been who he said he would be to my pastor-husband and our family. And I need to remember if for the years of ministry ahead. Serving a church isn’t something to which we are entitled. It is a privilege and we still tremble at the thought of it. Who is sufficient for such a task as this? Everyone knows we aren’t. And we want everyone to know he is. Community Bible Church is his church. He gave his life for it, and he will build it, living stone by living stone, into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
So today, to my pastor, I reiterate the commitment I originally made on the day his ordination council convened in 2010. (You can read that post here.)
“I want to pledge to you my continued help and support in the Gospel ministry. God’s Word is too important for me to complain about your long hours of study. Too many people aren’t worshiping Jesus for me to think that I need you here for dinner every night. The Gospel needs to be proclaimed regularly, clearly and precisely by competent, qualified men such as yourself. Remind me that squeaky doors, broken air vents, leaking faucets and other home improvements can wait. Someone can fix things when we’re gone if we never get to them. But it is a short step from here to eternity and I want to help you spend and be spent for the One who gave His life for us.”
- If you are a member of a church where the pastor studies and faithfully preaches God’s Word, thank God for gifting your church with him. (Ephesians 4:11)
- Pray 2 Corinthians 9:8 for him that: “God [would] make all grace abound to [him], so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, [he] may abound in every good work.”
- How is your pastor equipping you to serve and build up the body of Christ? How are you responding to his leadership and “working properly”? (See Ephesians 4:11-16)