Yesterday, at least as I can see, was my last Sunday at Redeemer as a pastor. I look forward to hopefully coming back for a missions conference some time in the future. It was hard for us. And for our kids. I was hoping it wouldn’t be hard for Connar and Cade, but it was. And it will be, for a time. Tears come with church planting. They always have. When Paul spoke his parting words to the Ephesian elders we see
They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. -Acts 20:37-38
Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.- II Tim 1:4
I’m no Paul, but what I see in the scriptures is that the process of starting new churches, and leaving people “behind” has always involved tears. It is hard to leave friends, family, and churches behind. And yet such tears are necessary for the Kingdom to advance. For some reason, just about the only time I cry is when I watch movies, particularly when there is a child/parent separation or death. No one sees it but Amy. Because you may not have seen any physical tears yesterday, I want to share with you some of my “tears” in leaving Redeemer. I feel confident and excited for this next step of our journey. I’m as certain as I could be that the Henderson’s, as a family, have been called to West Bradenton. Yet we still leave with tears, so here are some I want to share. No particular order.
- Barret. All pastors are replaceable and Jesus does not need any particular pastors to lead his local church. With that said, Barret is special. He let me preach once a month, and I know that was a big risk. I’ve grown in my preaching, which means that at one time I was worse than I am now. But Barret took the risk to let me grow, and wasn’t afraid people would leave if he had me up front. Just like his senior pastor before him. Not only that but he prayed that I would be a better preacher than him. How cool is that? And when, as a church, we were really struggling financially, and thought we may have to lose our office, Barret said, “Don’t cut Geoff’s pay. Pay cuts will start with me.” I don’t think we ever had to go that route, but it was clear, that this guy was a servant leader. I mean, who does that? That’s crazy. That’s Barret though. I hope that God grants me such grace to do the same some day. I hope He grants me humility to pray for a greater success of others “under” me, even if it means people think less of me.
- Elders. I will miss elders who were really on the same page. We were moving forward in a common vision. That is a beautiful thing, kind of like oil dripping down a dude’s beard (Psalm 133:2-yeah, not sure that analogy is still as effective today….) This is actually rarer than people realize, so it’s a beautiful thing for a pastor and for a church.
- Deacons. I like to make things simple to remember. A diaconate’s job description includes overseeing three M’s: Mercy, Maintenance, and Money. No one man is gifted in all three, but we have men who have gifts in at least one of those three areas. We need all three giftings to move forward as a church and we have them.
- Leaders in general. I will never forget our deacon who said in the midst of the financial crisis of 2011, said, “Geoff is not going anywhere. We are keeping him here and will make cuts elsewhere.” I’ll never forget that. God blessed our church and not only did we soon have enough money to pay me, we had a building of our own. Then they graciously gave me a raise in 2013. Barret took the smaller raise to give me the bigger. Wow.
- Friendships. With good friends, you can live in places that you normally wouldn’t pick to live. Even though I’ve been landlocked, and there are no snook for a 900 miles, these 3 1/2 years have been among the happiest of my life. Friendships have played a large part in that. I don’t imagine that moving away will cause any of them to cease.
- Worship. Sundays are my favorite day of the week. The quality of music, the simple liturgy of the worship service, the gospel centered preaching, fellowship afterwards, the joy of the people involved, the learning which goes on in children’s church, etc...
- CD group. Small groups have always been one of my passions, and I will miss our CD group, as well as the other CD groups which have been faithfully led by other leaders. Everyone of the small groups I’ve been a part of have been a blessing to me and I can’t imagine life without one.
- Gratitude. I’ve never felt at any point that people were not grateful to have me pastoring here. I’ve often been thanked and thanked again. And its often for doing things like personal discipleship-which I love!
- Risk. The church took a risk in hiring an Assistant before it had a building. That’s a risk. Money given to me could have gone toward a down payment on a building. But many people stepped out in faith. Just two years after bringing me on, a church gave us its building, which we would turn around and use as our down payment for our present building. As we see time and time again, God blessed the Kingdom driven risk of His people.
- Youth and Children’s workers. It takes a ton of people to run a children’s ministry. In a month we use more than 40 different people in some way shape or form. Without these workers (from nursery leaders to youth leaders), we would have less impact on our covenant kids. And most of the workers go way above and beyond simply teaching. I wonder if they are now learning to be careful, because when I see this, I usually “promote” them to more oversight duties!
The point of this reflection is not to fill Redeemer up with pride or pat itself on the back. I wanted you to see my “tears.” Barret and I are very different. He cries up front all the time. I don’t and probably will never cry up front.
In addition, I hope you realize that Redeemer-even when it disappoints you (and it will as all churches will)-is a special place; so be thankful for her, pray for her, and labor with her.