Monday, March 06, 2006
CLOSED DOORS, OPEN WINDOWS
CLOSED DOORS, OPEN WINDOWS
By Keith Giles
Yesterday I had one of those days that you anticipate with dread.
Wendy and I have been slowly transitioning out of the church we had helped to plant in Tustin over three years ago. Since October of last year we have been meeting with our friends and fellow pastors about feeling called to leave and start a new church elsewhere.
The journey itself has been a painful one. Saying goodbye, asserting your convictions, standing for what God has called you to do, and defending your vision is always difficult when those who disagree with you are your brothers and sisters in Christ.
All in all, this could have been worse. As painful as this process has been for our family, and for those who remain behind at the church, God’s grace has been sufficient to sustain our friendships, and to maintain our fellowship.
For the last five months my family has been continuing to serve in the elementary class we started called “Kids Rock”, training new teachers, handing over responsibility and becoming advisors rather than leaders in a ministry we dearly love, for children we have pastored for three years.
Yesterday was our last Sunday. We had agreed upon the date of March 5th as our final Sunday in attendance.
We had been dreading the goodbye, and especially the pain of closing the doors. Even though we know we’ll still see many of our friends again, and we aren’t moving away, the process of saying goodbye itself is most painful, especially when so many of our friends still don’t understand why we’re leaving and don’t support what we’re doing now.
But God has a way of healing wounds and mending hearts.
As a tribute of sorts, they had put together a short video collage. Thankfully, the video was brief, and even humorous at times, but we still cried. Wendy and I were invited up front, along with our two boys, and the entire pastoral staff laid hands on us and prayed a blessing over us, to send us out in our new, strange, ministry of house church.
After this blessing, they presented us with a baseball bat which had been signed by everyone in the church, encouraging us to “step up and swing the bat” for the King in all that we do.
I prayed over the elementary children, one last time, and then we went out with them for our final class together. The Kids Rock class itself was great. Wendy and I had a great time with the kids, and there were no tears (thankfully) as we gave our final lesson.
After church we took the kids to the Pizza Party, and then over to a friend’s house for a Baptism.
My final day at this church, I stood in the hot tub, side by side with my Pastor and friend, Robert Crabbe, and together we baptized a little boy from our Kids Rock class, a little girl whose family we met while ministering at the motel in Santa Ana, and an older gentleman who had never been baptized in his life, even though he had served the Lord faithfully for many years.
Afterwards, as we stood waist deep in the warm water, Robert and I were able to talk, and to share about these last few months of transition, about the pain, and the tears, and the way God had held things between us together for His Glory, and His Purpose. In that moment, there was healing, and an agape kind of love for my brother in Christ that transcends words. It was a sweet moment of grace between the two of us that only God could have orchestrated.
After all the disagreements, after all the pain of tearing ourselves away from our friends and church family to launch out into the unknown, there was something healing about doing the work of the Kingdom alongside my brother in Christ that last day. In the act of initiating these few children into the family of God, Robert and I became brothers again. Our differences faded into the background for those few moments, and our words lost all value and meaning in the simple obedience of baptism.
I am thankful for the time we spent at The River, serving the poor, teaching the children, and sharing our lives with the good people there. I’m grateful that we’ve been part of the legacy of this church in these areas of compassion and ministry to children, and to know that these ministries will continue under new and capable leaders.
Planting a church like this one has been one of the most dynamic and spiritually stimulating experiences of my life. In truth, it has been a sort of laboratory where I’ve been free to try new things, dream big, and lead others in the kind of Christianity I’d only dreamed of before. I’ll never forget my time in this church.
Now, we turn our full attention towards the work of God at The Mission, the small house church that meets weekly in our home. This is our new adventure. This is the next laboratory of the Spirit for us to discover more of Him, walk deeper into the Kingdom, and become more like Jesus in the process.
Wendy and I take strength from the experiences of serving at The River and set our hearts toward the new thing that God is doing in our family, for His Glory.
God has been so faithful to us, opening a window for us, even as he closes a door. We know that He has so much more in store as we continue serving Him and seeking His face.