Those are words that I never thought I would write. No church planter honestly entertains in his head or his heart the day when he must share with the people who are at the church that it will be closing its doors. Today, those were the very words I shared with the people of Eternity Church.
24 months. That’s how long Eternity officially will have existed. That seems like such a short time. In reality, two years is an (pardon the pun) eternity. So much happens in just a few months but worlds can change in 24 months. Mine certainly has.
Two years ago, I, like anyone who is preparing for or actually at the birth of a child, was full of excitement, anticipation, joy,anxiety, and energy. I couldn’t believe it. Something I had only envisioned in my head was becoming a reality. The time was upon us. We didn’t know for sure what God was going to do, but we were eager with all our hearts to see Him do something amazing. There was a buzz. An extra spring in our step. I don’t know about anybody else, but I didn’t sleep at all before our first Sunday.
Today, I , like anyone else who has witnessed someone die from a long protracted illness, am filled with a mix of emotions. Thankfulness for the good times, great friends, and memories that I have because of Eternity. Sadness, because we didn’t accomplish our stated mission of planting a thriving church that would plant other churches. Doubt over whether I’m doing the right thing in pulling the plug. Remorse over bad decisions I’ve made. Anger over situations that I couldn’t escape. Fear for what the future holds. Trust that God will continue a good work in me and that all things work for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.
It’s amazing how quickly emotions change when you move from birth to death. When it’s only 24 months between the two it is very hard to process. But one thing is for sure – our very reality involves a never ending cycle of birth and death. Solomon was wise to write that for everything there is a season. And the season of time in which Eternity bloomed, existed, blessed, and grew is over. Now – its winter of death has come and today I shared with our folks that rather than ignore God’s clear hand upon our living and our dying – that I wanted us to die well. To die with hope. To die with anticipation. To die in such a way that the Gospel commands of us.
Today was not the end of our Christian journey but merely a transition to whatever the next step in our journey is.
I want to say a few words of thanks to the remaining members of Eternity. You’re dedication, willingness to serve, humility, selflessness, and friendship will never be forgotten. You are truly a Godsend in so many ways to Jenni and I.
To the folks attending Eternity – thank you for having allowed Jenni and I to be a part of your journey and thank you for being a part of ours. Please know that we are here for you as we make this transition and that we pray God’s blessings and favor on your as you look to Him for wisdom and guidance about what your next steps will be.
To my Board of Directors – who shepherded me through this process with great tenderness, compassion, and love – I love you Randy, Jeff, and Julio. Your friendship and your brotherhood has sustained me and I thank God everyday that He has brought you into my life.
To LifePoint Church (both its elders and congregation) – thank you for allowing me to learn within your midst for over a year. And thank you for nurturing in me a desire to always live on mission wherever I am. Without your support and the friendship of so many while we were in the assessment process – we would have never taken this risk.
To my wife Jenni – thank you in ways I could never express on a blog. Short of salvation – no greater gift will ever be given to me than you. This has been a hard road for you as well – but you have never waivered and you have demonstrated amazing resilience and determination. I’m looking forward to many Sundays to come worshipping alongside of you instead of preaching to you as you sit on the front row!!
To my boys – may you never be afraid to take risks. And may your dad’s example show you that the greatest failure is to never have risked anything for the cause of Christ. To have risked and failed is merely to follow in the long line of footsteps started by the disciples themselves in their second mission trip that Jesus sent them on. They too failed but they never quit. May you fail spectacularly sometime in your life and come to know as your dad has – that Jesus is greater still.
There will be articles, reflections, and lessons learned to come in future blog posts. I know there are hundreds of church planters out there struggling as I have. I want to offer them hope. I want to offer them perspective. I want to offer them the Gospel – that despite our biggest and most spectacular failures – Jesus still died so that my sin could be forgiven. No matter what else may happen to me – I can be of good cheer – my sins are forgiven.
Eternity Church came to an end today. But God’s plan of redemption goes on. One local church may have closed its doors today. But the gates of hell will never prevail against the universal church. I pray none of us retire from the battle – but today we start looking for the next battlefield.
Soli Deo Gloria – 1 Corinthians 10:31 – Whatever you eat, whatever you drink, whatever you do – do it all (even if it’s closing a church) for the Glory of God.