Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious.
A Final Open Letter to My Flock
(From the April 2013 Star newsletter)
With this final letter as a pastor at Bethlehem, I want to draw you in to my present thankfulness and future plans.
As far as I know, every biblical blessing that a flock owes its shepherd you have given to me during our life together. On behalf of Noël and the children, thank you.
- You received my preaching as the word of God; it became active in you, and transformed our life together. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
- You responded supportively to my leadership, knowing I would have to give an account for your souls; and you helped me do this “with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17)
- I have spoken freely to you, and opened my heart to you, and been vulnerable with you; and you have cared for me, and opened your hearts wide to me also. (2 Corinthians 6:11–13)
- You have never assumed that I was above the need for encouragement and have turned this church into a place where we have been “mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” (Romans 1:12)
- We have written the chapter that is missing from Desiring God: “The Camaraderie of Christian Hedonism.” I have worked with you for your joy, and you have worked for mine. In love, I embraced the joy of this work, “for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all.” (2 Corinthians 2:3)
- You have not muzzled this ox, but have shared all good things with him who teaches. I have never been in need. (1 Timothy 5:18; Galatians 6:6)
- You have multiplied my joy with your biblical faithfulness, for “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4)
- You have treasured Christ and become the mirror of his worth. And for that you are my hope and joy and crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming. (1 Thessalonians 2:19)
So, again, thank you.
Noël and Talitha and I plan to spend May 2013 through June 2014 living in Tennessee. The aim is to give Jason and his team unencumbered freedom to discern God’s leading and move forward. I am thrilled with our new leadership and have total confidence in their spiritual discernment for the future. Love them as you have loved me.
The reason for Tennessee is that Noël’s cousin is willing to rent us his house for those months. In turn we will be renting our home here in Minneapolis to a Bethlehem missionary on home assignment.
The aims of these months away, besides giving more room to the new Bethlehem leadership, are to make a big dent in at least three writing projects and to discern the Lord’s leading concerning my priorities in the next 10 years (if God gives me health). In other words, what proportion of my time should be devoted to writing, teaching at BCS, speaking at conferences, international ministry, teaching through Desiring God, and life on the family front? Or is there a plan God has that I haven’t even thought of? Would you pray with me about this?
When I am no longer employed by Bethlehem, I will be working for Desiring God. In a sense, then, the elders will still be my boss!
In the summer of 2014 we plan to return to our Minneapolis home and quietly slip into a pew at Bethlehem and savor the worship we have always loved and grow with you under the ministry of Pastor Jason. I have always said I hope to die at Bethlehem. Well, it didn’t happen in the pulpit, so maybe it will happen in the pew.
This is home. You are our family. So this is not goodbye, but only, until the summer of 2014, farewell.
Never ceasing to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ,