These are the words of someone from TNL Church who put their thoughts on paper to share and they are beautiful.
“This is a letter to my church. I don’t know if it will get read, but it’s been on my heart and rolling around in my head for the past five days. The point of this letter is to give perspective — from someone who has been a Christ-follower for 50+ years, who has lost and found my way a lot on this trek, and who came from a family whose employment has always been “ministry”.
My father had been a missionary for 20 years when the leaders of his church denomination made a decision that ended his missionary career. He did nothing wrong, they were simply not ready to embrace my dad’s unfolding vision of how to be a missionary — no one had been a missionary that way in their church experience. And so my father found himself unemployed and abandoned by leaders he had always trusted.
His next place of employment was at a small Christian college sorting mail in their mail room for minimum wage — it was a mindless job, but it was the very place where God was able to “unwind the bobbin” and reload it with a different color. My dad learned to trust in God’s provision more deeply than he had as a missionary. Did I mention that he had two kids in college?
After that year he was asked to serve the very denomination who had discarded him — asked to be a “bishop” for his home state; and he accepted. For the next 10 years, he served as a pastor for pastors. He encouraged and guided young ones and older ones (pastors he had gone to school with and who often had more degrees than he did), but he was amazing because of his years as a missionary. Those missionary years also gave him credibility with the older pastors. He affected so many lives in that role because the pastors he encouraged were better for their churches. And his vision for how he had wanted to be a missionary was carried out by a younger missionary for the next 40+ years. That man gave a beautiful tribute at my father’s memorial service, sharing how Dad had planted the seed for the rest of his missionary career. To God it was all about expanding His kingdom.
In all that time I never heard my dad talk smack against any of the people who had made the decision that changed the course of his life. And when I expressed my own bitterness, he gently and lovingly defended them — that they had made the best decision they were capable of at that time. What I now hear my dad saying is that he trusted in a Sovereign God — that people might make right or wrong decisions, but God is the Redeemer of both the decision maker and those affected by it. What I also hear him saying now is that he was called not to be a missionary, or a bishop, or a rural pastor of a small church, or a hospital chaplain, God had called him to be a Servant, and he never stopped being who God called him to be. My dad has been gone now for three years, but I’m still learning so much from him.
This is how I want my church family to behave:
I want us to be gracious advocates when a voice is not heard. I want us not to “take sides”. Advocate for Chip or Deb when you feel their voice is not heard. Advocate for the elders and their spouses to Chip or Deb when they need to be heard .I want us to love — not from our emotional bent — but to love according to 1 Cor. 13 when there are feelings of being discarded or abandoned. And I want us to challenge one another to grow stronger in all of this — for people to say about us, “you are looking so much more like your brother, Jesus.”