The next twelve posts are about how members of a church can best respond to each other when some from their membership are planning to leave to a new work. First let me outline a scenario, a realistic and relevant situation that cries out for some biblical guidance.
Grace Church hired Lance as a Youth Pastor. Eventually, he was promoted to an Associate position, and Grace Church hired Dylan as the next Youth Pastor. While working together at Grace, Lance and Dylan enjoyed partnering in ministry. But Lance sensed God calling him in a new direction and left Grace to get training as a church planter. About a year later, Dylan also resigned and announced that he and Lance were planning to team up to start a new church in town.
In their time at Grace Church, Lance and Dylan developed friendships with a number of its members. Now it was easy for some of these friends to desire to join the new work. Lance and Dylan wanted to reach people who did not seem interested in Grace Church and planned accordingly. But it would take time, six months, before their first service. So their friends would have to wait.
So it was that Grace Church found itself occupying a somewhat awkward space. Some families from Grace were definitely planning to leave. Others were unsure about whether to stay or go. A third group was convinced God wanted them to remain at Grace. But for the next six months, all three groups would continue to worship together as one family.
How should the people of Grace Church negotiate this transition period? How can this fellowship of believers demonstrate what it means to be the body of Christ when some are leaving, some are staying, and some are not sure?
Here is the first of twelve passages and principles that can help the people of Grace Church (and other churches in a similar situation) to negotiate precisely this kind of challenge. By using these principles, members who stay and members who go can stand in the place of God’s blessing.
Principle One - We Are Faith
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things (Romans 8:28–32)?
This is our constant, our true North: God will accomplish our good, the good of our fellowship, and the good of all who love Him regardless of future events and the actions of men. We can trust God, no matter what!
Even that of which God does not approve, He uses to work the good of His people. Here is an extreme example: Joseph’s brothers intended to work him harm, but Joseph was capable of looking past their evil deeds to see God at work. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them (Genesis 50:20–21).
If God could work through the ill-intentions of Joseph’s brothers to accomplish Joseph’s (and his extended family’s) good, then how much more can God work through others actions that are more nobly motivated to promote what is best for us. It doesn’t matter why someone leaves Grace Church, we know that God will make that person’s decision part of His plan to work our good, the good of our church, and the good of all who love God. We know that regardless of who stays and who goes, He will give us everything that matters.