I just returned from Libreville, Gabon where I preached a revival for Garett King at La Porte, Eglise Chretienne du Gabon. In my jet-lagged condition I wanted to bring not only a report, but a word on my heart as well. I traveled all that way not just to preach, but also TAKE THIS PICTURE!. Now, before you keep reading I want you to just stop and look at this a bit.
This picture is powerful because it represents 3 generations of the life of our congregation! Maybe I should interject at this point that our church council’s recent recommendation was that I bring someone with me on these international trips (are they lovingly suggesting that “Mr. Independent” could be a bit reckless?!) Because one of my scheduled trips was to Gabon, and because Frank King had served on our church council for years, and because his son and daughter-in-law (and grandsons) was pastoring the church...well, you get my drift. It was a bit of no-brainer that Frank would be one of the obvious choice! OK, back to the picture. Frank and his wife, Susan, were wonderfully saved in our church in 1975 (incredible story all by itself). Next to him is his youngest child, Garett, who surrendered his life to Jesus in 1984 at the age of 13. Then, are his grandsons Zachary (11), Nehemiah (8) and Geoffery (6). Geoffery, by the way, has now officially spent half his life living in Africa. Along with Sara, his wife, they are doing a wonderful work in Libreville, and Jesus is building His church, and raising up disciples.
All of this reminded me that there is no escaping a spiritual law. (1Jn.4:10)NLT “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” We don’t often think of the particular cost here: that in order to bring salvation to the world, Jesus had to leave his home in heaven. There was not going to be a possibility of “long distance salvation” for humanity. We won’t escape this either since “the disciple is not above his Teacher.” The call to increase and kingdom expansion carries with it the reality of God’s personal call and the separation that this entails. (Acts 13:2) “The Holy Spirit said, ‘separate for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” The early church cooperated with God by first, seeing that it was the Holy Spirit who was behind this venture, and then, sending them forth, even if it cost them relationally.
This is what really is on my heart, that one of the overlooked costs of world evangelism is not just the huge amounts of money it calls for, but...the cost of the currency of relatioinship! (Mk.10:29) “There is no man who has left house, or brothers or sisters or father or mother, or wife, or children or land for my sake and the Gospel’s.” Clearly, Jesus talks about the sacrifice that is felt at the deepest levels of some of the deepest relationships of our lives. This is no light mater since we were created for relationships. One of the greatest blessings of salvation, next to our saving relationship with Jesus Christ, are those kingdom bonds that He ordains and fashions. This is not a program, but it is a work of God. Some of these relationships turn out to be deeper than even the natural relationships of family. This is why some of my “heroes” over the years, are not just those who released themselves to God, those that the Holy Spirit is saying to “separate to me _____ for my work”. No, the heroes I have in mind are those people and friends and family who have been willing to say, to send, and to sacrifice some of these relationships “for My sake and the Gospel’s.”
I can think of just a few. What about Mr. (before he died) & Mrs. Rubi? They have watched as 4 sons (I think the tally is 12 grandchildren and ?? great grandchildren) have responded to the call of God to preach the Gospel and released them. Frank & Susan King have released their son and grandsons to go overseas, to Africa, to preach the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. Plus, they have a daughter and son-inlaw (2 grandchildren) who are serving God on the East Coast. What about Shirley Reblin? Her oldest son, Stuart, his wife and their children left here years ago to pioneer a church in northern CA. Have these people paid a price for the Gospel? You better believe it! These and many more like them, are my heroes. They have not done this for a religious program, but for their Lord Jesus Christ and the preaching of the Gospel, and the expansion of God’s kingdom.
I don’t think trauma is too strong a word here, or out of place in this setting. The dictionary defines it as a physical or emotional injury or shock. Paul wrote to the Philippians (Phil.1:8) and said “I long for you in the affection of Jesus Christ.” He was writing (from prison) and felt deeply the separation from people he loved for the sake of the Gospel. Isn’t this the experience to some degree with the people we send out for the Gospel? I remember my wife saying to me tongue-in-cheek (but she still felt it) “You better not send out ___.” Is this because she doesn’t have a heart for the Gospel? Sister Mona? You’ve got to be kidding! She lives with me for the advancement of the Gospel; but, however you cut it, it’s still traumatic. We’re sending out some of our best people. These are people who have been a tremendous asset, many who are multi-talented and gifted, extremely faithful. In short, they are loved! They have made invaluable contributions in the lives of many people, seeing them come to Christ and nurturing them, helping them come to a place of maturity in Christ. We are going to be making a sacrifice in sending them out, and responding to the Holy Spirit’s call. They will be leaving a “gap” that will have to be filled by others. That is why my hat is off to our congregation for their vision. They are making a real sacrifice of the lives of individuals, loved ones, dear friends all for the sake of the Gospel. You make me proud, and bless me over and over again!
This is why sometimes Conference announcements can have a bittersweet element to them. While there’s rejoicing at the news of a church plant, there’s also an element of trauma as well. This is why you’ll find many celebrating, while others are weeping. This is their dear friend, their son or daughter, their beloved brother that is going to be sent out. One sister was honest enough to tell me, “Pastor, I was mad at you for days for sending out Garett & Sara King.” She didn’t lack a commitment to God, just the opposite. You see, Garett and Sara had discipled her, and more, they had been like adopted parents to her! There was going to be a cost, and it was going to be paid in the precious currency of relationship.
THE DIVINE COMPENSATION
All of this brings us face to face with the truth that for the Gospel to expand in the earth, WE are going to have to be stretched. (2Co.10:15,16) We do not boast beyond limit in the labors of others. But our hope is that as your faith increases, our area of influence among you may be greatly enlarged, so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you.” The will of God cannot be held hostage or limited by our personal relational preferences. We must remind ourselves about our children and the precious people in our churches, that they ultimately BELONG TO HIM! The Holy Spirit said to the church, “set apart to Me Barnabas and Saul.”
Dear saints, I believe that God will honor our sacrifice here! Listen again to all of (Mk.10:29,30) because it contains a wonderful promise. Mark 10:29-30 “Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left..... who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” This is not talking about your “100-fold financial blessing,” no! This is talking about spiritual fruitfulness, the harvest, the increase of souls who will be brought to Jesus and the eternal family of God. God knows what you’ve given up, the people you’ve released to see this precious Gospel preached in the nations of the world. He says to you, “Loved ones, I too know the separation you’re feeling; but, in the end, by My grace, it will enlarge not only you, but my family immeasurably.” You see, there are people all over the world, most who we will never see, that hold you and the Tucson congregation in the highest esteem. They realize the investment you have made not just of your money, but of the people you love! In Gabon, to have not only Pastor Warner (our pastor’s pastor), but Pastor Garett’s father come at the same time, is a really big deal! That, dear ones, does not go unrecognized, and will not go unrewarded. (Use here the series of pictures of the church, people in it I sent)
There is another element at work here that is very encouraging and is undoubtedly supernatural. Garett and I were talking about this just this past week. He said when it came to certain relationships, certainly there is a separation that is felt. But, it is like the Holy Spirit simply hit the “Pause” button on things. When they were back at Conference last year it was like they hadn’t been gone for two and a half years, because God hit “Unpause” and we picked up where we left off, and the “gap” was not felt the way you would think. I like that. I believe it is part of God’s compensation when we will obey Him in the Gospel!
HEAVEN IS THE ONLY ANSWER
All of this is one of the reasons that heaven and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb is so necessary! First and foremost, because as the song goes, “When I look upon His face, the one who saved me by His grace, what a day, a glorious day that will be.” Also, because heaven will be a place of reunion and unbroken fellowship! It’s not like seeing people once a year, or once every two years at Conference, which goes by so fast. No, it is never ending! THE PLACE WHERE THERE WILL BE NO MORE GOODBYES!