I rarely write a column about myself, however, this week I am making an exception. Roughly 12½ years ago I became the pastor of a brand-new church.
While I have loved each of the five churches I have been blessed to pastor during 38 years of ministry, I have had a unique relationship with The Refuge. In addition to being the church’s founding pastor, I have never served a congregation that was easier to get along with, that did more ministry outside the walls of our building, or that loved and accepted me and those who attended more passionately. This church ministered to the homeless, served those with special needs, and tutored in multiple schools.
The Refuge never lived up to its growth potential, but never lost sight of a mission statement based upon what Jesus defined as the greatest commandments. From start to finish The Refuge endeavored to love God and serve Him and to love others and serve them.
About six months ago the leadership of The Refuge considered merging with Concord, a church roughly ten times our size. When our leaders declined their offer, I presumed that ministry door had closed. A month later Concord approached me about joining their staff. After a great deal of soul-searching and prayer, I became convinced God had opened a door of ministry that I was to walk through.
Roughly half The Refuge family will follow me into this new ministry since Concord is a congregation with a similar commitment to servant-hearted ministry. It appears those remaining at The Refuge do not compose a large enough group to continue.
As you might imagine, this is a very bitter-sweet moment. I anticipate a ministry that will touch many more than I have in the past. I am grateful for that. I will also continue to minister to many I have served. Despite this, I am saddened that The Refuge, will formally cease to exist.
Allow me to share two observations that I hope will offer helpful perspective. First, I’m reminded of Solomon’s words, “There is an appointed time for everything… A time to give birth and a time to die…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1a, 2a, NLT) The reality is that all of the things we love here are ultimately temporary. Nothing on earth lasts forever. We are wise to live with eternity in mind.
Second, Paul told the Philippian church, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” (1:3, NIV) Like Paul, I too am grateful and will continue to be each time I think of this loving godly church family. Although The Refuge Church will no longer meet each week, I believe what we have done has eternal significance.
To my Refuge family, thanks for allowing me to be your pastor. I am incredibly blessed to have served with you. I look forward to what God has ahead for each of us and believe He can use all of us in even greater ways.