I write this to y’all — my dear brothers and sisters in Christ — as my final Sunday gathering with you and participating in the collective work of this congregation is here. In many ways this Sunday will be like any other Sunday, as we look to God’s Word and respond together, remembering and reminding each other that Jesus is more beautiful and believable than anything else. And in another way, I’m not sure how I’ll be able to stand up. You see, I’ve wept off and on (mostly on) for a day and a half as I’ve thought about many of you — your stories of rejoicing and serving, grieving and groaning, and all of your gathered one-another-ing. I find myself so grateful to know that it’s in all of these stories that we’ve seen the Lord produce a certain kind of bride that we call Redemption Peoria, and that my family has been able to be involved in any part of such a special work. God has gifted our church in many ways, and sometimes those gifts have been oddly packaged. But we needn’t look anywhere else but to Calvary to remember that God tends to gift us in ways we wouldn’t dream up on our own, make any sense to us, or be void of any pain.
And that’s why it’s good that God is the best at being himself because if running the universe was up to me, many of these stories are not what I would have chosen for our church. But thanks be to our great and glorious God, that isn’t my job. And over these seven years, I’ve increasingly seen, first-hand, how Jesus has strengthened us as a congregation, knitting us together and deepening our maturity this whole time. Season after season, the Lord continued to carry us. And each time he did, we were a different church. Some times were more obvious to that end than others, but it was always true. How could it be otherwise? God doesn’t waste these seasons. No, it’s the Lord building his church! And as he builds, we change, by God’s grace, into a particular kind of people with softer hearts, with stronger practices of prayer and worship, and with a deeper love for Jesus and one another (and lesser loves for other things trying to be Jesus). If I’m confident of anything, it’s that it’s happening now and will keep happening.
I thank you, my dear sisters and brothers, for the love, kindness, and support shown to me and my family these past seven years. I am grateful and humbled for the ministry we have shared together. With joy, I recall all we saw the Lord do in our midst, and with sadness those dreams not fulfilled. I ask your forgiveness for mistakes I’ve made in leading and any expectations not met, or for any time I didn’t see you as the Lord sees you.
The Jesus that I see in you, my brothers and sisters, is so beautiful. I see Jesus in your perseverance. I see him through your prayers for one another and your communities. I see him in your sufferings. I see him as you sing each other forward. I see him as you love without margin. I see him in your generosity. I see him in how you lead others. I see him in your heart for foster care, kinship, and adoption. And I see him in your covenant relationships with one another. I look forward to hearing of the work the Lord continues to do in and through you all — this beloved, dear congregation. God always gives you people wherever you are, and y’all have been those people for my family all these years. We love you and we love Jesus more because of you.
I wish you much grace and peace as you move forward. Remember your union with Christ and marvel at it! Continue to sing each other forward. And when trials come, remember what we’ve often sung: “Deeper still, then, goes the Anchor.”