April 30, 2008
Dear ACTS Family,
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Indeed, much has happened in the last couple of months. It was not long ago when we began looking at all of our relocation options. The church has moved a number of times in its seven years. Moving is always filled with challenges, but at least that much is familiar to us. At first, we all thought it would be as simple as moving down the road. Lots of labor, yes... but unfamiliar, no.
But, in carefully weighing all our options, this merger stuck out as our best option. Lots of labor, yes... but, unfamiliar, yes it is. Most of us have no experience with such a thing. "How will we fit in," "What service will be best for me," "Is it going to be different than what we already know;" those are just a few of the questions each of us is asking. They are very good questions. We are definitely moving into areas that we have not been before.
I am reminded that we are entering the season of Pentecost, the birthday of the Christian church:
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. ...Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call." ...Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostlesí teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles... And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:1-47 NIV)
Something happened this day. The Lord poured out his Spirit on all flesh. Timid apostles became courageous, lost people came to faith, things were accomplished that no man alone could do, and reconciliation was everywhere. The church was born and a handful of people evangelized the known world. God showed up to equip and empower. God still shows up to equip and empower today! When we are in his will, when we are concerned with his glory, when we are out of our league in terms of our abilities to meet the task at hand, God shows up to equip and empower. We are experiencing it right now!
There is so much about this merger that is beyond us simply relocating. Something beyond us is happening, something very holy. Reconciliation is taking place on many different levels, a heart to reach the lost is being cultivated, excitement is everywhere, grace and hospitality abound, people are being reunited, tears of joy & praise are being cried on behalf of this effort, forgiveness is overflowing, resources are becoming available, and both churches are in a position to do things we never thought possible on our own.
God is doing amazing things with all of us through this process! It is good for both churches, it is good for the network, and it is good for AMiA. If we stay the course, continue to come before each other with humility and grace, if we keep our eyes heavenward, God will bless this effort even more. This is Christianity at its best and the whole of AMiA is watching. There are so many churches in AMiA that are in exactly the same place ACTS and TLC are, struggling alone, but watching us, could soon also realize "two are better than one..." (Ecclesiastes 4:9 NIV)
I said, when I first arrived at ACTS, that I thought we were at a tipping point, that place where at any moment everything would break out. Here we are! God is watching, God is with us, and he is blessing us beyond measure. It will not surprise me at all if we start to see more of our own type of Pentecost in the middle of this: revival, equipment of the Saints, overcoming the impossible, empowerment, and a heart of worship that, as good as ours already is, will only be magnified. God is so good and he is so near in this.
Sunday, May 11 is our last service together in our current location. That is Pentecost Sunday. It is the birthday of the church and it is a long way from Good Friday when all looked hopeless. While we will surely be sad to see the old and familiar pass away, and change is difficult, let us remember that this is our birthday as well-God is birthing a new church out of two. Let us pray for and expect more Pentecost blessings in it. He will not let us down.
I do want to remind us that this, being such a tremendous opportunity for the Lord, is also a tremendous opportunity for the Devil. Expect the Evil One to be working against us. Expect to have moments of thinking all is lost. Expect to have moments of hardness and unforgiveness. Expect to have moments of pride. But, those things should only serve as cues that we are being discouraged by the Evil One. Pay them no mind, rebuke the Devil and his minions, because God is with us. We would not experience such warfare if we were not on the Lordís front line. But, we are on his front line and we are doing amazing things on his behalf; better to be on the front line than the sideline. We must keep our eyes heavenward.
This will be my last letter as your rector, but I will always be your pastor. You are my people and I´ve been blessed beyond belief in coming to ACTS. I look forward to many more years together. I can´t wait to see what the Lord is going to do in all of this! Be strong and courageous, because the Lord is our Guard.
Pentecost blessings to you all,