This past weekend was a whirl! It was another one of those weekends where I left one event to go to another, and then another, and then another. As fun as some of that was (parties, fellowship, etc), the underlining theme of this weekend was "Goodbye". I don't do goodbyes well (see here on how I struggled with saying goodbye to a great friend). As I mentioned in that post, I'm an ugly crier, so saying goodbye usually means I put on a good face and then make saying the words brief. This was another friend of mine from church that I had gotten to know well, and I looked forward to seeing at least twice a week. And because of a job, this friend of mine was leaving my church and my town to start a new chapter.
As I was preparing to say goodbye to my friend, I started thinking of all of my friends whom I had gotten to know and love through my church. God places some real special ladies in my church, here in Charleston, that I love to learn from and grow with. And because so many of those ladies have husbands who are in the military, every couple of years or so, God chooses to move those ladies and their families somewhere else to be a blessing. But something special hit me: my friends were not leaving the church, they were just expanding it. And this thought was tingling in the mind as I settled down Wednesday night at church to study God's word. The preacher (and God through him) mentioned this as well. We were studying Matthew 16:18, "...on this rock I will build my church...". God was reminding me, again, that just because someone is moving away from my church, the building, doesn't mean that person is leaving the church. I love how Paul considers his church family to be all the believers, not just those who are at his home church. Look at all the ways Paul greets fellow Christians:
- Romans 1:8 "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you"
- 1 Corinthians 1:4 "I always thank my God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus"
- Ephesians 1:15-16 "For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus, and you love for all of God's people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers."
- Colossians 1:3 "We always thank God, the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you"
- 1 Thessalonians 1:2 "We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers"
The church is not the building, it is the body of believers. Paul could have easily have said his goodbyes as he left one church, and resigned himself to not still consider them personal friends and family members through Christ. He could have thought his job was over once he left those towns, but instead, he kept in constant contact, encouraging, teaching, training, and so on with those he had come to fellowship with at one time or another. I was reminded that my job, as a fellow believer, is to keep up with the other believers God has placed in my life. I need to continually pray for them. I need to keep up with what is going on with them. In those verses above (and in so many other letters Paul wrote that I did not mention), Paul not only encourages them through prayer, but he keeps up with them. If you read on in these verses, you will see he has "heard of their good works". He is not only keeping up with his church family, but writes them, contacts them, giving them encouragement.
And that is the lesson God is revealing to me this week. Just because a good, dear friend in Christ moves away does not mean that my job of encouraging, praying for, and learning with is over. My church family has expanded from Charleston to Pennsylvania (Adina), Florida (Kristin), North Carolina (Charity), California (Deb), Nevada (Stephanie), Romania (Renee), and so on. I have done a poor job encouraging those friends as they have moved away, but this renewed spirit is now an encouragement to keep up with those friends and to continue to grow with them until God brings us together again.
May you remember those fellow Christians who have moved away from you. Contact them. See what is going on in their lives, and encourage them, lift them up in prayers, and work on continuing that friendship that God felt necessary for your life.
|Not truly farewell. Just "Until God brings us together again"|