“We’re Here for the People Who Will Come”
In January of 1993 I found myself at Capitol Hill Baptist Church having just received the resignation of the pastor (his sin disqualified him from continuing on in the pulpit). This was the fifth failed pastorate in a row dating back to the 1970’s. To use an O.T. term: our church was a “byword” in the neighborhood. Right after the scandal that called for the pastor’s resignation I was following two men from our neighborhood on my way to the local market. They didn’t know I was near enough to hear. They were mocking my church. It was well deserved. The odd thing was that the two men were gay and lived together across the street from the church.
Our congregation was demoralized. My young family and I were left standing with a majority of senior citizens who had toughed it out over many decades of decline. The few young people who were present prior to the fall exited quickly. What should I do? I was 30 years old with a wife and two little kids. There was NOTHING attractive about Capitol Hill Baptist — tough neighborhood (in those days), tough place to grow a church (according to the so-called specialists) and a very tough reputation to overcome. We lived in church-owned housing on the same block as the church. The nearness of my dilemma was constant. I had to decide. Stay? Go?
Within a few weeks of the pastor’s departure our house was broken into and ransacked. My wife and kids spent the night out of the city until I could get the doors secured again. The first night back, laying in our bed with the lights out my wife asked the million dollar question, “Why are we here?” I was quiet and then gave my answer knowing that her response would determine whether we stay or go.
I said, “We’re here for the people who will come.”
Nothing inspiring, yes? It was simply a conviction I had believing that Satan had overplayed his hand. I don’t want to blame Satan for all our sin, but it seemed as though the pressure on this little church was great. Five failed pastorates! Then my house gets ransacked! It seemed to me that Satan had his thumb on our church and we needed to peel it off with God’s help.
So we committed to stay until we found the next pastor. It was a very difficult 18+ months until the young and energetic newly minted PhD named Dever showed up.
What conclusions can you draw from this story?
- God knows and loves his sheep and wants to provide for them (read John 10)
- As under-shepherds we must protect the sheep and not act like the “hired hand” and depart at the first sign of trouble.
- Expect trouble.
- Know that you are almost certainly fighting for ones you have yet to meet…”We’re here for the people who will come.”
So, “Joe,” work hard for the sheep. Warn them. Call them out using God’s word. If in the end you conclude you are in a place where the people reject God by rejecting his word and his ways, then depart in peace and start again.
If you go, go lovingly, charitably and with the promise that you will pray for them.