The human side of Scripture can be overlooked if we rush too quickly as we read it. Lately I have been struck by the passage in Acts 13 when the church at Antioch made the commitment to send out Barnabas and Saul on the first international missions trip recorded in the New Testament. Directed by the Holy Spirit, they set apart these men, major leaders among the prophets and teachers in that congregation, and sent them out equipped with the gospel and covered in prayer.
What must it have been like for that church? After all, Barnabas and Saul had played a significant role in seeing that church anchored in biblical faith and affirmed as a strong, viable congregation recognized by the church family in Jerusalem. So they chose to send out their best…knowing it would be a sacrifice, understanding that they would miss them and the breadth of their ministry among them. What mixed emotions they must have experienced! Excited at the prospects of seeing what the Holy Spirit was going to do with these gifted leaders…saddened by the departure of dear friends and partners in gospel ministry…the range of emotions they must have felt is easy to understand.
From that time forward, the bar has been set very high for all churches to make a similar commitment to be willing to send their very best to the work Christ has given us. Gospel-centered churches are not only equipping churches, but they are sending churches–willingly and gladly giving up their rights to hold onto those among them who are valued and loved so greatly.
Now is another such a time for our church. Over the years, we have said farewell to many gifted leaders–some to church planting, some to domestic ministries, some to international missions, some to join the ministry teams of other congregations. A cursory count of those who have been a part of those farewells yields the names of over 500 people who have been sent out from Providence in various capacities. We indeed have been blessed to be a sending church, a launch pad of for the gospel, an equipping center not just for living for Christ here but to be prepared for ministry in all the earth.
Most of you who are reading this blog are already aware, but for those who are not, here is the recent development in the life of a sending church. Through independent journeys, four of our pastors have been led to say “yes” to the Lord’s leadership to accept His call to new locations for ministry. Over the years, we have walked with others who have made such moves, but this is the first time we have had so many to send out at the same time!
As in Antioch, these guys are not incidental players, but have given key leadership for many years of faithful service. In fact, the sum total of their collective years of service at Providence is well over forty years! Over the next few months, we will have the bittersweet experience of sending these four men to new works.
Nick Roark will become a pastoral assistant at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, effective January 1, 2012. He and Allison met and married here at Providence and their three children have been brought up here. Through college ministry and preaching, Nick has demonstrated a great effectiveness in communicating and modeling biblical discipleship. In the ten years he has been here, his love for Christ and His Word has made a profound impact on all of us who have been blessed to call him our friend!
Joel McDaniel will assume responsibilities as Senior Pastor of Glenwood Baptist Church in Marion, NC on February 1, 2012. He and his wife Kimberly have served Providence in a wide variety of ways and watched their two daughters grow into young women here over the past eleven and a half years. LIFE classes and men’s ministry have grown significantly under his effective leadership even as the congregation has been blessed by his preaching ministry. We know that Glenwood Baptist will be blessed immeasurably by impact the McDaniels will have when they begin their work there in just a couple of months. What a treasure it has been to labor together and enjoy our friendship with Joel and Kimberly and the girls!
Steve Wright will be making a transition to First Baptist Church, West Palm Beach, FL where his role will expand far beyond that which he has had here as he joins the pastor in giving oversight to this exciting revitalization of a key church in that region. While at Providence, he and Tina have shepherded several generations of students from childhood to young adulthood over a period of fourteen years. Their own children are now nearly grown and we have been blessed to watch them grow up here. As he leaves to help his new church home impact his community with the gospel, Steve will leave behind quite a legacy of investment in students and parents alike and is dearly loved by those he has had to privilege of serving.
Eric Hamsho will be making a transition from local church ministry to another field of ministry preparation–the college campus. He will join the staff at Wheaton College as a Regional Director of Development and strengthen relationships with students, families and alumni with the school as they seek to grow their kingdom impact through the training of godly young men and women. Eric and Stacia have been very visible for their twelve years here at Providence as he has led our congregational worship to new heights. He and Stacia and their three children will be sorely missed by all of us in the Providence family as their spirit and vibrant love for Christ have shown us in practice what we declare when we worship each week…that the Lord is glorious and worthy to be praised! Our friendship is one we highly value!
As you can see…we love these four families!!
On Sunday morning, December 11, we will be commissioning these men and their families in all three of our morning worship services. They will tell their stories and share their prayer requests as they go and then we will lay hands on them and join together to send them out with our blessings and love, our support and our prayers!
So in some small way, we are feeling what the church at Antioch must have felt as dear brothers were sent out, called by the Holy Spirit to the work He had for them to do. Our hearts are torn between a profound sense of loss at seeing these dear friend move out and glorious sense of anticipation at what the Lord has in store for them in their new places of service.
And with eagerness, we also rest in the sufficiency of Christ knowing that He is already preparing those who will be joining us to take up where these have left off and who will help lead us to new plateaus of ministry in the years to come. Therefore, we rejoice and give thanks and send them out with confidence that the Lord is building His church…and as a sending church, a launch church, we have the privilege of seeing what blessings come by a kingdom-focused ministry!