I love change, but I also love stability. I love new adventures, but I love the depth of long-term relationships. I love travel, but I always love coming home again.
Because I love all of these things, I find the "end of an era" to be bittersweet. Like most in ministry, I have lived through the end of many eras. These have included personal ends, as I transition from one calling or country to another. There have been leadership ends, as leaders have left for new callings, left for their heavenly home, left because their personal lifestyle limited their ministry. There have been staffing ends, relationship ends and many other ends.
In my hometown in Cornwall, England, we are living through the end of an era. The church service that has been home for me at Launceston Central Methodist Church is ending. It's ending for good reasons; there is a new church plant with an aim to reach new communities and new people with the Gospel. Because the new service will be in the morning and the current service is in the evening, I will be unable to transition with the new church plant.
I find myself mourning the end. I realized recently that all of the reasons I am mourning are selfish. I will miss my comforts, my conveniences, my friendships, my familiarity with the service and the people who attend. It reminds me in many ways of the end of another era when Pastor Chuck said, "The Lord bless thee" for the last time when the man who carried the vision that began the Calvary Chapel movement stepped into eternity and the heart-stretching transitions that followed. Even today, I thank God every single Sunday for the legacy of that era.
When an era ends, our lives change. Here are four good things that transitions have accomplished in my life and heart:
1. When eras end, my heart is redirected to Jesus.
It is easy for me to look to men and women for my security, assurance and hope. Even where I know theologically I ought look to Jesus, I still discover that my attention has been on the people. These changes re-focus my vision on Christ.
2. When eras end, space is created for the Spirit to bring change.
Our Creator God did not create once and then leave the world to "run itself." We believe He is constantly creating good and new things, and changes can create the space for us to expect His direction.
3. When eras end, we see and identify the call of God on new leaders and fresh vision.
Throughout Scripture and history, we recognize the need for new leaders to carry the Word of God to their generation in Spirit-filled and relevant ways.
4. When eras end, I can choose to believe the best.
There will always be misunderstandings and mixed opinions on any transition (Christian or business). In these changes, I can choose to speak grace, believe truth, share wisdom, live in love.
Even within the church, as those who claim the name of Jesus, we find confidence in our eras and leaders. My heart has been personally challenged to live with a deep expectancy that the new work of God will be a beautiful one.
I am challenged in the end of this era to pray with greater fervency for the kingdom of God to come here on earth and to expect that it will not come in the ways I expect or the ways it once did. As I live through this transition in my life, as I pray through the ways that these changes expose my heart and my own need for the Gospel, I am reminded:
“Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:9-13).
Amen. True for Methodist churches in England and Calvary Chapel and the people of God, gathered from every tribe, tongue and nation both now and forever. May my greatest confidence forever be Christ.