Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bidding farewell

(apparently something got messed up with this the first time we sent this a couple days ago, so we're resending it)
Yesterday I had another one of those really cool moments with my friends down in Mibu. It was one of those moments where I got to see yet another part of the big picture come together in such a way that it really effects things and gets people excited!
We were having our weekly meeting to go over next week's lesson material and discuss various issues of the church. One of the things on my agenda lately has been to prepare them for an upcoming church planting consultation that we're having. In this consultation our efforts here will be measured against a model of what we see a mature church looking like. The purpose is just to get an experienced outsider's perspective on things and for us and the church here to be encouraged about how we carry on in our ministry. I need to prepare the guys for this consultation by just familiarizing them with the various points that will be used for the evaluation. However, at the moment, I'm not ready to give them the whole spiel. But I did want to start warming them up to the thought; kind of prime their minds for what I'll explain to them later.
So after we went through our study of next week's lesson I pointed them to Acts 20 where Paul is bidding farewell to the Ephesian elders. I've not been able to take my mind off this passage all week. It happens to be one of the passages I'm translating right now. But specifically one verse in the passage really has stood out to me. Verse 26 where Paul essentially tells these elders of the church, in which he labored hard for 3 years, that he is free from any guilt should any of them fall away. Most of our English translations don't make this very clear, but that's what Paul was saying. He's labored hard and didn't hesitate to teach them the whole will of God for their lives. Now it's time for him to go and he KNOWS that his job is done. He's confident that he's done everything that he could possibly do there. It's totally in their hands now.
Sitting there with a group of about 8-9 guys in the hut I told them that the work we're doing here is going to finish some day (not anything they haven't heard before). One day we're going to tell them the same thing as Paul when we leave. We intend to teach you everything we know and when that's done we're leaving it in your hands. We aren't going to be responsible for what you do with it after that. It's up to you to take this and keep going with it. If you don't it won't be our fault (assuming that we do indeed finish our course well here). It's hard to describe their reactions. They looked around at each other nodding and the energy level of the conversation picked up a notch. They'd obviously been affected by the implications of Paul's farewell. We talked about it for about a half hour or so after that before I headed back up to Tibu.
It was a refreshing reminder to everyone regarding this task of making disciples that has been given to us. And in a culture where something such as the local church is typically expected to be held together by someone from the outside this comes as a reality check. It really seemed quite powerful. For me the wider context of Pauls statement of verse 26 really brought back the importance of not only the message we speak and teach, but of the life we live here. One day I ought to be able to say that they've not only heard the gospel, but also seen it in action in a way that they can reproduce. Enough so, even, that I can expect them to be responsible for themselves in living and producing the fruit of that message themselves. Our responsibility, similar to the watchman of Ezekiel 33, will be finished. Or better yet 'transferred'. It's a great reminder too as our tendency is strong to keep a firm grip on everything and control it to make sure everything continues to go smoothly. But really what we're called to do is relax our grip over time, letting them experience the pressures themselves and grow in their own responsibility and stability.

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