“Give me a candle and my Bible, lock me in a dungeon, and I will tell you what the world is doing.”
Dear Saints at RBC,
The above quote has been credited to Cecil Dischard, who lived in the 1700s. Over these last 47 years as a pastor of Reston Bible Church, my main theme in preaching could be summarized similarly: What does the world say, and what does the Word say? The Bible needs no other apologetic than its clear and unambiguous revelation of the human heart. Dischard’s observation three hundred years ago has been true since the fall of man and remains true today. The world’s never-ending secular treadmill, seeking utopia through human intellect, human wisdom and human innovation, has proven over and over to be a colossal failure. Nevertheless, the stubborn will of fallen humanity leads the way in rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It has been my supreme desire over the years to help our church body see the dark frustrations of the world through the penetrating light of the Scriptures. With that in mind, here are a few final reflections now that I have officially moved on to my next ministry post.
Perhaps distilling my thoughts cannot be fully realized now that I am no longer fully present with you. Yet even Paul said he was with the Colossian church in spirit though bodily absent from them (Colossians 2:5). I resonate with this because the legacy I so desire to leave has far more to do with you than with me. The success of a church is built on its people, not its pastors. The people make up the body of Christ, and He is the One to be exalted. I can’t help but think of the thousands of people throughout the years who have contributed to this most successful journey. 1 Thessalonians 5:24 shows us the source of any success we have experienced: “The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it.” What a privilege to be called out of the darkness into Christ’s marvelous light. His providence reflects this monumental truth: Jesus is the successful one who graciously completes the task to which He calls us. The glory is His and His alone.
Looking back, I knew Kay and I had been called to this work those many years ago. Were there doubts that plagued us at times? Yes! But there was always an inner witness of the Spirit that held us to the promise of His calling. Even with doubts and difficulties, by the very nature of my position I get a lot of praise (which I certainly appreciate.) But it always drives me to consider this reality: those who do the most in the Kingdom rarely even get a thank-you. The missionaries that will never get a ticker tape parade for their labors on foreign soil are the first that come to mind. Of no less Kingdom value are the thousands throughout these years who’ve faithfully served Jesus within and beyond the walls of our church. When I reflect on the many ministries here at RBC, I can’t help but wonder how many of these precious saints are given the credit they so dearly deserve. Far too few, I suspect. To all those working tirelessly behind the scenes, to the ones doing the unseen grunt work of service and ministry — I applaud you with everything in my being. Better still, “…when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4).
At the end of his epistle to the Romans, the great apostle Paul listed a number of saints that did the heavy lifting. God used Paul to accomplish significant things for His kingdom, but it wasn’t about Paul—and he knew it. Every pastor knows he cannot stand and preach on Sunday morning without a strong supporting team. The elders and staff have lifted my arms at times when I thought I didn’t even have any arms to be lifted. The weight of ministry has pushed me to the brink on many occasions and taken my soul into moments of despair. Long walks and many tears made me realize how valuable you have been through your counsel, friendship, encouragement and wisdom. This is your legacy as well as mine.
May I take a moment to once again thank my precious family? All four of my children are walking with the Lord and have been a monumental support over the years. There were many times when they could see I was under a great deal of stress, but I always tried to shelter them—only to later find that my shelter had leaks. Yet by the Lord’s grace, they have done well and I trust will continue to do so. My dear wife Kay, as I have often said, has been the wind beneath my wings. She is a true prayer warrior and one who has great confidence in God’s providence. There has never once been a time when she has joined me in feeling sorry for myself during difficult seasons. “Mike, God has this, and there is a lesson to be learned,” she would say. “The last chapter has not been written.” Translation: stop whining and get back to it. Thank you, Kay—I will always be thankful for the ways you mended my many leaks.
Few people on this planet will ever have the privilege my wife, four children and I have had being immersed in ministry. Marinating daily in people’s lives—their joys and pains, sorrows and triumphs—does something to the soul. It forces deep reflection on the value of life and drives one to ponder the brevity of it while considering how it must be lived out. So one of my key takeaways from all these years of pastoring is this: Life is short. Eternity is long. Invest heavily in the latter. Jesus made this abundantly clear when He said “…Lay not up treasures on earth…” (Matthew 6:19-20).
A few final words of exhortation:
- Keep missions as a priority. Whether you send or are sent, never lose this focus. The world must hear the good news of the gospel.
- Do not forsake the assembly. If you feel comfortable in social settings but have not returned to church, I implore you to gather with the saints “…not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25).
- Maintain generosity as a priority in your life.
- Be prayerful for and supportive of Jim Supp and his family as he seeks the Lord’s good help to faithfully proclaim the Word in this new season at RBC.
Many letters like this one include this saying: “Words cannot express…” Though true in many ways, God has given us words for the purpose of expressing our deepest thoughts and emotions. So let me choose my next words carefully. They will not be “goodbye” but “see you later.” After all, this is but a pause in our time together. We will have all of eternity to chat as we enjoy the finest of fare in the New Heaven and the New Earth.
I so look forward to it.
With all my love and blessings,