I’ve heard them called “gospel goodbyes.” It’s the goodbye that must be said when serving the Lord leads us in separate directions. No matter what you call it, it’s still goodbye. And sometimes goodbye is a hard word to say. This month we mark the official start of Journey Church. It’s thrilling to see a vision become reality! It’s gratifying to see real ministry take root in a community with real needs. It’s beautiful to see individuals and families from our congregation respond to God’s call for them to go—to take the risk, to let their hearts be broken, to put their hands to the work of the gospel.
Already, they have counted the cost and made the commitment. They have placed themselves into the Father’s hands like seeds for planting. What God is about to do through them is going to be spectacular. As pastor, I couldn’t be more excited or proud. But I’m really going to miss them. The team being sent from among us—they are family to me, just like the rest of you, brothers and sisters. I’m going to miss seeing them every week. I will not have a front row seat to watch their children grow, to see the Holy Spirit fan gifts into flame. I know it’s inevitable, that people come into our lives only for a season.
Friendship remains, but seasons change. And goodbyes must be said. Saying farewell to our launch team also means we say goodbye to the Betts family. Like most of you, I knew from the start that Matt was meant to be a pastor. There was something about the way he preached, something about the way he loved Jesus and the church, something about the contagious joy that he brought to the work of ministry. He has become my right hand, close as a brother. At the same time, Dawn has become integral to the worshiping heart of this congregation; and in the last 18 months or so, her own heart has been set afire with vision and passion.
She was dreaming the dream of Journey Church before many of us. And as Journey Church launches this month, it is Dawn who takes her place at the worshiping heart of this new body. Together with their girls, Dawn and Matt have sacrificed much for the life of Woodburn Baptist Church, and they are placing a lot on the line now for the sake of Journey Church. For the sake of the gospel. And for the gospel’s sake, we say goodbye. Lord knows our goodbyes are never forever. Journey Church of Bowling Green is obviously not that far away. We’ll stay close, we’ll see one another out and about. (For that matter, Matt Betts will probably still borrow my weed-eater every week.)
But now we necessarily loosen the bonds of relationship, so that we all remain free to follow Christ and love him first. It’s one of love’s supreme acts, to bless and release others, that they may continue to grow, to be and to do all that Christ intends. In heaven we’ll be together forever, but down here, life is too short, and the work is too important. For now, the gospel is all that matters.