It is fairly public knowledge that we are retiring and our last Sunday will be June 3, 2018. I have been asked a number of questions concerning the decision, including “How did you reach your decision?” I am not sure that there was a particular path of decision-making that was followed that I can delineate. Certainly there was much thought, discussion and prayer between Carol and me over a period of time.
I believe when one is younger and considers something of this nature, it is often couched in terms of “When is the best time for me to retire?” The problem is, the ”for me” is often just that, “for me.” But if one buries one’s life in the church, that must become a lesser factor in the decision making. The real issue, “When is the best time for the church for me (us) to retire?”.
An Acts 15 standard has for years been a guiding goal for my life. It poses a difficult problem, one that could not be answered immediately by Paul and Barnabas. On one side was what seemed to be the unchangeable; on the other was the unstoppable power of change, the grace of God.
Paul and Barnabas had gone to Antioch and reported how God had “opened a door of faith to the Gentiles,” grace in action, Acts 14:27. Men, however, had come from Judea teaching, “Unless you are circumcised according to the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.“ Paul and Barnabas had “great dissension and debate with them,” but could reach no resolution. It was decided that the two disciples would go to Jerusalem and consult with leadership – apostles and elders – for a decision. They were to consider if two thousand years of custom and practice, given to Abraham originally and endorsed by God repeatedly, would no longer be binding for one to follow Christ. There seemed to be no right answer.
After much discussion and debate among those in Jerusalem (15:7), Peter stood and reminded the others that it was evident that God had chosen the Gentiles just as he had chosen the Jews. His argument was simple and binding: none of the Jews, including himself, had been able to carry the yoke of the Law successfully; he could not justify putting the same Law on others. He said, “We are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in the same way as they are,” v 11. James, the leader, endorsed Peter’s insight and a letter was drafted that expressed that grace and included the words of explanation, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…”
That is a great way to live and it is the place where Carol and I reached in this experience. Twenty-nine years is not 2000 years, but is the large part of our ministry. Change is not easy, but in the grace of God, it is necessary. And, it is unavoidable. Anyone at 74 who confuses that with 47 has a problem. There is change that has taken place and more will come. We do not retire under any pressure, frustration or even any suggestion of others. Leadership has been gracious, seeking to make sure this is our decision. It is, and it seems “good to the Holy Spirit and to us.”
The result of the Acts 15 decision was the explosion and multiplication of Christianity. That is what we preach. Our prayer is that God will use our decision to multiply the ministry of Northland Cathedral.