Dear Trinity Saints & Friends,
About month or so ago Peter Leithart told me about a plan that he and a few other men had begun talking and praying about, and tonight Peter announced that plan to the heads of households of Trinity Reformed Church. The plan is called Trinity Institute, a pastoral/theological study center to be founded in Birmingham, Alabama with Peter as the director of the program. You can read more about the plan in Peter’s own words here. This plan includes the Leitharts moving to Birmingham sometime during the summer of 2013.
If that were not enough, Joshua Appel, our newly appointed Pastor of Parish Life and Christian Education – in addition to giving us helpful overviews of the Sunday School program for the year as well as our Parish Group big picture plan – made mention that he has agreed to go through a pastoral candidating process with our sister congregation, Trinity Church, in Wenatchee, Washington. This does not mean that either Joshua is committed to moving to Wenatchee or that Trinity Church will definitely extend that invitation, but both parties have agreed to discuss that possibility. He hopes a decision, one way or the other, may be reached around the beginning of the year.
There are obvious ways in which both of these announcements evoke piles of mixed emotions. It’s exciting to see the opportunities that God seems to be laying before these men, and it’s challenging and difficult to hear, Peter Leithart’s news especially, as the founding pastor of Trinity.
But after the initial shock wore off a bit and I growled and shook my fist at Peter a few times for good measure (Joshua too, just in case), I stood back and looked at the last couple of years and nearly laughed in amazement, as I saw how clearly God has been leading us up to this moment, blessing us, organizing us, equipping us for the next stage in TRC’s story.
I’m thinking of several things: First, about two years ago, the leadership faced some of the most challenging pastoral counseling situations we have ever faced. It was a veritable storm of marriage implosions and hard heartedness and immorality and rebellion that ultimately resulted in a heads of household meeting where we made around 5-6 announcements regarding different situations where we were calling people to repentance, rebuking men in deep sin, announcing church discipline, etc. But looking back, that was God blessing us with the grace to be faithful to His word, faithfully love and protect the flock of God, and graciously calling erring brothers and sisters to repentance.
Sometime during that busy spell, I remember talking to Joshua Appel about what was going on, and we both marveled at what God had given us and wondered what He was up to. In that moment, one of us (I can’t remember who) said, “I wonder if God is getting ready to give us a building.” We’ve been ‘the church that meets in the hotel conference room’ for 9 years, and we’ve prayed for a building of our own since the beginning, and that idea seemed to make sense at the moment. But we had no prospects for any building at that time. But that conversation started an avalanche of praying and meeting and discussing how we could more faithfully organize our ministries, our leadership, and focus our priorities as a church. This led to the beginning of Parish Groups last year, a kickstart of Sunday School, an expanded diaconate (from 3 to 7 deacons, with 2 more in training), and refocusing of pastoral duties for the pastoral staff.
What’s more exciting is the fact that this isn’t just a lot of shuffling papers and administrative flow charts, we’ve seen real ministry taking place. God has been blessing families both inside and outside the church in some pretty startling ways. I have seen people come to the Lord and people come back to the Lord who had turned away from Him. I have seen marriages healed that looked like they were beyond fixing. I’ve seen huge sins confessed and forgiven and the way that the grace of Jesus transforms men and women and children in real life. I’ve seen the love of Jesus in action in our church through ministries of mercy to outcasts and lonely, hospitality to neighbors and strangers, and I’ve seen bills paid, children sponsored to attend Christian schools, and most recently, I’ve been supremely grateful to watch Trinity stand up and surround the Grieser family in love and prayers and support when their son, Jonah, was diagnosed with Leukemia.
And then if all that wasn’t good enough, this summer God gave us a building. The story is wild and crazy. I’ve said several times that the entire saga was like a really bad dating relationship, on again/off again, and by the end, I was just laughing at God’s sense of humor. In the end, it turned out that God was determined to give us the building at a cost far below reasonable for the simple reason that He can.
All that to say, when I look at the big picture, I see God having poured enormous blessings on our church, but not just any blessings. I see God having set us up for some of the most significant ministry and outreach and growth we have ever seen. I believe that God has organized our forces, galvanized our energies, lined us up on a field of battle and intends to use Trinity in bigger ways than ever before. And the building is a huge part of that. And after seeing the initial sketches of the site plan for the new building tonight (see Roy Atwood if you missed it), I am more convinced than ever. God has planted us here in a permanent way, in a public way and has prepared us for the next stage. In other words, I believe that we are on the verge of Trinity’s biggest work yet. And all because God has led us here, God is blessing us immensely and equipping us for more important tasks ahead.
Now when I look at all that, I certainly would not have written into that story any major character changes. But God writes His story better than we do, and He knows best. Of course there’s a huge part of me that would love to continue to stand up with Peter week after week leading worship, sharing counseling and preaching duties, etc., but when I stand back and look at God’s enormous blessing on our congregation, I am absolutely certain that this too is part of God’s blessing. God is blessing us even in this transition. And so we should pray and work to see Peter’s transition as part of the way we get to share this blessing with more of God’s people around the world. This new exciting calling is part of the way God intends to bless us at Trinity and bless others through us, extending to the Trinity Institute and beyond.
The wonderful thing is that Jesus is our Head Pastor, our Chief Shepherd and Overseer. He looks after all His saints, all His sheep, and He leads and directs and blesses. He knows where we need to be, and He puts us there for our good and for the advancement of His Kingdom. He can be trusted. He is a faithful leader.
I am so thankful for Peter and Noel, and for the supreme privilege and gift it has been and continues to be to serve with Him. And I ask you to join with me in praying God’s blessing on this new venture, this new work: for its organization, for its funding, for its curriculum and instructors, for the Leitharts’ transition, their family and all the details that go into a move like this.
I am also enormously thankful for Joshua and Sara, and the gifts and enthusiasm they bring to Trinity. I will continue to bribe and threaten in all the ways I can imagine (Sara, did you see those building plans and all that choir space?), but I have such great love and respect for them, that I am certain however the Spirit leads them will be for their blessing and the blessing of God’s people whether here or in Wenatchee.
What does all this mean? It means God is blessing us. It means that God is hearing our prayers to be used, to become ministers of His grace and justice. And thankfully we have a solid nine months or so to work on details, continue planning for the future, move into our new building and then get ready for whatever God has up His sleeve next. But I’m pretty sure it has something to do with taking over Moscow (and the world) for Jesus.
Much love and blessings,