This coming Sunday, I return to New Life Church after a nearly a 6-month absence. Here’s the letter I sent to the congregation in anticipation of that.
Hello. My name is Mark, and I’m one of the pastors at New Life.
It’s been awhile – five and half months, to be exact – since I last said that. I will resume saying it this Sunday (God willing). My sense of privilege and gratitude for that is huge.
Some of you never knew I was away. Some of you are shocked I’m back so soon. Some of you are shocked I’ve been gone so long. Some of you thought I was gone for good. Some of you have no idea who I am.
Whichever it is, this Sunday I get to introduce myself as one of your pastors, and I can hardly wait.
These past few months have been extraordinary. I’ve documented some of that in my blog (markbuchanan.net), and won’t bore you by rehashing any of it. At this point, I just hope that the gift of rest you bestowed on me and my family would benefit all of us. I am certainly coming back refreshed. I doubt I’m a better preacher or leader for my time away. But I’m hopeful I’m a better man. More whole. Better able to live in and live out the shalom of God. Freer to say with greater conviction, “Apart from Christ I can do nothing, but in him I can do all things.”
Let me share one insight God gave me (slowly) during my time away. We were able to attend a vast range of churches – from a high church service, conducted in French, at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris to a free-for-all charismatic service, parts of it in tongues, in a renovated theatre in Bath, and almost every conceivable variation between. It was an ecclesiastical kaleidoscope.
But no matter how different each church was from any other, in every one we sensed God at work. Sometimes, in truth, it took some work to discern how or where. But in every single faith community we took part in, we sensed at least some whisper of the Spirit. All over the world, God is being lifted high, the gospel is being preached, lives are being restored, good is overcoming evil, truth is triumphing over deceit, and light is conquering darkness.
It’s not to say there aren’t problems. Equally, all over the world, things are messy and broken and difficult. But the overall impression I’ve come away with is that the church of Jesus Christ, struggling though it may be, is alive in every corner of the globe, and is the hope of the world.
And God does not have a plan B.
My name is Mark, and I am one of your pastors.
I can hardly believe my good luck.