Saturday, May 13, 2017

In This I Rejoice

Was it really just a week ago that we celebrated these Appalachian Bible College graduates and bade them Godspeed with servant's mantles in hand?
Some of them are sticking around for a summer of ministry or work here (thank you for sparing me from all the goodbyes in one day!), but most have scattered.
Several are headed to seminary for additional ministry training. Some are getting married (to each other, in a few cases 😊) or having babies soon. Some are already candidating/interviewing for ministry positions. Others have jumped into the workforce with the goal of paying off student loans. And a handful are enjoying precious time with family before soon embarking on gospel-advancing work in other parts of the globe.

It's a bittersweet thing to befriend, invest in, and delight in the growth of a group of young people only to watch them leave. My guess is it is not unlike parenting.

I get a little wistful this time of year. I look back and realize I could have invested in these men and women more than I did; I could have opened up my home more, initiated more conversations about substantive things, made time to pray with them more. I'm still learning how to do all of that well, after spending a decade in a very different ministry setting. Thankfully, God's grace can be trusted to use us in our weakness and fill in the gaps.

But mostly I just rejoice. Because God's heartbeat for the nations beats strong in young veins. Because his plan for Christ's bride, the church, is carried forward on young shoulders. Because his gospel is preached and taught and studied and shared by young minds who know how to reach their own generation. "Christ is proclaimed and in this I rejoice," Paul wrote, "Yes, and I will rejoice!" (Philippians 1:18).

He went on with these heartfelt words for the believers in Philippi—which are just as relevant for the Class of 2017:
"Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel..." (1:27).