J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

The Death of the Death of Ministry in the Death of Jesus

Sunday, August 3rd, will be the final worship service for Sovereign King Church in Garner, NC.

Much like many of you, I wept when I heard the news.

Unfortunately, ministries, churches, and pastors come and go.  As one friend reminded me, “Everything in this world has a lifespan.”  And though death, endings, and even graduations are something we grow comfortable with, they are never pain-free.  While numbers vary, some estimate that between 3,000 and 4,000 churches close their doors each year.  The question I wrestle with (and I imagine others do as well) is, “How is the death of a church redeemed?”

Towards that end, individual stories make up the end of a church.  This is my portion of SK’s.

 Redeemer Church and Eastern Carolina Presbytery sent me and my family to Garner in 2005 with the commission of an evangelist to do what is called scratch planting.  Scratch planting, also known as parachute planting, is when you move onto the field without anyone previously committing to help start a church.  You start from scratch after you parachute onto the field.

We launched quickly with coffee shop bible studies, blogging, and community service.  Soon, we gathered 20 or so people together and huddled with Christ our Comfort, PCA (now Christ the King) as they replanted.  The 40 to 50 of us gathered each week in the old YMCA building (also now non-existent) on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, NC.  Eventually from those humble beginnings, SK grew to a consistent 70-80 in worship with vibrant chaplain ministries to the police and EMS in addition to service ministries to a local women’s shelter.

In hearing that, one might ask, “Well, what happened?”

There is no scandalous story here.  There is no corrupt tale of money-laundering or sordid affairs.  It appears that through God’s providence, things have just come to an end.  People moved on to new jobs.  Some preferred a different music style.  Vibrancy of ministries became lukewarm.  Things just came to an end.

I can’t speak to the philosophy of ministry presently at SK as I left to plant Evident Grace Fellowship in Spotsylvania, Va. nearly two years ago, but I know that their pastor, their elders, their families, and all the congregation have been faithful.  Perhaps, and hopefully, many of them will add their voice of thanks to what has God has done in Garner through Sovereign King because there is so much to celebrate…

Relationships with Christ deepened.

The homeless found Christ, education, employment, and even marriage.

Broken marriages were restored.

A young man and his family suffered a tragic car crash and were loved and served.

Police officers came to know Christ.

Children in the church made professions of faith and took their first Lords Suppers.

And most significantly, the saving faith of Jesus Christ was raised and defended in the marketplace of ideas in that small town.

This apparent death is not a useless, hallow shoveling of dirt on the casket of yet another church.  In Christ, all death is redeemed.  Some of those redemptions may not be seen immediately, but in God’s grace, many of them will be apparent (even in this lifetime).

I’ve been a pastor in some sense for over 10 years now.  Redeemer Church sent me out to plant Sovereign King.  I left Sovereign King to plant Evident Grace.  Most of our children will leave their home church to prayerfully worship and work at another when they become adults.

The death of Christ and His glorious resurrection mean that the curse of death and ending is redeemed with continuity and eternity.

While SK won’t be gathering in its present form each Sunday in Garner, the pastor, elders, and members will be sent as missionaries to points on the compass that aren’t even known at this point.  And that truly is the hope of this applied resurrection.  As another friend reminded me, the worship of Jesus is never restricted to a specific address.  Out of the death of this church, countless others will arise, and Christ will be glorified…now in even more places each Sunday.

In death, it is right to mourn, but that mourning is not pointless, nor is it morose.  It need not be comforted with platitudes and moronic, thoughtless expressions.  Christ is risen, and His church and His people are risen with Him.  His fame goes forward.

God did so much for His glory in His people’s heart and in the town of Garner.  He still will beyond SK.  His name is forever praised in the heart of many, and the legacy of Sovereign King is one drenched in the hopeful Gospel of Jesus resurrection.

I hope other people add to this story.  So much needs to be shared and even learned from it because where Christ is lifted up, you will find His people.  Where you find His people, you will find the hope of the resurrection.  Those stories deserve to be told.

And I can’t wait to learn what happens next.

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August 1, 2014 Posted by | church, church planting, gospel, mission, missional, Uncategorized | , , , | 3 Comments