Saying, “goodbye” is a hard thing to do. Certainly it may depend on the situation and the people that are involved but to bid farewell to a person you love, a person you care for, is never easy even when the parting is for a relatively short period of time. I recently had to say good bye to my family for a few days. They dropped me off at the airport, we hugged and kissed, and as the car pulled away my little boy was waving and shouting, “bye bye!” I was only going to be gone for a few days and with the advent of technology I could see them at almost any time and any place during my trip but true to Shakespeare’s words, “parting is such sweet sorrow.”
Yet, parting plays a vital role in our disciple making mission. Good byes are never easy but they are sometimes necessary. Almost two years ago, Riverlawn planted a church. In the history of our church, this was one of the greatest things that we have ever done because it put feet to our mission as we sought to extend the Kingdom not just at our campus but throughout our city. At the same time, it was a very difficult thing to do. We had to say good-bye to people we loved and cared for and were encouraged by. We sent one of our pastors and elders, we sent key ministry leaders and beloved congregants, we sent people out for the sake of the gospel. These weren’t just normal goodbyes, these were gospel goodbyes. And that’s where all of this comes to my mind today. Because as hard as those good byes were, they were worth it.
They were worth it because it meant that the Kingdom of God advanced. They were worth it because it reiterated that we care more about God’s Kingdom than we do our own. They were worth it because in the process of sending it meant that we were equipping and releasing and making even more disciples, not just at our little plot of ground in north Wichita but throughout our city. They were worth it because though we may not see those bright, shining faces each Sunday morning we can rejoice knowing that we will see them, and many others as a result of their work, again.
And in some way, I think that’s what it means to be a church on mission. Sometimes, it means that we are going to have to say goodbye to some in order to faithfully fulfill the work that God has called us to. This is not just about the things that we do though, it’s about who we are. As pastor and author Steve Timmis writes, “First, we are communities of light. Mission is not something we achieve. It is part of our identity. Mission is central to what it means to be God’s people.” And a part of that mission is equipping and releasing. Equipping disciples for the work of the Great Commission and then releasing them, to their communities, their cities, other cities, other nations, the ends of the earth, all for the glory of God. And so, in some ways, while it may be sad to look to the future and think of saying goodbye to the person in the pew next to us, or that teacher in our Community Hour class, or the small group leader who discipled us it’s also exciting because it reminds us of our identity, of our mission, and of our commitment to taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.