If last year, you were to move to Springfield, Missouri, with plans on attending Heritage Associate Reformed Presbyterian church, you might have had a tough time even finding us, let alone attend our services. For one, we were not Heritage then, but Gospel of Grace ARP. For another, we were not meeting in our own facility but at a Methodist church, at the ungainly time of 12:15 pm. Then came Covid and then we saw the marvelous providential working of our God. During what for us and others was a very painful time, the Lord graciously worked on our behalf, as he used this time to prosper the church. He prospered his church by aiding us in locating and purchasing a new facility. He further prospered his church by uniting our hearts to more joyously pursue our identity as Reformed Presbyterians (hence the name change to Heritage). He likewise prospered the church by moving upon the hearts of folks in our area to come and join us. What beautiful transitions the Lord has orchestrated in the life of Heritage ARP. I would like to say all the transitions we have experienced have been that positive and encouraging. Such would have been the case, up until one day in April.
During the end of our elder/deacon training session on this particular day, one of our elders (who at the time was on Sabbatical and thus not required to attend the training) suddenly popped into our class, with his wife following behind. He proceeded to inform us that he and his beautiful family of ten were moving back to their home area, to be closer to kinfolk. We understood the desire and fully supported their decision. Still, we were pained at the very thought of losing such a wonderful and much-loved elder and family. This was a transition we neither desired nor relished. It was a transition we would have to endure. During such a time as this, what truth from God’s Word must we rely upon?
Well, first off, I would say that we must rely upon the truth of God’s sovereignty. I am not so much here referring to God’s sovereignty in ordaining such painful transitions, though that too is a truth we must lean upon. More so, I am referring to his sovereign election of all who would believe upon Jesus Christ unto salvation and that by such knowledge of his people, we can have confidence of the future health and well-being of the church of God. I believe this is what Paul points Timothy to, as he was experiencing much painful turbulence in his ministry to the Ephesian church. In 2 Timothy 2:19, Paul confidently declares: “But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”” Indeed painful transitions may shake us, but the church, the people of God will stand firm, for God knows us by election and therein lies our confidence. The church is not some random composition of those who have decided to join up, but the company of God’s elect, who will endure to the end. Even during our most painful transitions, the church will stand.
That is not to say that we should not be pained during such turbulent times. For, the second truth we must rely upon, simply put, is that painful transitions are an important means by which the Lord does purify his church. We must remember that judgment begins in the house of the Lord (1 Peter 4:17). It is not because the Lord despises his church that he does such a work, though. Rather, it is because he loves her and desires to purify her of all uncleanness.
Painful transitions do indeed shake us for the purpose of our purification. Such times of discipline are necessary and spiritually beneficial, producing in us a harvest of righteousness (Heb. 12:10-11). Yet, while our present, turbulent transitions do shake us, they should also remind us of and create in us a greater desire for that kingdom that cannot be shaken. The third truth we must rely upon is that we indeed, despite such unsettling times, have such a kingdom promised to us (Heb. 12:28). Let us find our hope and strength during painful transitions in this glorious assurance.
Indeed, Heritage is experiencing a painful transition from the loss of this very important family. Yet, the church will stand, even as the Lord does purify her through this process. And, as our aid and comfort, we keep our minds focused on the kingdom that cannot be shaken.