“May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.
I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.”
Shaking and weeping, I read these words in preparation to announcing my formal resignation. Sunday September 12th, 2010 will ring in my heart for years to come as the day my heart stood still.
I am writing this blog the day after the resignation to express my heart and passion for God’s Church, but also to clear up any misconceptions anyone may have as to why I decided to step down.
**[I openly confess that my current understanding of the following convictions are limited to my finite mind, and I may never fully understand the infinite plans of an all-knowing and all-powerful God. Therefore, the following is my current interpretation of God’s leading and may change or grow in understanding in the future.]**
A Quick Lesson
In the book of Ephesians around chapter 5, Paul is detailing pretty extensively the expectations held to those who claim the name of Christ- the Church. In what I believe is a pretty good summary statement, Paul says in verses 15-17, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.”
Let me explain what I mean by these words. I believe Paul is making his argument pretty clear, the pagans make decisions foolishly and are not careful in the way they live their lives. Now, if we were to take a quick look around us, I believe we could say that about much of our culture- people making life altering decisions on a whelm or while under some sort of influence. Paul is making his argument very clear here, as followers of an all-knowing God, we are to not live like our culture does. We bare the name of Christ, therefore are His representatives in the geography He has divinely placed us.
Paul exclaims, “Make the most of every opportunity and seek to understand what the Lord wants you to do.”
Rachel and I have had a similar verse posted on our refrigerator for several weeks, which reads, “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”
The Stirrings in a small Man
I believe these verses, among many others, have led to a supernatural stirring in my small human heart. I feel as if my small human heart has experience a single “thud” from the divinely gracious heart of God. Let me explain.
About a year ago, I was asked the question, “What does God want?” I know, it sounds like a simple question, but it is a question that has plagued my mind for over well over a year. It has been a question that has worked its way to the very depth of my soul. And this is a question, that I believe is extremely important for the Church today.
I believe the answer to this question is this, “God wants every man, woman, and child on the face of the planet to see, hear, and understand the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ, without them having to come or go anywhere to meet Him.”
I realize that our vision as a local church is to be “Christians who are Actively Reaching Everyone,” and let me say, this is an excellent and Divinely inspired vision and goes along perfectly with my previous statement.
However, for me, this vision has not adequately fleshed itself out. Let me explain, when proposed with the question of God’s desires, I had to ask myself, “What would it look like in my life if God got what He wanted?” What I discovered was not what I believed God wanted at all!
The Heart of the Matter
Have you ever heard the old adage, “Where you’re heart is, your time will be also.” Well, for me that phrase proved everything. I took a hard long look at my schedule and discovered that my heart was not exhibiting the same time ratio as one that was reaching every man, woman, and child.
I noticed that the majority of my time was spent doing the opposite. I discovered that most of my time was being spent solely with other Christians. How am I supposed to reach a lost and dying world, if I keep spending the majority of my time with the saved and sanctified?
I’ve come to realize that this question is one that I must answer for myself; that this question is one that I, and I alone, will be held accountable for in eternity. This is a personal conviction and I do not wish to place it on anyone else, and therefore must change my life in accordance to this conviction.
I believe that God is at work in me; at work renewing my mind for the sake of the Gospel. Therefore ministry in the future must be fleshed out in a different way. Whatever this may look like, God will get the glory
I have come to believe that Christian ministry is not simply a working of the Church, but should be the very fiber of its being. And as a member of that Church, my responsibility is not to simply teach ministry, but to do ministry.
In saying these things, I in NO WAY seek to say that our local representation is not doing this very thing! In fact, I believe that we are actually trying our hardest to accomplish this very task. My concern is merely my own heart and the divine vision that has been placed in it!
Which brings me to the place of my resignation. I am definitely not stepping away from full-time church ministry. In fact, if anything, I’m stepping deeper into it. My heart has always been Christ’s Bride and her mission, and will continue either until Christ’s return or my home going. Therefore, my resignation is so that Rachel and I can take the time needed to pursue this new vision that He has given and seek the absolute will of God for the future.
As for the near future, I honestly have no idea what God has in store for my wife and I, but I am expecting big things because I serve a big God. I know without a shadow of a doubt that God has been calling my human sized heart to a God sized heart’s task. I wish I knew what that task was, but God has yet to reveal it to us.
As I quoted earlier from Philippians, “Every time I thank of you, I give thanks to God… for you have been my partners in sharing the Good News of Christ.” Because of this, we will surely miss you all and will continue to send prayers up to God on your behalf. I thank you for all the love and support that you have given us in our first year of marriage. We feel that we have grown in our pursuit of God and in our love for each other through this experience.
In closing, we ask that you keep us in your prayers as we will be zealously seeking the face of God during this new season, and that God will bring continued confirmation. I also ask that you pray God send us in the direction of people who need to know Him, people who may have never had the opportunity to see, hear, or understand the message of an all-sufficient God who is passionately in pursuit for their souls.
Christopher E. Bell