August 17, 2017

(Click here to view the PDF of the August 17 Newsletter)

From the Pen of the Assistant Pastor of Discipleship…

“Immediately they left their nets and followed him.”  Matthew 4.20

Family of Covenant Presbyterian Church, thank you for your warm welcome and many encouragements, especially at my Installation Service. This first month of service at CPC has been a wonderful experience for me and my family. You have been gracious, open, and understanding as we have started the process of getting to know you all. It is a great joy and privilege for me to serve the church as the Assistant Pastor of Discipleship. Pastoral transitions are typically very challenging, especially in the PCA. The process requires months of planning, including interviews, transition plans, an hour-long Presbytery committee exam, and ends with a final Presbytery exam for approval.

Since I had to allow my previous ministry time to find a replacement, I had to resign before I could be examined by the Tennessee Valley Presbytery for final approval to serve at CPC. Pragmatically, this meant that before I had a position I was technically unemployed. There was no guarantee that the Presbytery would approve me to serve. In addition to this, we had to list our house for sale before moving. When our house received a contract and began the closing process it dawned on me that I was about to become both unemployed and homeless.

Some of you may have experienced this feeling. Some of you may be experiencing this feeling right now. The fear and insecurity of being unemployed and/or homeless is overwhelming. My identity was challenged. I found my heart wondering, “who am I if I am not a pastor?” In these moments of fear and doubt the Lord remained faithful. His Word kept pressing me to trust that I belong to Him and my primary identity is beloved, His child. Over these hectic few weeks of leaving St. Louis and getting settled in Chattanooga the Lord kept growing me to experience His love in a new light.

In reading through the Gospel of Matthew I was amazed with how quickly the disciples were willing to leave their nets behind to follow Jesus. What was their motivation? Perhaps they dreamt about prestige or wealth but their identities quickly became homeless and unemployed as they followed this itinerate preacher who had no place to lay his head (Matthew 8.20). This must have been exhausting for these disciples because towards the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, in Matthew 19.16-30, He speaks to them about how difficult it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. Peter, who left his nets and boats behind, cries out, “We have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” A question to which I could sympathize.  “But Lord, what about me! Where are the riches when I have sought to be faithful?  Where is the ease when I have been obedient?” Jesus replies, “many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

In this response Jesus is not making a trite, unsympathetic remark. He is drawing us to the real reward of being a part of the kingdom of God – Himself. He is challenging their perception of the world and comparing them to the principles of the kingdom. The value of the kingdom of God far exceeds anything and everything we have in our lives and we see the value most clearly demonstrated in Jesus. Peter gave up his nets and left his wife behind yet Jesus left Paradise and the inestimable value of Life in His Father to step into our darkness.  The owner of the universe became homeless so that we might have a home with Him for eternity.

~Pastor Bennett