My husband is a Children's Pastor, and God has sent us on quite a journey - both spiritually and physically. We have been a part of experiencing incredible growth as God has moved us to new churches. Every time we have had to leave a church, it has broken our hearts because we always fall in love with the people we are serving. This last move we made was so difficult because we found ourselves not only in love with the people in the church, but we had connected with the people in our community. While it is so hard to tear myself away from the church and the people I have grown to love, each move has had its purpose and I can always look in hindsight and see that God was doing His beautiful work in our lives. So, as I read through this section of scripture I can completely relate to the emotional good-bye Paul gives to the elders of the Ephesian church. Please turn to Acts 20:16-38.
Paul felt that the Holy Spirit was leading him to go back to Jerusalem; however, he had also been told through the Holy Spirit that he would be going to jail. While Paul didn't completely understand this plan, he still chose to walk in obedience. He also knew that this meant that he would never see the people he fell in love with again. To me, the fact that Paul took the opportunity to send for the elders when the ship had docked shows how much he cared for them and the church. Paul asked them to remember everything they learned and saw him doing so they would know how to lead the church. Paul warned them of the false teachers that would try to steer the people in the church away from God. Paul reminded them of the opposition they faced within the city of Ephesus.
This is such a beautiful scene and it is a reminder how wonderful community is. It also reminds me that when we follow God, we are sometimes put in positions that are heart-breaking. We have the ability to see that God used Paul to reach millions of people through his letters that were written while he was in jail. Paul had no idea that God would use him so powerfully while he was in jail; however he chose to obey even though it made no sense to him. This also allowed Paul to hand the leadership of the Ephesian church to the elders - God was raising up new leaders. We need to remember that when goodbyes are difficult, God wants to use us in a different way when He moves us to a new place. It is also an opportunity for God to grow new leaders.
Are you willing to follow God to wherever He wants you to go?