The Ministry of Leaving


October 11, 2019

Acts 20:32-38 (NIV)

“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.


Here’s my question. Why couldn’t Paul stay in Ephesus? After all, he had planted a great church there. He had recruited great elders. I mean, they were finally about to get out of the Colin Powell Elementary School and move into a more permanent location. ;0) He had earned the trust of the local leaders. People raved about his preaching.

Who on earth would leave such a situation? He could finally enjoy some of the fruits of his labor. You know, get married, have a couple of kids, get the minivan, coach kids soccer, finally get some counseling about all those abusive Jews in his past and live the Ephesian dream.

There was one small problem. Paul was an apostle. As good as this life might have sounded to Paul, he knew it was not his calling to settle in for the long haul and build up the Embrace Church of Ephesus (A United Methodist Congregation).

What could be better than planting a dynamic church, seeing it take root and begin to bear fruit, and to settle in for a long term relationship with a community of growing Christians? Answer: Nothing could be better if this is your calling.

Problem: Not Paul’s calling.

Sometimes leaving is necessary. Most of the time leaving is hard. It’s important to leave well. What’s so amazing about Paul is he left churches he had planted all the time yet he never protected himself from the pain that comes from saying goodbye to deep friendships.

Leaving, much of the time, is actually a ministry. It makes room for the next thing God wants to do where you left . . . and where you are going.

The main thing we need to remember is the battle cry—Deo Valente!




Can you recall a difficult leaving in your life—perhaps from a church community (as a leader or otherwise) or from a town? How did that go?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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