One of the things that the Lord is revealing to me is this: The same Spirit who guided past generations is the one who guides us in this present age. I know this is a basic teaching of truth that is rooted in the Word of God. So it gives me tremendous encouragement when I see it played out in the life of the church.
Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin must have burned deep into the ears of all who could hear his voice—even as it does today as we read it. The unmistakable faithfulness of our God throughout the generations (Acts 7). Remembering the faithfulness and yet rejection of he who is faithful.
To be honest, it is hard as a pastor to see partners in ministry come and go from the local church. Let me give you a couple of examples from my experience.
Meet Betty. When I was called into the pastoral ministry she was there, serving the local church with her gift of playing piano and leading worship. When she talked, people listened. Betty was always encouraging, just loving people, offering Scripture, challenging and praying. Above all, she had a heart for the surrounding community. My desk always has a card or hand-written letter on it from her. She even took Scripture and composed music to it for our congregation.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 says, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior!”
We sang this as we said farewell to Betty. She is moving to Montana to live with her daughter. Her song brings us the same Spirit of God that Habakkuk had. “Renew them in our day,” Habakkuk writes (3:2).
Meet Abby. She was not that old when I first met her. Her mom made sure she was in church, Sunday School, camp, etc. I was never quite sure what was going on in her head. She had a love for acting and could make you laugh with her quick wit and humorous attitude. As she grew, so did her love for Jesus, so much that she gave her life to him. I had the tremendous honor to baptize her and to hear her publicly give her testimony.
After graduation, she agreed to teach the pre-kindergarten Sunday school class. Soon I could see she needed to step up in her calling. I suggested that she consider a short-term mission project. I heard of a Mennonite Brethren church plant in Rapid City, S.D., and thought it would be a great place for her to grow spiritually. She has thrived and short-term has turned to long-term. She is still serving Jesus at Renewal MB Church.
“Therefore go and make disciples….And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20). The authoritative spirit in which Jesus commanded his disciples is the same Spirit even to this day for us.
Meet Don. Don was on the leadership board and was so helpful to this young preacher. He was so encouraging to my whole family as we made the transition into our role as pastor family. He would often tell me, “This is a good fit.”
His gift was greeting people and making them feel welcome. Don would always be at the church before anybody else to make sure the building was ready for worship. As people would come, Don would greet them with a smile and welcome them as family. Don passed away a couple years back, and we still miss him dearly. He truly greeted people as Jesus would. I think that he is an extension of Hebrews 11: “surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses.”
This brings me once again to the concept of the same God guiding throughout all generations. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.
Jesse Swiers is a bi-vocational pastor at Lake Region Mennonite Church in rural Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. He and his wife, Rhonda, have served Lake Region as pastor couple for 13 years. Along with his church responsibilities, Swiers owns and operates JES Wood Products. He serves on the Central District Conference Board of Faith and Life. Jesse and Rhonda have five children.