Monday, July 17, 2006

Things I Learned While at Capitol Hill Baptist Church

This past weekend was a great and a sad weekend for my family. My last days as a staff member and elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church were Friday the 14th and Sunday the 16th, respectively. It's been an extraordinary four years or so at the church... as a member, an elder, and a pastor.

I'm on my way to join the saints at First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman where I'll have the privilege of loving them as their senior pastor. They're a sweet, humble, gospel-loving, missions-minded congregation and I'm humbled and excited to serve among them. But there's about two weeks before the family and I land in Grand Cayman. In the meantime, I want to use this opportunity to daily reflect on some things I've learned while at CHBC as a member, elder, and staff pastor.

Today I want to praise God and thank CHBC for teaching me how good and right it is for Christians and congregations to be generous.

The Spirit-wrought generosity of CHBC is beyond measure. I've never been a part of a body quite as giving as this church. Nearly every Sunday evening at CHBC features some request for practical help in some form or another. Perhaps it's a couple recently married that needs help moving into their new home. Perhaps it's the deacon of member care soliciting help with a Saturday of yardwork at an elderly member's home. Perhaps we need more child care volunteers (with about 30 births a year in a congregation of just over 500, we always need more child care volunteers! It's a fruitful and multiplying bunch!). Or, there is a countless number of times the appeal has gone out for someone to host a missionary or visiting friends in their home for some period of time. The list of requests is enormous.

And yet, I don't think I've ever seen a time when members did not respond in spades. Twenty strapping young lads turn out to make moving into a new home a joy. Legions of volunteers often make a wedding (about 15 per year most years) a truly corporate event--arranging decorations, cooking meals, housing guest, and on and on. Not only do folks go out to clean the yards of senior members, but very often the interior as well, and regularly groups go out to sing hymns to senior members at their homes (and did I mention that all this is coordinated by a couple young twenty-somethings that could be wasting their life in the lust and quest for status and power in the nation's capitol?). Visitors to the church never have to worry about a place to lay their head. It's usually in the home of some pastor or hospitable church member. Keys are given out, cars are loaned, and I've even seen one brother give up his place for a couple of months to allow a missionary family to live there while he crashed on a sofa or something at a friends. Generosity. Ubiquitous. Lavish. Loving. Eager. Godly generosity.

I've benefitted from that generosity. I don't know a pastoral staff more exemplary in their generosity than the small staff at CHBC. Mark Dever is unrivaled. From the moment he introduced himself, he has poured himself into me. Time, books, conversation, instruction, relationships, and on and on... he has proven himself to be the largest-hearted man I've ever met.

But it's not just Mark. Michael Lawrence, the Associate Pastor, is extremely generous. I've watched him and his wife Adrienne give so much to the people of the church. They are gifted counselors, filled with a Spirit produced patience, and it shows in the hours they spend with hurting, questioning, searching members of the church. It shows in how they invite people to jazz concerts, and swim meets, and soccer games, and most importantly to their home. You know, the pastors at this church, who live just across the parking lot from the church, almost never lock their doors. People just stream in and out at most any time to "sit a spell" or enjoy a meal. It's amazing generosity, when so often what a pastor and his family would like to do (probably need to do) is retreat and get away for a while. Michael and the other pastors and their families keep giving of themselves.

And then there is Matt Schmucker. You probably know Matt as director of 9Marks Ministries and one of the staff organizers of Together for the Gospel. Matt is an extraordinary father and husband. He is committed and attentive to his family in a way I've never seen before. And his generosity is seen in the perhaps hundreds of men and women who have been allowed a window into his life and home. Matt and Eli are "father and mother" in this church. It's not uncommon to see one of them walking their dog with a church member tagging along receiving from their years of marriage and walking with the Lord.

And "generous" fails to describe the pastors' wives. They have given their husbands to the ministry of this local church and to the Church wherever she exists! All these men spend inordinate amounts of time caring for shepherds in other congregations--visiting with them, counseling them, and walking with them. They love the Church--not just CHBC--and that shows in the way they never tire of doing good for the Church. And they've taught the congregation to love the Church and it shows in how the congregation gives its resources, time and pastors (John Folmar, Mike McKinly, and me) to other bodies for the spread of the gospel.

This is a paltry description of a beautiful church. I've learned that bone-deep generosity is a compelling demonstration of the gospel, where the generosity of God fully displayed His love for His people. I've learned that Christians, of all people, should excel in giving--not just their resources or even the gospel, but giving themselves also (1 Thes. 2:8). Such giving is a grace of God, a spiritual gift. And I've learned to pray for the generosity of the church the Lord is calling me to pastor, and for all churches.

2 comments:

LouLove said...

Brother Thabiti:
Man what a blessing to part of a Church that demonstrates the actions and attitudes clealy set forth in Scripture. All of us who are privileged to listen to you and read you will benefit from the influence that CHBC has had on your life.

I also know of the generosity and giving heart of Matt personally. He spearheaded 9Marks' support of our conference in Chicago sight unseen. 9Marks donated booklets and CDs for us to give away and sent us books to sell without requiring money upfront. Did I say that Matt had no idea who we were. We thank God for men such as Matt and the people of CHBC who have richly blessed your life.

Anonymous said...

Thabiti,

I am a new member at CHBC, and at this Sunday's goodbye service, I was on the verge of tears the entire time. Not because I know you so well, and will miss a friend (though I will), but because I am seeing God's faithfulness over and over here. Matt Schmucker's anniversary celebration was much the same way for me.

Thank you brother. I will be praying for you.