Reflections of a Church Closing, by Corey Tabor (MML 2016)
Last year, my wife April and I shared with the small group of partners remaining in Full Life Community Church, that we were closing the church. Our youngest daughter Charis was less than one month old and April was still on maternity leave. After nine years of planting Full Life Community Church, collectively reaching over 400 people but never amassing more than 60 people in one season, we discovered that God had a unique purpose for our church and it had been fulfilled. Full Life Community Church became a safe place for people to heal from however they’d been hurt. Some came to the church having been hurt by previous church leaders in their former church. Some came to the church having been hurt by their former spouse or significant other. Some came to the church having been hurt by their parents or extended family. In retrospect, we were the safe place for hurting people.
The reality of being an emergency room, hospital, or rehabilitation center; however you may want to phrase it is, hurting people struggle to invest in others because they are in crisis mode fighting for their lives. We would never expect a person in emergency surgery for a lacerated liver to get off the operating table and assist in a surgery in the next operating room. In retrospect, those who came hurting, struggled to give as much of themselves to assist in ministry as they would had they been healthy.
God in his sovereignty, gave us the gift of hurting people knowing we would know how to love them through hurt. God in his wisdom, allowed us to steward hurting people because he knew when they healed, they would be more impactful in the kingdom. For professional and personal courtesy, I will not mention the names of former members who are doing amazing work in the city, state, and nation. I’ll just say thank you for the gift of your presence, your belief in the vision, and entrusting your spiritual care to us in the season you were there.
Yesterday, I cleared the last of what has been four different storage units since 2009.
The bible says in Malachi 3:10, ‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’
Honestly from early on in our church life, we were given items that needed to be stored including high level executive desks and military grade bookshelves. We were constantly looking for ways to give things away because God had kept his promise of pouring blessings we could not completely store.
The final storage unit number was 2020 which happens to be this year but is also the measurement used to validate perfect vision. As I packed up contact cards, offering envelopes, Discover Full Life Partnership Manuals, children’s toys, sound equipment, music stands, HDMI cables, and computer monitors; my mind start flashing back to Sunday morning finishing a sermon (because I was bi-vocationally pastoring), loading equipment in our two family cars, driving to the meeting location, unloading equipment, leading prayer for our leaders, setting up, leading worship, preaching a message, and then breaking it all down, loading it all up and bringing it all home to do it again the next week.
As I cleared storage unit #2020, I treasured the many memories that are now stored in my heart of marriages that were restored, children that accepted Jesus, businesses that were built, and babies that were dedicated.
On February 21, 2014, Anaia Naomi Tabor was born to us our first child, after having had a miscarriage in 2011 and finding out we were pregnant on June 6, 2013, our 10th wedding anniversary. The next day, February 22, 2014, was the first Sunday we were hosting our services in a newly leased spaced. God used gifted leaders to support us in our time of transitioning into parenthood.
A little over a month later on March 30, 2014, we dedicated the worship space and we dedicated our daughter back to God. I had no idea that this would be one of the last times I would worship with my mother who transitioned to heaven on April 4, 2015 or that it would be the place where I would complete my Master of Ministry Leadership degree in 2016.
I also cherished the challenging seasons of trying to monthly pay rent as it increased and annually. I cherished the seasons of depression and disappointment. I treasured the seasons of movement and transition of those who were there in the beginning, the middle and ultimately the end. As I reflected, all I could say was, “Thank you Jesus for 9 years of meaningful ministry. Thank you for the ways to challenged me to trust you when I could not trace you. Thank you for the ways you taught me to repent when I made mistakes and the ways you challenged me to love my wife as Christ loved the church and laid down his life for her. Thank you for entrusting this flock to me for this season. Thank you that I know you’re pleased and are saying well done good and faithful servant, not because I was a perfect pastor but because I was willing to do what he asked me to do. Obedience was and is my standard of success. In Genesis 6:22, the Bible says, “Noah did everything God commanded him.”
I did not pastor perfectly, but no one can say I did not pastor passionately, persistently, and purposefully. I know with all my heart, I did my best and God was honored.
Today, as members of Celebration Central Austin, we will dedicate our youngest daughter Charis Dawn who was our grace baby. She’s the gift that God brought out of losing my mother-in-law and father-in-law to cancer within 6 months in 2017. She’s the gift of my wife completing her second master’s degree in school administration and become an assistant principal. She the gift that reminds me, we cannot nor do we need to earn God’s love.
I always encouraged our members to mark milestones in their lives like weddings and wedding anniversaries, births and birthdays, graduations and home sales. Because as we mark milestones, we build virtual Ebenezer milestones or reminders of who God is, what he has said, and what he has done. He has been faithful in the past to complete what he began and he will do the same in this season.
So, now as I transition into ministering as a primarily speaker, author, and coach to schools, nonprofits and churches, I am looking through the windshield of amazing opportunities while glancing in my rearview mirror to remember that God can do it and he will do it again! For more about Corey’s journey go to this link.
Church Planting Course Begins, March 3, 2020
How do you start a new church? What is a church? What is a healthy church? What is a church planter? What are the stages of a church plant? The course will investigate the biblical and theological basis for church plants, as well as the practical aspects of starting a new work. This course is designed for students who are interested in church planting or sense a call to plant a church. It is also perfect for those who have recently started a church plant or who are working to help a church become healthy. This is a great overview of how to lead a healthy church. The course is taught by Dr. Tom Bartlett and Dr. Lendell Nolan. Dr. Bartlett is an experienced church planter and has started numerous churches around the world. Dr. Nolan is currently planting a church in Bixby, OK. Please share this with a minister who would like to gain new skills. You still have time to enroll is this great courses. Contact email@example.com.