“For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift
to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s
faith, both yours and mine…I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome” (Romans 1:11, 12, 15).
The Apostle Paul begins his famous letter to the Romans in a surprising way: he shares that he wants to be encouraged by the Christians in Rome’s faith. It is not surprising that he wants to “impart to [them] some spiritual gift” (verse 11) to strengthen them; but it is surprising that Paul, the world’s greatest missionary and the author of much of the New Testament, needed encouragement in his faith. And yet he says he is coming to Rome “that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine” (verse 12).
Why can the Christian take good courage in the midst of the trials of life? It is only because of the gospel, the good news that Jesus Christ was crucified, buried, and raised on the third day to rescue all who would come to him. We have a glorious future awaiting us!
A little over four years ago, Lindsey and I came to Madison to visit for Easter. We were just two months away from moving up here from the South. We were moving to Wisconsin to make disciples of all nations, with the hopes of preparing to be sent to the mission field ourselves.
On that Easter morning, in the dusty and hot cafeteria of Randall Elementary School, I summarized why we were coming to Madison and to Red Village Church by reading these same words that Paul wrote to the Roman believers. Lindsey and I wanted to encourage Red Village in the gospel, but we also desired—and desperately needed—that encouragement in our faith as well. And through this encouragement, together with RVC we wanted to take the good news of Jesus Christ to the end of the earth. Through our combined service of evangelism and sending many RVC members to the nations, Lindsey and I have completed the work that God set before us here at Red Village. All glory to God!
That being said, it is so hard for us to leave you guys, because in leaving you we are leaving some of our dreams as well. It feels like we are mourning a death. Death casts such a horrible shadow over this broken world, and over each of our lives. But our Lord has something amazing to say about death: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). Out of death comes life!
God is leading us to the opposite life than we’ve wanted and pursued the last 10 years: moving to the Bible Belt and seeking a job outside of vocational ministry. To our dreams, this feels like death. But we know that Jesus rose from the dead, and we believe that he brings life to his people, even to their buried dreams. We are following Jesus to Alabama to die to ourselves and to bear the fruit He desires from us, not the fruit we desire from Him.
“If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5). Let’s all live out the beautiful drama of the wooden cross and the empty tomb for the sake of his name among all nations. Pray for us to do this in Alabama as we seek to find a new church community and to encourage others to live all out for Jesus Christ. We will always pray for Red Village Church. We will miss you dearly, but we look forward to the Day that we will all meet again. What a celebration it will be!
Thank you, Red Village Church, both gathered and scattered, for encouraging us in our faith these past four years. Thank you for being our family up here. Thank you for helping us see Jesus more clearly. Thank you for serving alongside us to fulfill the Great Commission. Never forget the gospel, and its imperative to spread Christ’s joy to all nations, no matter what role you may play, no matter what cost you may pay. Jesus is worthy.
Taking RVC with us,
Robert & Lindsey
Joshua, Lucy, Thomas