Following is the final article I wrote for our monthly newsletter at MSMBC:
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:3-6 (ESV)
These inspired words from the Apostle Paul to the saints at Philippi have come to my mind often lately. As you know, I will conclude my tenure as your pastor this month. But as this season of our life and ministry together comes to an end, I want you to know that you will always be in my heart, on my mind, and in my prayers. We are family. Neither time can erase nor can distance weaken the special bond that we share.
It has been my privilege to serve the Lord as the pastor of Mt. Sinai for almost eighteen years, following my father’s four decades of service to this church. I have been a part of this congregation all of my life. And a major stage of my development as a man, believer, and gospel preacher has taken place here in the context of this congregation’s life. While I’ve had broad doors of opportunity opened for me to minister beyond MSMBC over the years, my focus has remained narrowly set on the health, growth, and fruitfulness of Mt. Sinai.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, Paul writes: “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.” These words really do reflect my thoughts and feelings toward you. Consequently, the process of being called away from you to a new assignment has been painful; miserable may be a better word. But God has been faithful, as always, and as the days have passed, my grief has been replaced with gratitude. So I want to use this final note in our monthly newsletter to say to you, “Thank you.”
First, thank you for the investments you have made in my spiritual development. As your pastor, it has been my job to develop you to spiritual maturity. But in more ways than you can ever know, the Lord has used you to nurture me as well. Your prayers, encouragement, questions, challenges, counsel, partnership, and faith have served to build me up in Christlikeness. Any human credit for whatever is good about me belongs to you. Thank you.
I also want to thank you for the love you have shown my family. I began my pastorate as a single man and when I decided to marry, I was determined that my story not repeat some of the sad stories I have heard. So I warned and encouraged you to treat Crystal with love. My formula was simple: I will take care of you, Crystal will take care of me, and you will take care of Crystal. I am grateful for how you have more than lived up to your end of the bargain. Your care for Crystal, H.B. (III), Natalie, and Hailey has been an unspeakable blessing, for which I will be forever grateful.
Thank you, as well, for providing the resources needed for a successful ministry. As I have studied to show myself approved before God, you have made sure that I had the tools I needed to rightly handle the word of truth. My staff – George, Scharmaine, TaVon, and Donald – has made me look good when I have been in over my head. Our Church Council has faithfully shared the pastoral load. The ministry leaders have gone about their work with quiet devotion and built up this congregation with their labors. You have been the easiest church to pastor that I know. I am grateful.
I must also thank you for following my leadership without complaint or contention. There have been times when you did not have a clue what direction I was going. Frankly, sometimes I didn’t know either! Sometimes the Lord would lead me forward, without giving me the details on what was ahead and you have always followed me as I followed Christ. The best and most obvious example is our relocation to the facilities on 54th Street. This was a huge step of faith for us and many were concerned about how we would manage it. Yet even when you disagreed, you did so without being rebellious or causing disunity. Because of your devotion, I am confident that the best is yet to come. Praise God!
Finally, thank you for your maturity these past weeks. I know that this has been a difficult time – some of you are still in shock, others are still grieving, and some are downright angry. Believe me, I understand. Yet, you have remained supportive, faithful, prayerful, and encouraging to my family and me. These are all evidences of your maturity as a church. It gives me great confidence in the future for you and, simply, it makes me happy to see you continue to be the good people I know you are. As 3 John 4 says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
Ultimately, I thank God for his goodness, greatness, and graciousness toward me. And I thank my God upon every remembrance of you. You have been an unspeakable blessing in my life. My prayer for you remains the same: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)
Always your friend and brother,
H.B. Charles Jr.