Monday, August 12, 2019

In the Providence of God

Bessemer, Pennsylvania
        In the providence of God, nearly sixteen years ago He moved me to Chicago. I grew up in McDonald, Ohio, a leafy village of about 4,000 souls in the vicinity of Youngstown. My first church was in the not-quite-vast-metropolis of Bessemer, Pennsylvania. Eleven hundred souls called Bessemer home and we would knock on every door in town the week of our Big Day. Thus it was more than unusual for Him to see fit to place me in the middle of one of America’s great urban centers.
          Over the years God has been exceedingly gracious to us here. Yes, Chicago’s difficulties are somewhat well-known around the country but for the people who live here it is just home. And the people of Maplewood Bible Baptist Church became my people, and their home became our home. Over the years God sent us more people, precious servants of His. Together, we put our shoulders to the wheel and sought to move this church forward for the cause of Christ.
          We have seen God do some wonderful things in our years here. He has strengthened this church in numerous ways. Indeed, in every possible way there is to measure a church this one is markedly stronger. In fact, it is doing better than ever. There is no point to citing specific statistics today, as that would probably just feed my pride, and the spiritual health of this church and these people is entirely due to the Lord anyway.
          Then too, God has also wisely allowed some trials. One of those that came into my life nigh on a decade ago is Meniere’s Disease. It is rather rare and entirely incurable, though it is often manageable. It manifests in a variety of ways, and over the years I have become well acquainted with my particular set of afflictions. I have found through research and through trial and error that patience, rest, working out, eating appropriately, pacing myself, quietness, darkness, judicious medication, and as little travel as possible are all helpful to manage my disease. Along the way my family and my church both accommodated my sometimes unusual requests, and I am more grateful than I can express to both of them for this.
          Meniere’s is not only incurable, it is usually progressive. It certainly has been
Chicago, Illinois
with me. I can still pastor, and pastor effectively (without controversy, I think my church is living proof of that) but I gradually came to the conclusion that living where I live frequently aggravates almost every single aspect of my disease. I also came to the conclusion that it would be helpful for me to find a city less congested, less crowded, less noisy, and less busy for me to minister in. Driving, which is only one difficult aspect of living here, is the nightmare of my life. Sheer wisdom says it would be better to find somewhere else to live.
          So I prayed. And I sought counsel. And I worked. All along, as God is my witness, I kept hoeing the row I was in as well as I knew how, knowing that I will answer to Him someday. I am a worker in His vineyard. He had the right to keep me in any particular part of His vineyard no matter how difficult I increasingly found it. For quite some time He did. It grew me, it grew my family, it grew my church, and it grew my ministry. He is just as much right in His timing as He is in every other aspect of His being and actions. But in the providence of His grace He has now led me to another church and another city. My time in Chicago is thus done.
          I covet your prayers in this, my friends, as in all things. As I write I have a hurting church, one that I would see the Lord pour as much grace into as possible as they deal with this. Then, too, my children will be leaving the only home any of them remember, their only church, their hometown, all of their friends, their entire life other than Mandy and me, basically. And I will have to adjust from being a well loved and very respected pastor to being the new kid in town again. I need God’s wisdom, grace, and peace in all of this, as do these people I so dearly love who surround my life here.
          Where are we going? Forward, is the answer, but more specifically to the Bible Baptist Church in Dubuque, Iowa. She recently lost her pastor of twenty-two years in death, and God has sent me to pick up his mantle. It is neither a big church nor a famous church nor a church of great reputation. It is a sweet-spirited church, an evangelistic church, a conservative church, and a missions-minded church. Each of the last two sentences I find to be good, either for me or for them, and hopefully for both of us together.
Dubuque, Iowa
For those of you who read this with no direct, personal connection to me my ministry to you should not change much. In other words, if you read what I write via Brennan’s Pen or listen to my messages via Brennan’s Pulpit, you should be aware there may be a slight hiccup or two but that as this transition is made things should get back to normal fairly quickly. For those of you who read this who have long had a direct connection with me, much will change. In other words, if I have been your pastor I no longer will be. But please know that though God’s providence is often mysterious, as William Cowper said three hundred years ago, it is never mistaken. I love you, more than I could possibly express. He loves you exponentially more than I do. I have tried to be a scriptural shepherd to you; He is the best shepherd of all. Fear not, neither be afraid. You are in excellent hands.


  1. Through tears and a breaking heart I nevertheless can say I love my Lord enough to embrace the fellowship of His sufferings.
    You have been preaching through the last evening of Jesus' life, stressing that He was preparing the disciples for their inevitable separation from Him, and now I better understand the "why" of this series, though nevertheless, at the moment the pain is very real. Yes, He through your messages in this series has been preparing us for this separation. We did not see it that way in the moment, but grace is often only fully recognized and appreciated by looking back.
    So at the earliest stages of the church this pain has been experienced, faced, overcome and the church moves forward even today.
    You have pastored us well, loved us deeply, consistently pointed us to tbe cross. Thank you.
    Now our response is our responsibility. By His continued grace may our (my) response glorify Him.
    Love you pastor more than I can possibly express.

  2. I'll be praying for your transition!

  3. Charles Taylor-HartAugust 12, 2019 at 9:19 AM

    I am so very sorry to hear this. It will truly be as losing a dear friend. Please go forward knowing that I love you and always will. Thank you for all your help In my decisions and to realize what is needed in my life.
    Good Luck and may God Bless you and the family.
    As it is said With loss also comes gain. Right now our loss is meant to be someone else's gain.
    Charles Taylor-Hart

    1. God was gracious to bring us together for these years, wasn't He?

  4. We will continue praying for you as you follow God's leading and will for your life.

  5. As you know, my wife is a fellow Meniere's sufferer. Because of this, I thank God that He has given you the strength to continue to fulfill His mission for you. I know that your transition no matter how blessed will be painful...and joyful. May God bless both of your churches with joy in what He is doing.

  6. I appreciate reading your posts. I'll be praying for you.