When I arrived at Lewis and Clark Bible Church yesterday morning (July 17, 2022) to preach the morning sermon, I couldn’t help but notice the tree that stands adjacent to the parking lot. And I thought again of how I planted that tree some 30 years ago, and of how much it had grown. And I remembered how I’d written about that tree in my final newsletter article some 4 and 1/2 years ago. Perhaps this article will prove helpful and work to encourage someone, so I’m posting it here on my blog…
This is likely my last article for this monthly newsletter, so I want to thank Harvey for his hard work and faithfulness in putting together these monthly newsletters and thank all of you who have taken the time to read what has been written. I trust that the articles have been helpful to you.
The time is drawing near for Laura and me to move on from this sphere of ministry and away from all the folks here that have become so incredibly dear to us. In a week, I am to make a two-week trip to Uganda for the graduation service for the pastors at Faith Bible School on February 10th (the school in which we have been privileged to be a part of). After my return, there will be a farewell service at 11 AM on my birthday (February 25th). Everyone is invited to that. After that, for however long we remain in the area, until our move to Heppner, Oregon, I will serve as an advisor to the new pastor, Caleb Hilbert. It is hard to know what to say at the end of 27 and ½ years of ministry in a place. But first, thank you, both in the church family and beyond, who have faithfully prayed for Laura and cared for us by way of notes, cards, letters, calls, emails, meals, gifts, etc. during this past year of her cancer journey.
Your loving concern and prayers are precious to us. By God’s grace, we are doing okay, though it has been a tough year for sure. I’m encouraged by the truth of 2 Corinthians 4:16, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”
There is a tree that stands in the front of our church building. Technically, it is a “pinus contorta”, which is generally referred to as a coast pine or surf pine. It is common up and down the coast in the Northwest and all the way to Alaska. It is of the same species as the lodgepole pine, which is found on the east side of the state. The species gets its name contorta (sounds like “contorted”) because of its twisted, bent appearance and the tree’s twisted needles. The branches of the tree are very elastic and difficult to break.
There is a history to that tree. Shortly after our arrival here at LCBC, some 27+ years ago, Laura and I were visiting some friends in Seaside. They were clearing a flower bed and a little sprout of a tree was in the way of things. So I said that I would take it and brought it back to the church and planted it in that spot. And now we can see what has happened in 27 years. It has grown. It has increased in size from a small fragile thing with but a few branches, to a rather large tree about 30 feet high and has added many branches that reach out in all directions. Little trees have sprouted up around its base. That tree has done well in that spot. It has grown in the summer and has withstood many winters—including the great coastal gale of 2007.
Now how is it that the tree has grown? And where did all those branches come from? It has grown as trees grow. Scientifically, we understand how plants and trees grow—sunshine,water, nutrients in the soil, etc. But ultimately, we should understand that they grow according to God’s design, and as He provisions life and growth in all. That tree has many branches, but they’ve all one thing in common—they are connected to one main trunk. And it is from the trunk that all the limbs derive life and are enabled to grow. Jesus used such an analogy when He spoke of the vine and the branches, illustrating the church in its relationship to Him. He said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). And we have experienced a “tree-like” unity, being bound together in Christ. Praise God for the unity in Christ we have experienced in our church over these many years. We have grown together through the ministry of the Word.
Someone has said that a hungry people make for a happy pastor. Thanks for being that kind of hungry people who privileged me over all these years to be a happy pastor in the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. It is through the ministry of the Word—the whole counsel of God’s word—that any church is made healthy and strong. Those surf pine trees are found in the coastal regions where they are buffeted by storms and variant weather. These same regions tend towards a difficult spiritual climate as well, especially in founding and maintaining a ministry that is thoroughly Biblical. But by God’s grace, and through the ministry of the Word, He has allowed for us to overcome enormous obstacles and persevere through many trials (Psalm 1:2-3). Through the ministry of the Word, we’ve grown “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18; Cf. 1 Peter2:2). Praise God for it! That tree has grown and so have we.
God is the One who has done that, even as Paul said, “neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7). Per God’s design, the church grows as the saints are equipped, through the ministry of the Word, “for the work of service” (Ephesians 4:12). Per God’s design, growth in Christ is the result when we all are “speaking the truth in love,” and when we are “being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part” (Ephesians 4:15-16). And that has been our experience. How beautiful you are in Christ, in your love for one another and aptness to serve (Galatians 5:13).
In recent months and years, God has provided many opportunities for us to serve Jesus by serving others in various ways. The church has responded so well. In recent months, in this transition period, I have worked to pass on many of my tasks to others. You have made that job much easier in your readiness and willingness to serve. Whether it be the preparing of the Sunday School breakfast, hosting a funeral service, unpacking a moving truck, or countless other opportunities—we’ve never had to beg for help; there has been more than enough.
That tree has been ever-expanding in its growth, branching out in all directions. So, it is with the church. From the beginning, the church has been called to bear witness of Jesus And His-powerful-to-save gospel (Acts 1:8; Romans 1:16). From its early days, LCBC has maintained its focus on missionary endeavor. Even now, we’ve folks who are glad to serve in such a manner, whether it be in the Rescue Mission, Care Centers, or the Memory Care Unit or other local missionary endeavors. I know how thankful Ellen Cook (CEF) is that we have provided her a place for her office for these many years. And many from the church have involved themselves in that important ministry to children. Others lead Bible studies and still others are always looking for, and rejoicing in, God-given opportunities to share the gospel with others. In recent years, God privileged us to have a role in serving our brethren in Christ in Uganda. We have made ten trips there. You’ve encouraged, prayed for, funded, and helped in this endeavor; some of you have gone there. God has abundantly blessed those efforts. I remember how I wondered about asking for funds for that second trip to the region, and how God ultimately worked to abundantly supply all that was needed. We have never lacked funds for those trips. And our church budget never suffered, though the ministry to Uganda costs many tens of thousands of dollars. Praise God for it! We have had a role, through the ministry of the Word, in what God has done in transforming a region. There are many pastors who are better equipped to teach God’s Word and lead their churches because of the work of Hope and Mercy Mission. You have had a role in the founding and provision of Faith Bible School. How Exciting it will be to witness the graduation of those first 19 pastors on February 10th! The “Days for Girls” ministry has grown and now enlists over 20 women, young and old, in preparing kits for girls. I am confident that these efforts will lead to even more opportunities to speak to girls of the love of Jesus, bound up in His gospel. Through this ministry to our less-privileged brothers and sisters in Christ, God has worked a wonderful change in us. To God be the glory—He has done great things!
In this transition, we have been incredibly blessed by God in His leading and provision. Before we even knew of the depth of our need, we had begun to pray for God’s provision of a pastor intern to assist in the ministry. We were aware of the challenges associated with bringing someone here who was like-minded in our emphasis on the sufficiency of Christ, the importance of sound doctrine, and a philosophy of ministry that is thoroughly Biblical and rejects the “cultural relevance” approach that is so common in our day. Knowing the challenges associated with finding such a man, we simply trusted God in prayer, believing Him to be the best “match-maker.” I am so very thankful to God for His answer to our prayers. Pastor Caleb’s heart for the Word is obvious and we have already been blessed by his teaching of the Word. Caleb and Krista are glad to be here, and we are so glad to have them. As hard as this transition has been for me, it would be doubly so apart from God’s working to bring them here. You have been wonderful in this transition; from the unanimous vote to call Caleb to this day, you have demonstrated a God-given sensitivity in all and flexibility amidst change.
I know that there will still be challenges ahead, but I will echo what Paul said when he said farewell to a group he had loved and cared for, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). I am so thankful for our church leaders. I will never forget those early days with Jim and Vic and their support and encouragement through those sparse times. They had a heart to trust God through it all and were a tremendous blessing to me. Our current elders have served so well. In their love for Jesus, commitment to His Word, and loving concern for all, they have blessed us all in their leadership. They are great friends to me—we’ve served together, prayed together, and agonized over troublesome matters together—and through it all, we have experienced a wonderful, God-given unity. Praise God for it!
Our Deacons have likewise “deaconed” well, always being ready and willing to serve. Both Mike and Bob worked so extremely hard in the renovating of the parsonage! And God led and provided so that all was done just in time! How blessed I’ve been/we have been by these men! I wish I had time to say a word to each one of you, to take the church directory and go down the list and address each of you personally. To say thanks and to say how blessed we have been by God in knowing you and serving together with you and being knitted together in God’s love for one another. But time and space will not allow. Suffice it to say—we love you dearly. The words of the hymn echo our thoughts, “Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred hearts, is like to that above!”
But there is one person, besides God Himself, who is most deserving of our thanks. And what can I say—the best and most gracious words would cannot measure up to what is deserved by way of gratitude and thankfulness. I brought Laura, rather God brought us and our family, so long ago. We left behind a beautiful home and I brought her to a-very-needy parsonage. We had already left a high-paying job and were instead to receive a meager income. Though she was teary-eyed in the move here, she never complained. She had once told God that she never wanted to be a pastor’s wife, but God did not listen. She came, and she served so incredibly well, and serves to this day because she loves Jesus. She did not care whether anybody knew about what she was doing, she just served. Whether it was leading or helping with the children, or potlucks, or women’s ministry—she was there to do her part. She supervised the nursery, taught Children’s Church, Sunday School, and in AWANA. She helped people who were moving on many occasions. When meals were needed for someone, she would do the calling and provide some too. Countless times, she visited hospitals with me. She was there to console someone when a loved one had died. She was better at it than me. Were there complaints, she was not deterred in her serving. Was someone unpleasant, she simply forgave. She has excelled me in her aptness to serve. Besides Jesus Himself; she has been the best example to me of what servanthood looks like. Even with her disability, she rarely complains, and still serves. By God’s grace, she has been so devoted and so faithful in serving Jesus. God’s given her a heart for that. And, I’ve been incredibly blessed, we have all been blessed by her! That she has put up with me for all these years is reason enough to thank and appreciate her!
My first message when I came to LCBC was regarding the supremacy of Christ. My text was Colossians 1:16, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones of dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.” As I recall, I nervously preached a 40-minute sermon in about 20 minutes! Since that day, we have endeavored, by God’s grace, to faithfully “preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). I recently finished a four-part series on Ephesians 3:20-21. We looked to the phrase, “to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus.” To Him be the glory! That He would use any of us, especially me, testifies to the riches of His glory and mercy. That He would choose to manifest His glory in ordinary “jars of clay” folks like us,how amazing! How beautiful is the body of Christ, but its beauty is derived from its Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ—not in its building or its pastor or its programs. The church is beautiful because Christ is beautiful. To the extent it abides in Him, and abides in Him by abiding in His Word, it is beautiful—and much fruit is borne, even fruit that remains (John 15:1-11, 16). How incredibly privileged I have been to serve as your pastor for all these years!
Pastor Jerry Conklin