Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

Call Response

May 2022

Dear Members of Christ Lutheran Church,

“It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel.  For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:7-8

I remember preaching these words to you all back during Advent of 2018.  I remember at that time recognizing how much I had come to cherish you as the people whom the Lord has given to me and how much I love you and your story which has now become my story.  I could see how Paul could say those words to the Philippians then and how I now do for you.

As I am sure that many of you are aware, the last few weeks I have been deliberating a call that I received from Zion Lutheran Church in Little Falls, MN.  It has been a few weeks of intentional and focused prayer and seeing where the Lord of the Church is calling me to serve.  It has been a good time to reflect and to see what the Lord has in store for me.

I have come to my decision and that decision is this: I see that Christ is leading me to decline the call to serve as Pastor at Zion Lutheran Church and to remain here at Christ Lutheran Church.
 
I write this letter to inform you of this in case you missed the announcement in church on Sunday, May 22nd and also on Thursday, May 26th.  Or if you just wanted to make sure I had this down in writing!

But I also wanted to write this letter to thank you.  I wish I had made a tally of those of you who came to talk to me, wrote me, emailed me, called me, stopped in to talk to me, and more.  It was over 100 people at least.  All of you requested, and some through tears, had asked me to stay.  It was more than I could bear at times as well and I was touched by your comments.  Many which I will keep close to me.

As I deliberated, there were several thoughts that led to this decision.  Some advice from brother pastors greatly helped me in prayer and in making the decision.  Your thoughts and words also gave me clarity as well and did weigh into the decision to remain here.  In fact, here are some things that many of you mentioned that I also saw too.

First, my work here is not done.  In fact, in many ways it is just beginning.  I have baptized several dozen people here.  I pray to God to confirm them, marry them, and baptize their children too.  I want to live life with you all.  Second, the last 4 years since I have come has put us through many challenging times.  From things outside us like Covid, to internal struggles like Pastor Daryn taking a call have served to bond us together and they have made me closer to you than any other people or context that I have been in.  I love you all and thank God for you constantly.  I honestly couldn’t tear myself away.  Third, I feel like there is a future for me here and that we are on the precipice of being able to move forward together.  Through all the changes and transitions, you have stuck it out with me, I can’t imagine leaving you now.

But there was one thing in particular that stuck out to me and it was actually something that the members at Zion Lutheran Church shared with me when I was talking with them.

When they were calling pastors, I was one of 15 on their list of pastors that they could call from.  What they did is that they looked up all 15 pastors online to see what they could find on them.  When they came to find me they said that they looked up our congregation, went through our website, listened to services and sermons, read our newsletters, and the like.  And here was what I heard from them, “Of all the pastors we looked up and watched, after watching your sermons and services and seeing stuff about your congregation, we all said that we wanted to become members of your congregation.  You were our clear choice to call.”

Since they couldn’t become members here, they decided to try and bring me there to create what they saw about us.  While this is an indirect compliment to say to me, I found that it was more so of a wonderful thing to say about our congregation.  They wanted what the Lord has given us here.  They saw what we are doing as a congregation, and they wanted that for themselves.  I do pray for God to grant that to them, and I ask that you say a prayer for Zion Lutheran as they continue their search for a pastor.  We will meet those brothers and sisters one day.

But this thought also made me see that God is on the move here.  What we are doing is really God at work and I would be a fool to leave just as God is continuing with us here.  I cherish what God is doing to us and through us and I love that we share in that together.
 
Know that we are always in the hands of the Lord, whether I am here or not.  The ministry of our congregation does not depend upon me, but on Christ.  So look to him alone for that security and peace.  But I do hope that this decision puts your mind at ease because I know from my home congregation and other churches that I have been a part of that vacancies are often difficult and straining for a congregation.      

So, with that, I conclude this letter to you all.  Peace be with you all, know of my love for you in the Lord.  But know of God’s love for you in Christ so much more.  I look forward to sharing in that love with you now in your presence and also for all eternity in the age that is to come when our Lord returns.
 
In Christ,
Pastor Andrew D. Belt

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