As I come to the end of what has felt in some ways like a lifetime, and other ways like a whirlwind, I reflect on what the past two years serving at Fellowship Pellissippi has meant to me. I have thousands of words of gratitude to say, enough to exhaust you of reading them. The countless mentors who have poured into me, the men and women who believed in me and taught me to believe in myself, the support and encouragement and affirmation I received, the challenges I was given, the prayers that advocated for me –– all of it was evidence of God’s graciousness to me. I am grateful it is forever etched into part of my story.
It is hard to know what to say in these seasons of transitions, when a place has meant so much to you. But I have said before, and will continue to say, that when I read Philippians, I think about Fellowship Knoxville, particularly my people at the Pellissippi campus. Not that I am Paul by any stretch; but if I had to sum up what I would want to leave my people before moving on, I would want to put it the way he did to the Philippians. So, I did below. And I mean it all. Here are some of my parting words, though, I hope they are not indeed my last to you all.
Zach Barnhart, servant of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Fellowship Pellissippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
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. 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.
For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that my leaving you has really served to advance the gospel. Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.
My beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
Let us hold true to what we have attained. My brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
My brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me –– practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
It was kind of you to share my trouble. You sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.