During the first few years of our marriage, my wife and I lived in St. Louis, where we worshiped at Central Presbyterian under the teaching of Dan Doriani. God used his preaching and faithful handling of Scripture to transform my faith. I had been raised a Christian, knew the verses, and was a Bible-drill champion. But not until Dr. Doriani did God show me the depth of my desperation for him. It was through his preaching that God gave me “ears to hear” the gospel. Finally, I knew I wasn’t good enough but Jesus was.
I became a bit of a Doriani junkie during our time in St. Louis. I tried to attend every meeting where he spoke. I gobbled up his books and podcasted his sermons even after we moved from St. Louis to Chicago. In Chicago, we quickly found a home at College Church (a Doriani recommendation, of course). The pastor there, Kent Hughes, was also a gifted expositor of the Word and he faithfully proclaimed the gospel from the pulpit.
The gospel didn’t just affect me from the pulpit. It was in my wife’s Wednesday-morning Bible study, my sons’ Sunday school classes, the junior high program I volunteered with, and—especially—our small group. This small group of families rejoiced over the births of children, wept over pains and struggles, and labored together in prayer. God worked through these relationships to deepen my gratitude to him and his unending faithfulness.
It was not an easy decision, therefore, to leave the comfort of this church and those relationships for a new start in central Illinois. But we felt, after months of prayer, that God was calling us to leave. One of the most difficult parts of the move was finding a new church. I had been spoiled in St. Louis and Chicago. No one in a small town in central Illinois was going to preach like Doriani. No church was going to have the programs and friends like College Church. Weeks of being unsettled turned into months, and I began to formulate a plan on getting back to greener pastures. Many late nights were spent struggling with why. Why had I packed up my family and move them here away from friends and family? Why would God bring us here?
These questions replaced, “Why would God bestow his grace on me?” I had lost sight of the glorious nature of the gospel. I had instead become satisfied with the “mud pies” of great preaching, great church programs, and great relationships. I had forgotten that “[i]f a transtemporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes must be in some degree fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy,” as C. S. Lewis writes in Weight of Glory. God led me where he had and caused me to struggle like I did so I could be reminded of this.
The gospel is just as glorious in a small church plant in rural Illinois as it is at Central Presbyterian or College Church. It is just as glorious from the mouth of a New York Times bestseller as it is from an unknown preacher to a congregation that never reaches triple digits. It is just as glorious in a small house church in Beijing as it is at a megachurch in America. There are no “greener pastures” with the gospel. It is the only thing that is green, no matter where it is proclaimed or who it is proclaimed by.