This week has been a very monumental one for me. I officially closed a chapter of 30 years of Bentley family ministry at New Life Church in Marietta, Ohio. My father pastored for 25 years there and my husband and I took over after his death and were here until our final service June 22, 2008. On Monday we moved all of our stuff to North Olmsted (Cleveland), Ohio to put in storage for our 12-18 months of nomadic missionary life before we achieve the ultimate calling that God has for us, to plant our church in Cleveland, Ohio.
We officially closed out the sale of our first home today and said goodbye to any really important material possessions we had. My husband is very proud saying that we have proven that possessions don’t possess us. We willingly gave up a beautiful 3 bedroom, 2 bath brick home for a 32 ft. 5th wheel. I guess I’m proud too, although I don’t ever want to prove that point again! Maybe next time God will just believe us and not require us to sell all we have again. The purpose of this blog is to share portions of my goodbye speech to New Life Church Marietta, Ohio with you. It ought to give you a glimpse of my heart. I was told on Sunday to quit crying because it wasn’t a funeral and we would still be in touch with everyone. I realize it is not a funeral, but a new chapter in not only our lives but the lives of my church family. It is still okay to cry though!
The word family is mentioned 123 times in the KJV version of the bible. This doesn’t include references that just use the words parent, father, mother, sister, brother, husband or wife. As I began to think about this service today, I couldn’t help but try to contemplate : What is the definition of family?
The Department of Sociology of Ball State University states that defining exactly what one means by “the family” can be difficult. While no single legal definition of the family exists, policymakers at both the state and federal level generally classify individuals as family members if they are related to each other by virtue of blood, marriage, or adoption. Relationships that are not based on one or more of these criteria usually do not receive state recognition or sanction.
This topic came to my head because New Life church in Marietta, Ohio is not just a brick structure on Seventh Street, but is a cornerstone in my life. It is the place where the fertile soil of my mind and my heart was developed. New Life Church is the place where I sat at the feet of the anointed teaching and preaching of my father Victor Bentley and then my husband Jonathan Buckland. New Life is the place where I received the gift of the holy ghost and was baptized in Jesus Name in 1987 during a revival that we had with Richard Herd. New Life is the place where Sunday School teachers poured of their time, patience, energy and finances into my life. New Life is the place where I found the greatest friendships and relationships of my life that still continue to this day and that I pray continue even following my departure from Marietta, Ohio. New Life church is the place where I found my family. While blood relatives do exist in my family, New Life equally spoke into my life and was precious to me and responsible for who I am today.
We are all the children of god sitting in God’s church experiencing his goodness together. Biblically, we are family. Family is an institution that through thick and thin, good or bad, joy or struggle, stays together, prays together, and rejoices together.
Galatians Chapter 4
4 But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
I’m sure that my memory will live on in infamy in New Life. From the time that as a small child I knocked the sound board off the table onto the floor creating a large crash, to the times that I yelled “don’t hurt me” as my mother took me out of the sanctuary when I was being disruptive, to the times that as a small child I drug everyone else’s small children by their arms through the church. Justin Morgan and Jim Schwendeman were the main ones scared by my early motherly instincts. My strong will and resolve may have been a source of laughs and contentions when I was younger at New Life, but I feel that they have served me well into adulthood.
I can only pray that these are not the only memories that you will cherish about me. I can only hope that in some small way I was able to speak into your life and encourage you to grow, do better, stand, and pray. I can only hope that in some measure my ministry of music lifted a burden in your life as I pledged to not just sing and play but to be a conduit of the spirit of God in this Sanctuary.
Whether you liked me and respected me as your pastors wife or not, I spent many hours in prayer for you, fasted numerous meals (although you can’t tell by my physique), took countless tums because the burden of your situation weighed on me, and always vowed to have a positive, optimistic attitude, complete with full smile regardless of the circumstances of my situation. Many of you were counseled by me and I hope that I had a positive impact on your struggle.
My prayer for New Life is that it will grow, flourish, experience revival, and develop a spirit of unity that will bring the anointing oil to this Body of Christ. Get out of your comfort zone, outside of this church, and dive head first into the great commission of seeking and saving that which is lost. If we can focus outside of ourselves and see the world as God sees it, we will be forever changed.
Please stay in touch with us and pray for us as we Endeavour to broaden the ministry of New Life Church into the metropolitan area of Cleveland and around the world. The direct impact of your Sunday School ministry, your youth ministry, your heart of giving and sacrifice will be felt hundreds of miles away.
Thank you for allowing us to transition into the ultimate will of God for this church and for our lives. Thank you for electing a phenomenal man of God whom I greatly respect, David Ward, as the next pastor. I know that the legacy that my family has left in Marietta, Ohio will only continue to grow as God begins the season of the fulfillment of prophecy into this church.
We have sold our first home, gotten rid of a lot of our possessions, moved at our own expense, and will be spending our own money on our deputational travels. Churches will try to help us with love offereings while we are on the road to cover gas and expenses. We will not be receiving any financial support from the UPC to start our church until we are done with our 12-18 months on the road and have raised our full budget. What we are about to do is not glamorous and from a secular viewpoint, makes no sense, but when God calls, we need to answer. I challenge each of you to do the same.
Matthew chapter 6
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also