Let Me Tell You a Story

Back in April of 2014 I was blessed to be introduced to a Christian that lived relatively close to me. Somehow, my dear brother Kevin McDonnell (AKA K1) had become “friends” with Kevin Jandt (AKA K2) and decided we should connect. So, introductions were made and a burgeoning friendship began. I never dreamt of the day we would be saying good-bye.

Indeed, K2 and I hit it off like we had been long time friends. Additionally, we only lived a few hours apart and this made for a promising future of advancing the Gospel together. Phone calls were made and chat groups were established there was no hint that we would ever be saying good-bye.

Eventually, the friendship between K1, K2 and I became so tight we became confidants of one another. Although we were hours or even days apart, we grew dependent upon each other’s counsel. K1 has his own struggles that he has written about extensively. However, before even the first of his articles were written, there were hours of prayer and phone calls between us. Secondly, I had my own turmoil coming down the pike as well. K2, not to be outdone, had his own whopper of a problem to face.

When Saying Good-Bye is a Good Thing

K1 and K2 were there when the time came for me to start asking some hard questions. A former friend, the pastor of a local church I was attending, had enmeshed himself in some bad decision making. Consequently, I happened onto a sin of his purely by accident. In listening through a sermon series by a favorite Christian teacher, I discovered that this friend has been plagiarizing this man’s work.

Accordingly, I was devastated. It was like a punch in the gut and upon taking my discovery to my beloved wife, we were both left perplexed. As became my normal practice, I sought the counsel of my godly friends K1 and K2. This was not an act of gossip. It was the seeking of wisdom. God has told us that in the abundance of counselors there is much wisdom. K1 and K2 had proven that to me time and again. These men aren’t like so many others in the Western Christian Culture. They have proven again and again that they are not yes men or sycophants. Moreover, they will call a spade a spade and hold my feet to the fire.

Eventually, it became clear that I was going to need to lead my family away from the aforementioned congregation. K1 and K2 weren’t content with me simply saying good-bye. They worked with me to try and see to a biblical resolution to what was an increasingly clear problem. When the time came, they read and re-read my letter of resignation and held me to a high standard of biblical love. In short, they weren’t easy on me.

Saying Good-Bye Leads to Growth and New Pains

K1 and K2 walked through this transition with me and prayed for me fervently as I searched for a new congregation. Eventually, they rejoiced with me as we settled in a new church home and began to make connections. They were there as I began to re-emerge in public evangelism. They watched as I struggled with a deeply personal pain over a separation that took place in my family. It was during this that K2 and Ethan (my beloved son) and I were able to meet in person for the first time.

Ethan and I were blessed by K2 when he rented a nice ride for us to drive down to Davenport Iowa. We took part in an outreach where we evangelized the crowds attending a Christian concert. This would also be Ethan’s first taste of Chic-Fil-A. Without that act of generosity it would have been a long time before I ever got to wrap my arms around my beloved brother K2.

Our already close friendship blossomed even more from that point. We were soon blessed by God to start to partner in abortion ministry in Iowa City at the Emma Goldman clinic. Subsequently, I was emboldened to strike out on my own even more and hit the streets with ever growing frequency. K2 was there supporting me with prayer and encouragement continuously.

My evangelistic endeavors caused me to run afoul of a local Vineyard Church. Subsequently, the leaders of that church complained to the elders of the congregation I was in, K2 and K1 were there. When the leaders of my congregation began to impose unbiblical restrictions on my attempts to Advance the Gospel, K2 especially weighed in.

When the time came for saying good-bye, K1 and K2, helped me again.

Saying Good-Bye to Launch a Ministry

As God would see fit, we ended up back in the first congregation we talked about. As all of this was happening I felt it was time to make an effort to make an impact in my region. I approached several men and asked them to be on a board of oversight/directors of the ministry. If Only Even One became a real thing. However, I did not want to be just another Para-church ministry. The last thing I wanted was to be a lone-wolf without a church home.

I shared my previous concerns with the congregation we had re-affiliated with and asked the men of the board to stay close to the situation. Moreover, I asked them all to watch over me fervently, to ensure that I was not allowing pride and arrogance to impede the work of the Gospel.

For a bit of time things seemed to be going well. Then that all crumbled down around me. That same pastor, the former friend, allowed the poison of the re-emerging Emergent Church to infiltrate the flock God had given him to lead.

Again K1 and K2 especially, were pulled into the fray. Again, efforts were made. Nevertheless, despite efforts and prayer and pleadings from Scripture no common ground could be found. I was asked to not come back to that congregation. Here I was saying good-bye again. Except this time, no one seemed to miss me.

Saying Good-Bye for the Good of Growth

K1 and K2 walked me through that pain like they had a bunch of others. This time, there was whole board of godly men praying with them. The pain was lessened some because of that. Yet, I was left struggling. Where would I lead my wife and son? Who would I submit myself to that I could trust? Elders were to be men who stood firm and held fast to the faith. How could I ever trust another man to lead my family after such wretched experiences?

K2 had just made the decision to lead his wife and daughters away from the only congregation they had known for their walks as Christians. This was no easy thing for them, and I watched them as they were saying good-bye to people they had come to love. This, maybe more than anything else, brought K2 and I closer than ever before. We could relate to the pain of seeing people we love dig themselves deeper into the hole of error. Finally, I was able to be there for K2 in a way that I had never been able to before.

In a time when many would abandon us both, Kevin and I were able to lean on one another as God has intended for the Church to operate. This wasn’t a leaning in brought on by mere fickle affection for the other’s preferences or popularity. This was a leaning in the midst of deep pain, and while it hurt, it was good for us to be able to have that commonality.

Saying Good-Bye to Fear

In the midst of our very different but common pains God worked to grow us individually and as friends. I was encouraged as I watched Kevin not shrink back from the pain but instead embrace it. We met a couple of times to preach the Gospel together. We met once at the University of Iowa and once also at the University of Northern Iowa all to the glory of God. I have watched literally thousands of videos of open air preachers. None of those will ever top the way my beloved friend and brother K2 preaches to the lost.

Kevin could have walked away from public evangelism. God knows that the congregation he left would have been enough to sour any person on public evangelism. He could have been done with it all saying good-bye to a methodology that has been used as a litmus test by those who seek to knuckle under any dissenters.

In contrast, Kevin chose to do what a truly godly man is prone to do. He struck out on his own. Not like a lone wolf as so many have done. No, K2 sought out a congregation where the elders understood the call on Kevin to preach the Gospel in public. Subsequently, Kevin landed at the local metro bus station in the Quad cities. He is a constant source of Gospel preaching there and has reached countless hundreds if not thousands in that time. In walking away from a place of oppression and constant heavy handedness Kevin said good-bye to fear of not performing well, and said hello to preaching true freedom in Christ.

Announcing Inevitable Pain

The fateful time came when Kevin let me know he was moving away from the Quad cities. Oh my how that hit me like a punch in the gut. In the interest of transparency, I wept like a child. I am weeping as I write this even now.

You see, Kevin is more than that shapeless and faceless person that so many friendships through social media become. He isn’t one of those people devoid of contact and substance that can disappear from my news feed one day and I won’t notice. Kevin is a tangible and earthly reminder that our Father gives us good gifts. He is one of those people who are relationally present. K2, is one of those who demonstrate for me what it means when God tells us that it is good for brothers to dwell in unity.

Oh, make no mistake; there are several people I know through social media who fill this same role in my life. However, there is something tangible and substantive right now in this relationship. There was something compelling and so I had to write about Kevin. In less than a month, K2 picks up his roots and plants them over 1,100 miles away. At the time of this article being published, I was blessed to travel to Davenport with Ethan and see Kevin one last time.

We conversed with the ease of old friends who have known each other, not for five years, but for decades. It was as if the bond of the Holy Spirit was something that we had shared for much longer than a half decade. We fit together as friends in ways the secular world will never understand. Maybe for the first time I have understood David and Jonathon.

Saying Good-Bye Isn’t the End

That day in the Quad Cities will forever be a blessing to me Kevin. From the fellowship with Ethan and you and Jennifer and your family, to the preaching of the Gospel in Rock Island, it was all an once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

I know that everyone likes to remind us that moments like this aren’t for saying good-bye but “see you later”. I don’t fear saying good-bye though. Instead, I reflect James’ words in chapter 4 of his letter to the Church. I do not know what tomorrow holds. Furthermore, I may not even have the rest of this night as I write this. I may never get to see you again Kevin. I may never again get to wrap my arms around you in that brotherly hug that I have come to cherish.

However, I do know this! I will worship with you again. But, like Wesley said of Whitefield when asked if George would be in heaven, “To which John Wesley added, with intense earnestness, ‘ Do not misunderstand me, madam; George Whitefield was so bright a star in the firmament of God’s glory, and will stand so near the throne, that one like me, who am less than the least, will never catch a glimpse of him.”

Concluding In the Love Of Christ

I love you Kevin! You are the dearest of friends and brothers to me. Thank you for ministering to me in all of the tangible and intangible ways that brothers do. Thank you for ministering to my beloved son. I will cherish each and every moment that we preached the Gospel together and I will forever be thankful to God for even the brief time that we had but a few hours between us.

If it be God’s will that we never minister together on this side of heaven, I will always cherish the times we did. Thank you for loving me with that Christ-like self-sacrificing love that caused you to pour out so much of yourself for me and for my good. I am better for having had you so near, and blessed for having had the chance to hear you love the lost with the Gospel all of those times.

I love you my friend!

Soli Deo Gloria!

-Todd