Last night at Pierced, with a mix of excitement and sadness, Megan and I shared that we have officially accepted a ministry position elsewhere and will be leaving Pierced this spring. Starting early this summer, we will be moving to the outskirts of
to begin an exciting new adventure in ministry.
Over the past several months we have wrestled with questions such as, ‘What do we want this next season of our life to look like?’ and ‘Where might God have us in the future?’ As we wrestled with these questions we came before God with open hearts with a complete willingness to go wherever he may want us.
As we were open to God’s direction, several churches from around the country contacted us, asking if we would be open to considering joining their staff. After some dialogue with these churches, though great ministries, we realized these were not the right fit for us. However, one of those churches that approached us was a non-denominational 2,500-member church about 40 minutes north of downtown Philadelphia called Calvary Church (not connected with Calvary Chapel), located in quaint, bedroom community of Souderton, PA.
Over the many, many hours of conversation with Calvary’s pastors, staff and elders and during our visit to the area about a month ago, we truly felt there was a natural fit between
’s excitement and expression of ministry, and ours. The vision, mission and direction of the church, along with an invitation to serve within our giftings, passions and skill sets, excited us. We were encouraged by the outstanding, God-honoring and competent leadership of the staff, elders and volunteers, coupled with a tender ethos of grace, love and celebration at the church. Their high priority for leadership development rang true for us, as did their desire to see a younger leader be developed into a significant role for the future of the church and the Kingdom.
After much prayer, wise thinking and wise counsel from friends, mentors and family members we were confident that the next chapter for us was in
. God has made it extremely clear that we are to be at
There is no doubt that we are thrilled and excited about what’s next. We are stepping out to use our gifts, to be challenged and sharpened and used in a loving community of faith with numerous opportunities to do what we are passionate about. We are so confident that this is where God would have us in this next season that we are convinced to the core of our being that we would be disobedient if we did not take on this new venture to Philly.
Yet, in the midst of the excitement, we feel anxious and nervous. Though absolutely convinced
is where we are to be, it doesn’t mean this will be an easy transition for us. Moving across the country to a new place with new people with new challenges in a new church makes for a lot of change. (Megan loves change. I have a much more difficult time embracing it). We’re excited…and pretty scared, too! But we truly believe that being excited and extremely nervous at the same time is the best place for us to step out in faith and live for Christ.
Excited, yes. Anxious, yes.
But we are also filled with deep sadness as we consider leaving
. Since one week after our honeymoon four and a half years ago
has been the place we have called home. The people and the friendships, the great experiences and the great views and opportunities provided by the
in our backyard have been the norm for us. We have been overwhelmed by the blessings of God during this time in our lives. When we originally moved to The Springs we believed we would be here only one year. Little did we know that we would be here almost five. Now we are faced with the difficult situation of leaving behind relationships that are close to us, and a community of faith at Pierced that we love so dearly. The last three years at Pierced have been rich and fulfilling. Certainly, we are feeling the full range of emotions that come with a significant transition like this.
Specifically, I will be serving in three capacities on staff at
. First, I have been asked to give direction, provide vision and launch a new alternative worship venue at the church on Sunday nights that will look very similar to Pierced. The interesting thing is that there is an absence of alternative worship services in the entire region; this will allow us to be entrepreneurs in this venture with all the support of pastors and elders, the up-front exposure and the healthy leadership and guidance necessary to make this an exciting new community. While not functioning as a “church-within-a-church,” or a “life-stage ministry” of twentysomethings, this venue will be more stylistically-driven than age-specific (i.e. the goal is to create a diverse, multi-generational alternative service of young adults, singles, younger families, older families and 40-, 50- and 60-somethings). Secondly, I will be joining the teaching team at
and will be teaching on a fairly regular rotation from the pulpit during the main weekend services. Thirdly, I will oversee the missional piece, attempting to shift the mindset from “they come to us” to “we go to them” through serving our neighborhoods and communities through a more holistic approach to ministry, similar to what we have been attempting to do at Pierced the last three years.
As far as Megan’s plans for ministry, she will definitely be involved in ministry at
; whether officially or unofficially, we are unsure at this point. With a desire to use her degree and her heart to serve others through Christian counseling there are two exciting options that she is pursuing in the area, one at the church and one in the community. We are confident that she will end up in the perfect ministry fit for how God has wired her together.
Some of you may be thinking, ‘Wait…didn’t your book about taking big risks for God just come out last week?’ Yes, it did. The irony is thick and the timing of this is almost too much to take in.If you had told us 18 months ago that after writing this book on risking big for God He would want us to take the biggest risk of our marriage during the same month the book released we would have laughed. But we also find it extremely encouraging that God desires to challenge us to live out the very thing I have written about. Without sounding cheesy, God has asked us to jump…and we must be obedient. And while scared to jump, we also find it exhilarating to be living out this life of adventure with the Living God as our guide.
Logistically speaking, our last day at Woodmen Valley Chapel will be April 14, with our last Pierced service on Sunday night April 9. Megan and I are in need of some time off with the purpose of providing closure to this chapter, enjoying some much-needed rest and looking ahead to the next.
Above all else, our desire is to leave well, wisely and full of integrity. Part of leaving well means transitioning well to Philly and Calvary and transitioning well out of
and Pierced. We can assure you that we will do whatever we can within our power to pass the baton to the next leader(s) of Pierced. What that looks like, we are unsure of at the moment, but be assured that we will do what we can to make this as seamless and smooth as possible.
We are excited to see what this next chapter will look like for us, but we can’t do it alone. We need your help. We invite you all in to our situation and we ask that you would pray for us- pray for us specifically for courage and wisdom – over the next several weeks and months ahead.
I'm finding myself in the book of Deuteronomy - the longest sermon in the Bible - reading the words of Moses as he speaks to the nation of Israel. This book is an absolutely amazing book and I'm so glad that I've found myself captured in the story of this book at the moment. It's especially well-written in the language of the Message.
I was thinking this morning, 'if you could boil down the entire book of Deuteronomy into one word what word would you use?'
Much of the book revolves around how the Israelites are to worship the Lord their God. This is a big theme. However, that's not the word that I would use.
For me it's the word: "Remember."
Everytime I read the word 'remember' or the phrase 'do no forget' I circle it. It seems that Moses says it over and over again.
How forgetful we are as humans. I don't mean remembering as in the realm of where we left our keys or when our wife's birthday is (though those are important things to remember). What I mean is we too often forget the many ways God makes himself known in our lives, we fail to remember the ways he loves us, the ways he blesses us.
Plain and simple: we are forgetful people.
God commanded the Israelites to erect Stones of Remembrance throughout the land. When these stones were erected they were to trigger memories of God's involvement in saving the nation that He loved so much. The text says that when the Israelites' children asked, "Daddy, what are those stones for?" they were to tell them that they were because of God's involvement in their lives. It was a tangible reminder, a symbol of God's goodness.
I've been pondering the connection between our worship and the importance of remembering. Deuteronomy chapter 8 says that if we forget the hearts of the Hebrew people would become proud. It's true for us today as well.
If worship is my response to God for who He is and what He has done in my life and in the world that means that I have to have an element of remembering in order to worship properly.
Is it even possible to worship God if I forget Him?
If the word 'remember' is used over and over again, what will it take for me to constantly remember Gods goodness in my life?
What are the Stones of Remembrance that I need to erect as a tangible reminder of God's involvement, love, care and pursuit of people of the world?
See what postmodern poetry is all about here. (Thanks for the link, Rudy).
Totally big on the grave
Dark and sinning on the slime I stretch arid inspirations below the grave Ahhh! The sin will vanish Strangely luminous among the mist I battle heavy hooks beneath the gods Alass, Alack! The twilight is fleeing Totally big on the grave We envision red toads on the air We Reach! The stink is done shining tired not understanding nothing to lose At how many harbours the foreigner lose his way while the crowd watched
This time of year is filled with so much excitement.
During the month of March, people from all over the country call in sick and stay glued to television to watch college basketball. Last Thursday, the opening day of the first round of games, should be declared a national holiday, in my opinion.
What puts the madness into March Madness, of course, is the bracketology. Filling out brackets the day after Selection Sunday last week and entering them into office pools and contests with your family or buddies from around the country are oftentimes more fun than the actual games themselves. Whether or not you can name one athlete on Bradley's team or even know what state Northwestern State is actually from or not, if you picked them in your brackets they have become your team. If the team you picked in the brackets won, you're thrilled. If the team you were so confident would advance far into the tournament but lost (see Illinois and North Carolina) you are hanging your head right now.
But that’s what makes the madness so much fun.
For many years I’ve pondered what makes March Madness so mad (besides wives getting upset when their husbands turn into couch potatoes for three weeks in early spring). Finally, about two years ago I was able to put my finger on the brackets have given the fan the permission and the opportunity to take the reason: the brackets give the fan ownership of the games themselves. They are no longer merely games between two teams; they now become games that impact our lives, small as it may seem. In a sense, we participate in the games themselves. (That’s why game shows such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and Jeopardy! have been so popular).We have vested interest in the games played and we are impacted by the results, directly or indirectly. When we fill out our tournament brackets, we’ve been given ownership, and it means a lot to us. Much more than we think it does.
In a sense, we play the games, too. Websites are created to track the brackets (by the way, I’m leading both ESPN online pools as we speak), emails fly back and forth commenting on each other’s picks, people call to talk about upcoming match-ups and who they have chosen as their winner.
Compare this with the NBA playoffs that occur each summer. By nature, the NBA has created a league which focuses primarily on marquee match-ups of individual star players, not necessarily on team basketball. Network ratings are much higher when teams have a star player who scores forty points a game than when a team is made up of self-less, hard-working teammates who will play great defense and win in low-scoring games. (To me, the difference is that college basketball is sports, while the NBA has become purely entertainment). The entire NBA playoffs are created by the league’s front office and the television networks to provide an environment where you, the viewer, are entertained. You are encouraged to be a spectator. You are able to watch great games, but of little consequence or significance to your life. Certainly, the NBA playoffs are well-watched by millions of fans, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the success of college basketball’s March Madness.
Nothing can compare to the sight of upsets and obsessively checking your brackets compared to your buddies.
The secret behind the success of March Madness has some amazing implications for the Church, especially in the area of ownership. Several months ago I taught on the Christian’s collective identity as a ‘royal priesthood.’ As a community, we unpacked the implications of what it means for us to be priests in the work of God. It’s both a privilege and a responsibility. Our privilege rests in the fact that we have direct access to God, but with that privilege comes the responsibility to take ownership of ‘church.’
Unfortunately, a culture has been created in the church that communicates, “You’re the pastor. You do the work. That’s not my job.” In a sense, we’ve created a culture similar to that of the NBA playoffs, where the stars (i.e. pastors and paid staff) perform while everyone else watches. It’s a great performance, but it’s of little consequence to the lives of those in our congregation. We shuffle out of church having been religiously entertained.
What would it look like if we gave people in our communities of faith the opportunity to catch the vision of ownership in much the same way that filling out brackets accomplishes for the tournament in college basketball? What if we created a culture of participants in being the church, rather than a culture of spectators who merely go to it? What if we gave people opportunities to invest and participate in what was happening in our churches in the same way they do on their couches watching the tournament on CBS?
As pastors I strongly believe that we have a responsibility to give those people involved in our churches a sense of ownership in how we participate in the work of God together. We have a call to think through, pray through and brainstorm avenues in which we can give people in our communities of faith permission to get involved, to get in the game. We must think through, in a sense, what are the brackets that we can allow people to fill out and take on as their own. When we allow tangible opportunities for people to take ownership in being the Body of Christ, they have made an investment that directly involves their lives.
Erwin McManus in his book An Unstoppable Force wrote that “servability is stickability.” In other words, when people are serving and taking ownership, good things happen. Studies show that if people attend church and do not serve that within twelve months a majority of them will no longer will be at the church. However, when people attend and serve in their local church, a large majority of them will stick around for several years.
When people grasp this March Madness idea of ownership as royal priests they will begin to see their lives as be missionally-minded, thus regaining the mission-mindset that has been lost for quite some time. We must shift our ministry paradigm from the NBA playoffs approach to the March Madness mindset. When we do this, people will be able to catch the vision of ownership and will begin to see themselves as being a significant participant in the Church, rather than merely attending it and watching it pass them by.
The questions pastors should be asking is, "How can we give ownership to our people so they know deep down that have an important role to play in the Kingdom of God?"
In other words, how can we hand them brackets and encourage them to fill them out?