an uncomfortable thank you.
To all of you who have sent kind words and prayers to us, we appreciate them so much. WE NEED THEM more than you could ever know. This has been a very tough month, and week of course as we let everyone know what God was calling us to do in our lives. I know I sounded confident in the video, but honestly...we hurt big time. This was our home. This was our mission. We didn't want to leave, we were called by God. If you missed the blog post, see it HERE.
Some won't understand this. Some will be sad. Some will be hurt. Some will criticize us even more. Some will rejoice with us in obedience to the call. Where ever you are, we walk humbly with you knowing that God's timing is perfect. And though we saw ourselves here for a long time...He is in charge.
And while we hurt, we know that God didn't bring us here to see something not continue on long after us. By the way...one way or the other, you won't be here forever either! It's all about HIS MISSION. What will YOU continue to do about it?
(I won't let up, don't worry:)
It is so NOT ABOUT US, but all ABOUT HIM!
I was so comfortable here and in a groove. God shook us up, and I know many of you feel the same. But that is how God works. He shakes us up when we least expect it.
Go do this again? ...WOW. It is real now. This was so much work, so much blood, sweat and tears. But HIS KINGDOM is worth it...big time.
I can only pray that God sends people as good as all of you to help reach and teach the WORLD about the love of Jesus. Let's keep doing that together knowing that God truly knows best. Because when He calls...we better OBEY. That is the only thing that I can have confidence about. If this were about us...we would be destined to fail. WHAT IS GOD ASKING YOU TO BE UNCOMFORTABLE ABOUT? What is He asking you to do? I'm walking it...how 'bout it?
Thanks again for your prayers and support. I know God has someone who is ready to be as crazy-passionate about this mission as I am and always will be. Let's pray that God will use our staff and leaders in the interim, and that He will shake up the next leader to carry the torch here at New Hope.
I will be updating you as much as possible here at this blog and in the worship program as we know anything. As we said, we really don't know anything right now! We hope to have some exploratory and prayer trips in the new year. And if you are a church planter yourself, feel free to follow the journey here as I will try to help you out as much as myself in this journey!
See you all this weekend as we continue to push forward on bringing the conspiracy of Christmas back to this crazy world. I and our family need a little Christmas love right now.
Uncomfortable...yep. Shocked...yep. Ready to obey...yep. Love you all.pic
Labels: church planting journey
answering the call of obedience.
I can honestly say that I did not see this kind of post coming.
I will be brief as I could write VOLUMES and I plan to share memories over time, but for now, I need to keep this to a minimum, which is still a freakin' book, trust me. If you missed the video announcement this weekend, I will be posting it as well ASAP. Below is a summation and some other information regarding our call of obedience.When I do something, I leave it all on the field. I give my all.
I don't look at "stepping stones to a career." Being obedient as a full-time pastor or full-time Christian is no different. If it is a "career" then you have missed the point. When I was a Police Officer and when I was in other "secular" jobs, I never saw what I did for Christ as a "career" but a calling. A calling of obedience.
I preached my first message in 8th grade and everyone said that I was "gifted" and that I should be in ministry. It took me some time to come to the same conclusion because I was not where I should have been spiritually. When I decided to teach a Sunday School class while a cop in Columbus, it was desperately obvious to me that I was to serve God (I hate to use this terminology) as the thing that brings a paycheck home. Why do I hate to say that? We all should be serving HIM with ALL our hearts, whether paid in earthly sums or not.
I was then called to be a Youth Pastor in Grand Rapids, MI. That's where I met this crazy man
and his lovely wife. We were SHOCKED when we served less than a year there, because when I do something...I am ALL IN and am not looking to see when the next golden opportunity will arise.
It was then that we packed up everything and without a job
moved back to the town where I graduated from High School. We were devastated that we were taken from the place where we had fallen so in love with a group of students and looked forward to spending a long time there. But God has other plans. You know what those were...6-1/2 years later, New Hope has become something far beyond what any of us could have asked or imagined. I now see WHY he wrecked our lives and left ourselves, our staff and our kids weeping. But that didn't make it any easier at the time. Time usually heals, and in this case it did, and the amazing calling of New Hope has been an amazing ride.
30 bold, courageous, daring people decided that a town that hasn't seen growth in many decades was the place to start a ministry so crazy, that only God could have orchestrated it. Everyone said...huh? Really there? That can't work! Thanks to all of you, Converge Mid-Atlantic and Berean for believing in us!
6-1/2 years and probably close to 1,000 decisions for Christ later, the dreams of those 30 brave men, women and kids still echo through campuses in Loudonville, Wooster, Ashland, China and those who join us on the web. Once again, only God could have thought that one up.
Along the way hundreds of you have joined in this journey. Some of you since day 1, some of you maybe this is your first week @ New Hope. You have become a part of not a church, not "our" ministry, not a cool thing, but a MISSION that God has called each of us into.
I don't care if I or our staff know your name...Jesus does and what you are doing for the MISSION is reaching and growing people every day, and for that I SAY THANK YOU!
There are a ton of ways to spend your TIME, TALENTS and TREASURE, and I thank you for putting them to use for the Kingdom. Tiffany and I and our launch team could have NEVER accomplished this on our own. IT HAS AND WILL ALWAYS TAKE THE POWER OF EVERYONE TO MAKE HIS KINGDOM FAR-REACHING
. And it is to that Kingdom that I turn my attention.
Almost 18 months ago, God began to make us uncomfortable. We didn't know why, so we just tucked it away and continued to pray and seek His face. This summer, it was undeniable and I started really writing about it in my journal that I was re-reading recently. And a month ago, it was certain after much prayer, seeking wise counsel and spending time with my wife discussing this huge thing. We were being called to something different for the Kingdom and away from New Hope. Not in spirit or heart, but in person.
Again, the detestation. A month of tears, heartache, and pain. Watching my wife, kids, family and friends go through this with us has not been easy. Not pain at God. Just as the call from youth pastor to here, there are relationships we treasure. It's more about the detestation of wanting to know WHY? The detestation of telling our family, friends, staff and kids that God was moving us, and we couldn't even say where.I want you to know that I (we) practice what I preach.
One of my favorite stories is the call of Abraham in Genesis 22. He was instructed to do something crazy...sacrifice his son. That's crazy. (What a foreshadowing of Jesus huh?) And the other thing that now strikes me is that he was just told to walk to a certain region and when he got close God would tell him more. And that is where we find ourselves.
After HOURS AND HOURS, literally days of draining conversations with other pastors, leaders, our staff and Elder's. We knew what we were to do, but nothing else. God is calling us plant another church.
Some people have asked for years, "How long are you staying here...isn't there bigger and better opportunities." That's easy. NO. The best opportunity and only opportunity to us is where God wants us. Whether a small town, a metroplex, or a foreign country. And I mean that. We practice what we preach in regards to being obedient to the call. We have always said that small towns don't deserve second best. If this were a stepping stone, I would have stepped long ago. Our hearts and passion are here, but God is opening up something different that I am sure we will grow to love as it is revealed.
We have not been hashing an exit plan, as a matter of fact, we have dreamt of one day owning the farmhouse I grew up on east of town and planned on being here for a long time. If you couldn't tell, we are and will always be passionate about this area! This was a shock to us as it is to everyone else. We just started a campus, things were just starting to click in place, we had a highly regarded national conference and boom...God sets a burning bush in front of us.
I wanted to keep this brief, so I will answer a few questions here and then allow you to follow the journey as it unfolds.1. Are there problems here? NOT IN ANY WAY.
To stop any rumors, there is nothing wrong with me, there are no juicy stories, no misconduct, there are no staff/pastor/elder rebellions, fights, disagreements, etc. Sure, we are experiencing an economic downturn like anyone else, which makes church planting and raising money even more a challenge and a question for us as to God's timing as well in our lives! We will be doing some debt retirement in the new year Lord-willing just to make sure that we are stable if things continue to grow worse. That is wise and prudent. But there are NO ISSUES AT ALL and this came as a shock to all of us and our staff and Elder's.2. Where are you going?
WE DON'T KNOW. We have no job (though of course over the years I have received opportunities). I am a church planter at heart, and as of today we feel called to plant another church somewhere. WHERE is up to GOD. This is another confirmation to us. God had us turn in our resignation with NOTHING and NOWHERE TO GO! Only God.3. Why tell us on video?
We did not plan to tell the church until January or February when we knew more, but unfortunately there were leaks from those we told in advance planning for the future. We wanted you to know first hand and not on the rumor mill, that is why we chose this weekend to talk about it knowing it is months away from happening. This was only decided after leaks were discovered this past Wednesday. Things spread rapidly in a small town and we wanted you to hear the truth, so the sooner, the better. I wanted to be there for 2 services after the announcement before going on my yearly vacation break after Christmas, and this weekend I had a medical procedure done, so video was our only option. We also didn't want to have to decide where would be live or video as we love each campus and service with the highest of love and care and didn't want anyone to be left out, but for all to experience the same gratitude.
And yes, I hated talking to a camera.4. Will the next plant be close to here?
NO. We would never do that to this ministry. We believe it is outside the state of Ohio and could even be international. We are waiting and listening.5. Who will take over here?
The beautiful thing is that God has been preparing our church for years in this. Pastor Jeff Cooper and our highly capable staff at all of our campuses have been trained and are ready as they always are in my absence. I have always tried to hand off as much as I can for leadership reasons and also in case I were to be called away or die. That is what leaders do. It has been a steady hand-off over the years, but never with the intent that I would leave, that's just what leadership requires!
We desire this church to not only outlive ME, but ALL OF US. 100 years from now if Jesus doesn't return, I pray that this will be a church on fire! Jeff has been with us since day 1, pre-launch. He knows all about how I tick and how the church needs to operate in the interim. He has been prepared for a "time such as this." He needs your utmost prayer and support. As do the staff and elder's.6. When will you be leaving?
Again, we are not sure. The projected date is that I will turn over Sr. Pastor duties to Jeff on February 1. I will serve as an Elder until the end of April, and will probably move to the next location as school releases in June. In the meantime, I will be providing help and leadership in the transition while continuing as I have for years of handing off power and delegating responsibilities to ensure for a smooth transition.
I will be preaching on and off until Easter and will be highly visible throughout this process. In the meantime, I will be the "church-planter in residence" and also spend part of my time working and preparing the next church planting opportunity. I am grateful to be able to transition this way and the Elder's and new apprentices have been a joy to work with. Our goal is financial, spiritual, and ministry health, not our next move. We will be devastated if anything were to be disrupted during this time of transition or afterward.
We will be putting our house on the market, but even if it sells quickly, we will still stay here to ensure a smooth, healthy transition, even if it means a move to an apartment for some time!7. Will there be a new Lead Pastor?
Yes. Pastor Jeff at this time does not feel led to assume those duties other than in interim. After I leave or shortly before, the search process will begin for a new Lead Pastor. During the downtime when I am not on the payroll, we will also be able to continue to build a savings buffer financially which is a benefit to being patient as well. Patience is a huge key in this. Our membership will be voting on who the search team will nominate as the new Lead Pastor only after the candidate has preached publicly at least 2 times.8. What about our multi-sites?
Our multi-sites are 1 church in multiple locations. We plan to implement the same strategy we were going to talk about this January, which is a slight deviation from what we have been doing.
Our plan was and is even more now. to raise up teaching pastors at each location to do more on-site live preaching. After my departure, and even now, the leadership strain of not having enough staff for all 3 locations has taken a toll on us all. Allowing someone on the ground to work with our first campus in Loudonville to maintain the New Hope DNA, but at the same time beginning to preach and lead more in the particular community where they are is a goal we set.
Where and what the future holds is no different than what we have experienced in the past, when we went from all video to a mixture. We will pray, experiment and LISTEN to all of you as we walk this path. Our campuses at all locations will continue to experience vibrance and growth and will continue to impact their communities with or without my presence! It's about HIS MISSION and we need YOU ALL TO STAY THE COURSE as we push forward at ALL CAMPUSES, I promise that this will be stronger and healthier than ever before.9. What can you do right now?
PRAY. PRAY. PRAY! We need you now more than ever to stand shoulder to shoulder and love each other and our communities we serve. Don't let rumor and discord surface. It's up to YOU to keep the mission booming, and I know it will!
We are resilient people, that is why I love being here so much. This might have been the biggest, best, craziest group of people I will ever have the chance to help lead...only God knows that!I love all of you and your passion for not ME, but the KINGDOM IS AMAZING!
We need you to be POSITIVE and PROACTIVE! Don't cower back and wait and judge the new guy. Keep it going every day! There are THOUSANDS WHO NEED JESUS, and they don't care who the Lead Pastor is, they just need Jesus. Gossip, back-biting, and jockeying for position will only get this ministry at all campuses 1 thing: destruction.
It is us to us to make this thing happen even better than before. There are a TON of things I never got to accomplish and mistakes that I made that I pray will be figured out by whomever God calls. But the mission will continue with all of us doing what we are called to do as individuals and as the church,
And pray for the teaching pastors and new lead pastor that we will be searching for. God already knows who that is! And that uncomfort is building in their lives, just as it did mine. He knows where we are going before we do, and he knows exactly who will come in here and kick butt in Jesus name after we leave. He already has someone and something in mind greater that we could ever imagine! Patience, prayer and trust is the key!10. Can we help you and Tiffany in the next phase?
Of course! Pray for us. Consider when the time comes of supporting us in prayer and finances. Some of you might even move with us to plant a new work if God is calling you to the same thing. There are a million ways to support us and I will be using this blog to share in the entire journey.
I am also excited about the last series I will teach this Spring called: "Knowing God's Will for Your Life." We have just walked it...and many of you will as well as you are doing right now! It's not a job, it's a DAILY LIFESTYLE to know and hear his call!
I am sure there will be many other questions, and at our January Congregational meeting, we will be hosting a town hall gathering in conjunction with the membership meeting at each campus to give more details than we have right now.
Specific prayer requests for us right now: Pray as seek God's call. Pray as we seek to sell our house and also figure out how to pay off some things...which is not easy with this economy. Pray for our kids who are hurting with this as well as they have close friends. Pray that HIS POWER WOULD BE EVIDENT EVERY STEP OF THE WAY! Please stop and pray for us right now if you would. Stepping out with negative debt due to this wonderful economy is not the way to start off in this new venture.You can also help by knowing simply that we are being obedient and there is NOTHING MORE TO THIS STORY.
Nothing, no juicy tidbits or conspiracies or tabloid news, so please don't ask for "the real reason" we are leaving. We are being obedient and will be led each step of the way just as He did in bringing us here.
Don't ever forget this, despite the way people like to fabricate stories and pass gossip. We came here out of obedience and we are writing the next chapters the same way.Finally, from the bottom of my heart, I say THANK YOU and that our family deeply loves and cares for each of you!
This has been one of the hardest decisions on our family we have ever made. But obedience has to be our marching theme. We know that God has special plans for you and for us as we journey this thing together. I can truly hold my head high knowing that together we have accomplished so much for the kingdom, but for all of us...the BEST IS YET TO COME!
Keep checking back for updates as God sends more to the blank canvas before us. We love you and we love our God and the mysterious, crazy ways he leads in our lives.
I look forward to preaching next weekend and on Christmas Eve and starting phase 1 of collecting the Advent Conspiracy offering as we spend less and give more to help those in our local community and also provide clean drinking water in Africa.blessings and peace. the verse below will drive our family and always has.
Proverbs 19:21--"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but the counsel of the Lord is what will stand."
Labels: church planting journey