It’s been pleasantly surprising to see Sabbath Thoughts develop an international footprint, which brings a smile to the face of this former missionary. WordPress provides tools that inform me of its global reach, and I try to take that broad audience into account when I write (shout out to my readers last month in Nepal – both of you).
But today’s post is meant for a narrower audience – specifically, the people at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita, CA, which has been my home for over 13 years. We refer to it as the “Grace family,” and I like that. I call us Gracers, and I like that too.
We announced in services this weekend that my wife and I are in the midst of a major transition as a result of an invitation from the leaders of Heights Church in Prescott, Arizona. I preached there in early January (had a wonderful time), and Murf and I spent a week there earlier this month to get to know the staff and the elder team. At the close of that week, they invited me to join their pastoral team. We have accepted that invitation, and are preparing to conclude our time at Grace in mid-March and plan to begin our ministry in Prescott later in the Spring.
This is not something that we do lightly. Grace welcomed us back from our international ministry (after supporting us for 15 years), provided a place for us to use our gifts, cared for us through several family crises, and enthusiastically embraced opportunities for gospel impact both locally and around the world. It has been a wonderful place to serve, and we’ve been involved in exciting ministries that created deep and lasting friendships. Senior Pastor David Hegg and other church leaders have affirmed us and encouraged us as they have prayed us through this decision. They made clear what I already knew, that I would be welcome to stay at Grace as long as I felt God wanted me there.
But we do sense God leading us to Arizona. The Lead Pastor at Heights, my friend Ron Merrell, served on the Grace pastoral team until leaving for Prescott almost three years ago. He has asked me to assume the role of Shepherding Pastor, a job title that I’ve never seen but that I really like – it’s redundant, but in a way that excites me! It will encompass a fairly wide variety of pastoral responsibilities, including being part of the preaching team. We sense a good connection with the congregation and with our future colleagues, and we are eager to be part of what God is doing at Heights. There is of course no way to know exactly what lies ahead – but that’s not a bad thing. It makes us lean on the Lord.
A case could be made that we are crazy to leave a town where we have regular contact with our daughter and her family, and it’s true that the upcoming birth of our second grandson in May made our decision much more difficult. To be honest, when Ron called last Fall (ironically the day after we learned that Amy was pregnant), it was hard to imagine leaving. But having spent 15 years overseas, raising our children far from their grandparents, we realized that this would not be the first time that we left family for the sake of ministry. We’re glad that Josh and Amy support our decision, and their encouragement matters a lot to us. Still, leaving our family is by far the hardest part of this move. Our moments with them (especially with little Corban) these last few weeks have been especially meaningful, since we know they will soon be much less frequent. That is a hard sentence to write.
I’m grateful to Pastor David for inviting me to preach at Grace on March 14 and 15, on a passage from Acts that will be especially appropriate for the occasion. I am both looking forward to that opportunity, and dreading it. It will be my last weekend on the staff of a church that I love. Your prayers heading into that weekend, for the goodbyes that will take place and for all the details of moving that will follow, will be appreciated. And if you are in town, I would love to see you there.
How do you end a post like this one? I wish I had something pithy and clever, but I really don’t. I just know that it has been a privilege to serve the people of Grace, and that it will be a privilege to serve the people of Heights. We worship a God who loves both churches. Thanks for praying for us as we strive to do the same.
If you would like to subscribe and receive future Sabbath Thoughts posts as an e-mail, please click on “Follow” in the lower right corner of your browser window.