I once preached a message to high school students at Covenant Point Bible Camp and said, “Change is hard, but change is good.” The youth group students at that camp continued to message me on FB for months after that reminding me about the difficulties of changes in their lives, while remaining optimistic about the blessings of change that God revealed to them.
Shortly after that time of speaking at camp, I would face significant change in my life personally because the church where I was serving in a 7-year call as Pastor of Student Ministries decided to “let me go” due to financial constraints and budget cuts. That was Mother’s Day 2011, just before the falsely predicted apocalyptic “end of the world” was supposed to take place on May 21, 2011. I was secretly hoping that the doom’s day predictors were right this time.
I was turning 42 years old, and after serving in youth ministry for 22 years, I didn’t want to start over again. I was ready to “hang ’em up” and find some kind of “other” calling for a while, but God must have had other plans for us. I was asked to preach a final sermon at the church I was exiting. I was reluctant to preach about God walking with you in the circumstances of your life, but He gave me strength to publicly forgive the leaders who just 2 weeks prior had altered the course of my life… again. I preached on Mark 6 where Jesus walks on the water. No matter the storms in your life, Jesus is always with you.
Our family of 4 traveled to the FEAST in Estes Park, Colorado for a week of fantastic connections and spiritual refreshment. We departed from Estes Park, drove East through Greeley, Colorado to take a look at a young church plant that we heard may be looking for a new lead pastor. It smelled like cows in Greeley, so we all wrinkled our noses and sort of shrugged our shoulders at what God might be doing next in our lives.
We flew to Panama City, Panama for a 2 month sabbatical rest as a family. We did all the sight seeing and exploring that our little rental car could muster, attempted to learn some Caribbean-Spanish, made balloon animals for nationals, zip-lined and taught our 13 & 11 year old kids how to drive a stick shift car too. We learned to relax and take in the pace of rest while God spoke to our hearts through 1st & 2nd Samuel all summer. At the end of the summer I went to Zion National Park, Utah with 14 college buddies and hiked the Narrows and learned to push my body physically beyond what I thought was capable for a week. We laughed and reminisced with one another before praying for our future ministries and blessing each other.
Just one week later, I received a phone call from Crossroads Greeley church in Colorado asking for a conversation about becoming their next lead pastor. My wife and I prayed like we had learned to pray in transition, asking for God’s best to come through… even past what we think is best. One conversation with Crossroads Greeley led to another and another. We were asked to visit them for a weekend just prior to November 1, 2011 when my severance pay would run out. We were overwhelmed with the Spirit of God leading us and giving us peace as we remained incognito during the weekend visit.
We were asked to candidate for the lead pastor position on November 13th, so we brought our kids with us and I preached my heart out. They voted for us that night, and I was called to be their next lead pastor. We remember flying back to Seattle with tears of joy in our eyes for how God has been so faithful to His calling over the years. We know that change is hard, but change is good and we know that a story of redemption like this doesn’t happen to everyone. We had to begin to process what it would mean to sell our house, move our kids out of 8th and 6th grades and uproot friendships to move once again.
Crossroads was gracious to let me have a start date of January 2012, so I packed up my little car with as much as it would hold and made the trek across country alone on January 3rd. I preached my first sermon on January 8th and have been living with a family from the church for the past nearly 5 months. My wife and kids have been trying to sell the house so they can move out to Greeley and join me in this adventure. We just secured the sale of the home, so I’m flying to Seattle tomorrow to pick them up, pack the truck and drive them to Colorado for this ministry calling.
I’ve learned some lessons about the past year of transition. God is always on the move. He is always looking for us to remain humble in whatever setting He has chosen for us and we must walk in faith to hear His voice. I’ve learned so much about intimacy with God through this transition and I’ve drawn strength in knowing that God draws near to the broken hearted and makes His intimate relationship known when we draw near to Him. I don’t have it all figured out, but I sense that God wants me to hold life loosely and trust His lead, no matter the storms in my life. I’ve also learned that what appears to be “the end of the world” for me, is really just a fork in the road of God’s journey… and He knows where He wants me to serve, more than I may know myself.