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New year, new me, same old grace.
The irony is not lost on me with what I’m going to announce today. Go back twelve months to January 2017 and you’ll find an eerily similar piece I wrote about a season of “transitions and change” that Natalie and I were bracing for. A new chapter was supposedly opening up for us. Not only were we only a few short days from welcoming our firstborn into the world, little Lydia Ann, I was also stepping into my first vocational youth pastoring role. Although it was part-time, it was teeming with promise. Or so it seemed.
Irony that wasn’t funny…but necessary.
What appeared to be my first big step towards full-time vocational ministry quickly dissipated, as I soon realized I was in a place I didn’t belong. In April 2017 I announced I was leaving that ministry capacity behind and attempted to speak to the discouraging nature of my departure from that position. Even though I knew that it wasn’t the right place for my wife and I, especially as we became parents, I was still disheartened at the thought of leaving a paid ministry position. Not, mind you, because I was in it for the money, but because I had desired for so long for God to open up that door. But, strangely enough, he quickly closed it on me. That was the most confusing part. God had shut this door and stirred my conscience enough that I came to no other conclusion than to move on. And so I left that church and went back to being a regular church member — which was exactly what I needed.
I wrote the following words during that season of confusion and I contend that they’re still just as applicable and pivotal for me today as they were then: When God closes a door, he doesn’t always open a window. Sometimes he just wants you to be content in the room you’re in. As I wrote those words, as is often the case, I was preaching to myself. I was reassuring my own heart of the truth that God’s not after remarkable and radical displays of faith and service — he’s after quiet, ordinary faithfulness. God’s much more desirous of faith in the mundane than momentous spiritualism. And you know, it’s actually quite stunning what can transpire when you come to end of yourself and let God do as he wills. That’s pretty much where I was at the beginning of 2017. Confused and frustrated, certainly, but learning to be content in the midst of it all.
As I reflect on that season of life, nothing could’ve been better for me, personally, than to not be in a ministry position. I was able to give my utmost attention to Natalie and Lydia. I was able to learn to be a father and re-learn how to be a good husband without the burden of leaning to shepherd God’s flock at the same time. Nothing reorients your worldview like children. My perspective on several things changed as I strived to find contentment in the rubble of my own plans. Chief among them, I would say, is an earnestness for the ordinary. I can truthfully say that I am happier now with doing the small, insignificant things. Perhaps, through all of this, God desired to whittle away my hunger for prominence and position. At least I’m pretty sure that what he’s been doing. Everyday I still have to pray for God to make my heart okay with doing the unnoticed things. Even though no eyes are watching, even though no one’s tweeting or sharing this moment, am I still pursuing Christ with a devoted and surrendered life? I ask myself that often.
Semper mutans, semper fidelis.
I write all this to say that 2018 looks to be another year of more “transitions and change.” Big changes. Life-altering changes. Though this time it feels much different. This time, it’s not change that I’ve sought through my own selfish desires, it’s change that God has brought in his sovereign grace. This is something that he’s been orchestrating and driving all the way.
In April 2018, I will officially be taking the role of Assistant Pastor at Grace Baptist Church of Southwest Ranches, Florida. Pastor Jay Hartzell is a long-time friend and ministry partner and it’s by God’s grace alone that this door has been opened for the opportunity to serve the Lord alongside each other. This new chapter of life for Natalie and I has been in the works for a while now and I am confident that it has only been sustained and allowed to be carried out because God wills it. The life-reorganization on the horizon this year has been divinely engineered and nurtured. And I think that’s what’s most comforting. Notwithstanding how big a move is or life-change is on your heart, when God’s behind it, it’s always a step in the right direction.
Coupled with this move into full-time vocational ministry, in February 2018 I will officially become an ordained Baptist minister. I am so enthused to have this happen and to see the ways it can amplify how I serve Christ and his Kingdom. Furthermore, I will leaving the job I’ve held for over 3 years and we’ll be moving into a new home for the first time in over 5 years. I’ve been lucky enough to have a secure job at a good company since the fall of 2014. They’ve been nothing but supportive of this transition. I couldn’t really ask for anything more. And though the prospect of buying a new home is daunting, it’s also extremely exciting.
My aim is to not let anything happen to this blog. For all intents and purposes the only change I foresee is that my long-form writing might be more sporadic than it once was. I still plan to continue writing and podcasting for God’s glory. Indeed, my podcast is set to receive more fervent and often attention. (Be on the lookout for that!)
My prayer going into this new position is that I’d have as little expectations as possible and remain completely moldable to the roles I need to fill. I am not unfamiliar with the stresses and strains that ministry can place on a family. Growing up a pastor’s kid, I was made all too aware of the struggles that pastors and pastor’s families can go through. But I am excited to take on those stresses and hopefully speak a little grace into the mess that is ministry.
I hope you’ll be in prayer for us as we gear up for these life-changes and that God would bless our ministry efforts. Our solemn prayer is that our lives would be spent impacting the lives around us with the grace, mercy, and peace of God’s gospel. We step out into this next chapter of life and service not assured of the end but assured of the One who is already there, and has already masterminded it all in sovereign grace.
Thank you so much for your continued prayer and support.