I’ve started to write this post several times over the past few weeks but failed to do so due to either life circumstances or raging emotions…
Twelve days ago on June 1st Emily and I officially stepped down as the pastors of the Payette River Vineyard Christian Fellowship (PRV). At the same time the King and the church body commissioned Richard and Mardie Engelhardt as the new pastors.
Wow…I’m amazing at the emotions that came with typing that statement… it is all kind of crazy and hard to believe… a year ago the thought of leaving Sweet was a distance thought…now it is a reality.
And the way in which it all happened is just amazing…
Last year I was privately wrestling with trying to balance my day-job, leading the church, being a husband and a father…not to mention trying to maintain a health spiritual life… I was, quite frankly, very close to burn out and was starting to be ineffective in all areas of my life as I was simply reacting to events rather than having time to process and plan ahead. At the same time there was a growing desire within Emily and mine hearts to start a new church somewhere or, at the very least, to engage in ministry in a different cultural context.
Yet for all the discontentment and pain, I really couldn’t see a way out of this crazy catch 22… Then a series of event took place which ended up with me attending the Vineyard Missional Leaders Meeting (MLM) last October. At that meeting the Lord connected me with several people who helped me pray through and process the growing discontent in my heart.
These folks helped reveal the two big issues within me that tried to block all the wise counsel I was receiving – the first was the lie that if I stepped down I would be a failure; yet another statistic of a new pastor who couldn’t make it… the second was a strong desire to make sure the people of Sweet had a solid pastor to take care of them, which, at this point, seemed like a HUGE problem as there was no one in the wings to take over…
The first issue was resolved through the constant encouragement of Craig Simonian and Ed Loughran – both of whom literally beat that lie out of me!! (Thanks guys!!!)
The second issue was a tad harder…or so I thought… Karen Fields and Jared Boyd both encouraged me to think out of the box and trust God to take care of the people, as He loves them far more than I ever could. Accordingly, I mustered up some courage after I returned from the MLM and talked to the PRV Elders about the possibility of stepping down. They, in turn, surprised me in saying that they knew this was coming and that they full supported Emily and me moving on to something else. All they asked is that we would stay with them until June 2014, after which they would release us to follow the call of God on our lives.
Then in a move only God could orchestrate, I found out that the Vineyard USA had decided to host their very first pastoral transitions conference in Boise…and, if that wasn’t enough, the speakers included my sending pastor (Tri Robinson), area leader (Trevor Estes) and regional overseer (Allen Hodges). It was like God was saying, “You are on the right path.” So Emily and me went – taking with us one of our Elder couples – and had a great time learning about how to help lead a congregation through a leader change.
Then on January 5, 2014 I bite the bullet and told the church body about what God was doing in Emily and my heart. The church’s response was amazing as pretty much every person there confirmed to us that we were indeed supposed to move on. Folks were telling us stories about how God told them that we were leaving weeks before as they were walking up to us in church…or how earlier that week God had told them during their devotional time… it was, quite honestly, unexpected and thrilling at the same time!!