From Pastor to Mister: A Transition Story

PRV Plague and flowersI’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!!

Yet at cool as all that was, the problem still remained that there was no one ready to step in after Emily and I stepped down… Seeing how the Elders had asked us to stay until June 2014, it looked like we had six months to figure something out… either by finding another pastor somewhere or by setting up a group of rotating teacher/elders… everything was on the table at this point and no option was being ruled out. The coaching of Karen Fields was even more invaluable during this period than in the previous few months as she helped Emily and me think through all the issues and guide both the Elders Board and the congregation as we all sought to discern what Jesus was doing in our church.

As we humans were wresting through all of our options and trying to figure things out, God did what He does best – He blew our little minds and brought us three pastoral candidates by the end of February. Yes, you read that right – within 60-day we had three solid pastoral candidates who were willing to pastor a 35-40 member church in a 200-300 person village in rural Idaho on a small part-time salary. It was unbelievable as I was sure that it would take us a year or longer to find a pastor (could you tell I had a lot of faith?!) 😕

Richard and Mardie Engelhardt
Richard and Mardie Engelhardt

Of the three candidates, one of them dropped out during the screening step as she didn’t feel like it was a good fit. The other two candidates visited the church with their spouses and were interviewed by the church’s Elders Board. During this process, Richard and Mardie quickly stood out as folks who had the same values, beliefs, and practices as PRV (it helped that they were out of the Vineyard Boise). Basically they just fit the PRV culture and really loved the people, which were the primary things we were looking for…. so we started walking forward on the transition path with them (a huge shout out to Trevor Estes for helping us on this transition and connecting us with Richard and Mardie!!). And, well, now they are the official pastors of Payette River Vineyard.

So where does all this leave Emily and me? Well, truth be told, I don’t really know…. at this point we are in the process of selling our house and looking at moving back to Boise. This is an incredibly stressful process, so had we known about home buyers (see for an example) before we got too far down the line we probably would have sold to them. At least we know that, should anything go wrong, we have a backup plan. We will certainly be glad when this whole thing is done, though. We have committed to a six month Sabbatical period before we decided on anything as we want to be able to both process the past eight years as well as prayerful consider the future. As soon as the house sells, we will be debt free and able to chase the Wild Goose wherever He goes…. It is an exciting, scary time full of possibility… 😕

Here’s to the King of Kings… may we always say “yes” to Your call.

2 thoughts on “From Pastor to Mister: A Transition Story”

  1. I’m so happy your transition, so far, is a triumph! Now comes the sabbatical…

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