The past couple of weeks have been life-changing for me, to say the least. Two weeks ago, I resigned a good-paying and stable job as a worship pastor and started a brand new church. Though to people on the outside it seemed to happen very suddenly, for me it was the consummation of a nearly three-year process. Three years ago God told me, out of the blue, that I was going to transition soon from serving as a worship pastor to being a lead pastor of a church.
I say “out of the blue” because in nearly 25 years of ministry, I had never once seriously thought about being a senior pastor of a church. Honestly, I had never wanted the responsibility. I was very happy to just focus on my music and writing, and enjoy leading worship for the congregation. I was in a groove and the work load was so light. In fact, it was so light that I was getting fidgety. I didn’t feel challenged in what I was doing anymore. And besides that, the church had not really grown in the three years I had been there, in spite of everything I had tried. There were things I thought could help us grow, but they would all require change…and change is something that’s hard to do when you’re comfortable. But seeing the need for change and not being able to help it happen was also frustrating me.
I kept arguing with God how things would get so much better if we would just do “this”, and do “that”, etc. Finally in one of my gripe sessions with the Lord, I felt I clearly heard God say, “But that is YOUR vision for a church, son. Why would you want me to give your vision to another man?” Good question. So it became more and more clear to me that God was giving me a total vision for a church, not just for the music area. And He was calling me, against my own “better judgment”, to be a pastor of a church. As much as I wanted to run from that, I knew I had better take initial steps of obedience toward that goal, however far in the future it might be.
One thing was clear: I needed to go back and finish the Biblical Master’s Degree I had started after college, so that people could know up front that I was at least somewhat qualified to preach and lead a church. Fast-forward to Christmas 2011: I completed my first Master Degree, and was already well on the way to a second one. I had honed my preaching skills at a local rescue mission and by teaching a men’s group occasionally since I wasn’t allowed to preach much in my own church.
But as the first months of 2012 started, I felt that time was ticking away and that the due date to give birth to a new church was quickly approaching. Circumstances in my current job showed opportunities closing more and more. The best thing I can compare it to is that feeling when you’re moving to the top of a roller-coaster, right before the car plunges over the top. The clicking of the car up the track tells you you’re getting closer and closer to the top, and there is a mixture of excitement and sheer terror as you prepare for the inevitable drop…
We will have our first official service this Easter Sunday. I am already amazed and surprised at the number of people who say they want to be a part of this new church. I’m amazed because one of my continual arguments with God was, “Lord, why would anybody follow me to do this work?” I knew that I certainly wouldn’t have faith in me as a senior pastor, and to step out into the darkness like this seemed more foolhardy than faithful. What God said back to me was encouraging: “I don’t expect anyone to follow YOU, son. I expect them to follow the VISION I have clearly given you.” That was reassuring to me, because God was saying it doesn’t all depend on me, but on Him. The vision for Legacy Church was put in my mind by God – it is certainly beyond anything I could have come up with on my own. And it will be His power, not mine that makes it grow.
Seriously, no church should be about “one man” and “his gifts”, and no man should ever think that a church belongs to him. The church belongs to God, to bring glory to Him ALONE and to benefit the people there and the people yet to come. My job up to this point has been just to listen and obey. And thankfully, that is all I have to worry about from this point on as well.
So…here we go, clicking our way to the top of the roller-coaster. What a ride!
Learn about my new church at http://LegacyNaples.org