To my Living Grace Church family:
This past Sunday, we made a very important announcement. I realize that a lot of you were unable to be present for the service for various reasons. And because of that, I wanted to take this opportunity to inform you about our decision to resign as the Lead Pastors of Living Grace effective at the end of January.
It was our hope to be able to make our announcement at a time and place where each of you could hear it firsthand. We feel that we owe you this much. And we wanted you to be able to hear our heart so that you don’t just hear a part of the story and then develop a misunderstanding based on having only part of the information. However, we know that getting everyone together for one Sunday is unrealistic given people’s busy schedules and the amount of sickness that has been going around town the past few weeks. So, this blog entry is our contingency.
For the past 18 months, Jess and I have been evaluating our role as Lead Pastors of the church. We have been looking at a lot of factors. We have prayed a lot of prayers. We have talked with a lot of counselors and mentors. We have not taken this matter lightly. And over that time, we have felt that our time in this role was drawing to a close.
When we started this church in January of 2008, we honestly felt that we would retire as Pastors of this same church. We didn’t see ourselves ever moving on. We thought that all of you – or perhaps your children and grandchildren – would have to lovingly tell us it was time to hand over the reins of leadership to another generation. We just didn’t see any other way. We knew that we wanted to stay tuned in to the Holy Spirit to make sure we were in step with Him along the way, but we never thought we’d see the day when we would not pastor this church.
Throughout this season of evaluation, things have been changing. We have continued to love the people God has sent us over the years, but we see some different things on the horizon for our own family. Currently, I (Andy) am continuing my education with the goal of earning my Masters’ Degree in the next few years. Jess has recently graduated from cosmetology school and is enjoying her new career doing hair in her aunt’s salon. Together, we have come to a real sense of peace about our decision to make a change.
At this point, we don’t see ourselves in any kind of vocational ministry role. We are taking one day at a time and trying to remain in step with the Holy Spirit as He leads us, but the current plan is for me to find employment and continue to offer my gifts to help build up the Body of Christ by serving in a local church.
What about Living Grace?
Our situation at LGC has led the leadership team to evaluate what happens next. We have two major obstacles that were going to be potential problems for us. 1) We were going to have to move out of the Sunnyland Plaza in the near future due to the property renovations and increased rent requirements, and to this point, no doors have opened for us to find a new meeting location. And 2) Financially, we are unable to continue. These issues seem to be huge problems to the survival of this particular gathering of believers. And under any other circumstances, they would be. However, at just the right time, God has opened a door that our leadership team – and, most certainly, Jess and I – believe is the best option for the next phase of our church family.
During the 18-month evaluation period that Jess and I have been going through, God began to strengthen a relationship with some good friends that we have known for years. Dave and Kasey Jane have been friends of ours for a while, but during these past months, God has helped us to see that they have a very similar heart to ours for what a church in Washington could look like. Over time, it became clear to the Janes that God was calling them to plant a church in Washington. At that point, we began talking with them about the possibility of fitting the people and resources of LGC together with the vision that God had given them for this new church.
After a lot more prayer, counsel, tough questions, and difficult discussions, it became clear to both sides that somehow God was in this.
At the end of 2012, Dave resigned his position at Riverside Community Church in Peoria in order to begin preparing to launch this brand new church in Washington. That fact, along with the sense in my spirit that the time was right for Jess and me to step down as the pastors of LGC, led us to the discussion with our leadership team of possibly merging LGC with Dave’s new church. Although the details are still being worked out as to what this might look like, I can tell you now that it will truly be a new church with new leadership, a new feel, and a new name in a new location. But I believe with all of my heart that it will very closely reflect the vision that God had put in my heart for LGC and where I’ve been trying to lead us for the past few years.
Dave is scheduled to give the message at LGC this Sunday (January 13th) so all of you can get to know him somewhat. Then later that evening, there will be an informational meeting at Fivepoints in Washington at 6:30 for anyone who might be interested in finding out more about the church. I encourage everyone from LGC to come with an open mind and open heart to see what God might show you about your place in the new church. I know my family and I will be there.
I am very excited about the future! God has great things in store for His people. Let’s prayerfully and expectantly look to God in this season of transition.
Humbly, your brother in Christ,
We are challenging our church family to a challenge of Generosity from now through Easter. Hopefully, this will kickstart a movement of a generous lifestyle among our people. Hopefully, it’s not just a phase. Here are the four steps to the challenge:
This past Sunday at LGC, we discussed one of the most common hindrances to an effective prayer life that ails a lot of Christians. And that is not knowing how to pray because we don’t understand God’s promises to us.
I’ll admit it. I’ve spent a lot of my life as a follower of Christ praying general, vague prayers along the lines of: “Lord, bless me. Bless my family. Bless my church, etc.” Not that there’s anything wrong with a prayer requesting God’s blessing. But like many of you, I have realized that often my prayers don’t go beyond that level. I’m not really asking for anything specific.
When Jesus came face to face with Bartimaeus, the blind beggar on the roadside just outside Jericho, He made no assumptions about what it was Bartimaeus wanted. In fact, He posed a question. A question that possibly caught others off-guard. But not Bartimaeus. Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51; NLT). Why the question? Doesn’t Jesus know His need? Can’t He see it? Can’t He guess? But yet He asks. Without having to think for a moment, the beggar says, “Teacher, I want to see!” And so… Jesus heals him.
I believe Jesus poses the question so that Bartimaeus had to articulate his request specifically.
Many times, we don’t know how to pray because we don’t know what we can ask for. We don’t seem to question God’s power very often. We know He’s powerful. What we question is whether He wants to apply that power to our situation.
This past Sunday, I challenged our church family to write out a specific prayer request on a card we had made and then put it in a prominent spot where they would see it daily for the next 24 days. And each time we see the card during that time-frame, we are to pray specifically for that request. However, that wasn’t it.
The back of the card was blank. I also challenged them to ask God to lead them to a scriptural promise that was confirmed in Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20) so they could have a basis for believing.
For the next 24 days, I am praying for our church’s meeting location. Specifically, I am praying for a specific building where we can meet that will be a more permanent home aligning with our God-given vision for the church. (Our current meeting spot has an expiration date on it. Details to come.) The promise on which I am basing my prayer: “[Jesus] is the one who has the key of David. He opens doors, and no one can shut them; He shuts doors, and no one can open them. I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can shut” (Revelation 3:7,8; NLT).
What scriptural promise are you circling as you pray your specific prayer?
Inspired by the book, The Circle Maker by Pastor Mark Batterson (as discussed in my previous post), our LGC family will begin a four-week study on the subject of prayer during the month of February.
For the four Sunday mornings, Andy will share messages along this theme. And since “hearing the Word” is not enough according to James 1:22, but God wants us to act on what we hear, we are going to have an opportunity to corporately act on what we’ve learned.
On Wednesday nights in February (8th, 15th, 22nd, & 29th), we will come together for a one-hour study on the subject based on a DVD curriculum hosted by the book’s author, Pastor Mark Batterson from National Community Church in Washington, D.C. After the study, we will take time to pray circles around our families, our church, our businesses, our dreams, and our futures. We will learn how to pray God’s promises over our situations, and hold on to those promises until we see God’s answer.
Join us on Sundays at 10:30 AM for messages that will inspire you to believe that God’s promises are for you and equip you to stand firm in them as they are your promises to hold onto.
Join us on Wednesdays at 6:00 PM for a small group that will equip you to put into practice what you learn. We need people to sign up for the small group especially if you will be making use of the childcare.
* Childcare will be available for the Wednesday evening hour. We will take up an offering to pay the babysitters.
** The Circle Maker book will be available for sale at LGC starting Sunday, January 22nd for $12 (regularly priced $19.99).
*** The Circle Maker Participant’s Guide is available at Hoerr’s Berean bookstore for $9.99. This is a supplemental guide that will help you in the small group discussions and is recommended, but not required.
I am really excited about where I see our church family going in the next month and beyond.
For most of 2011, God began speaking to me about wanting to take me further in my prayer life than I’ve ever been. He began showing me that the dreams He had given me for my life, my family, and my church were impossible unless He brought them to pass. My dependency upon Him began to grow. And slowly, I was driven to prayer more often. It began to come naturally to me as I saw no other way.
In October, I had the opportunity to hear a pastor named Mark Batterson speak at a session at Catalyst Conference. He pastors National Community Church in Washington, D.C. I had heard him before, and every time I liked him. What he had to say always spoke to me. I was inspired by his messages and his books I’ve read. But this particular session was special.
Mark shared the story of an ancient Jewish sage named Honi who became famous for saving a generation of Jews (one generation before Jesus) from a devastating drought through a prayer that was bold and made him look silly. But it was necessary… and it worked.
While he shared the story and then the application for our prayer lives, I was internally challenged. The Holy Spirit was doing something inside me. He was reminding me how foolish and impossible my dreams are without His intervention. He was reminding me that nothing is impossible with God. He was calling me back to prayer.
I am currently reading the book and letting the Holy Spirit speak to me as I meditate on how it communicates Gods Word to me. I have found it more natural to lead my wife in prayer, my kids in prayer, and to “pray without ceasing.”
I really look forward to this next chapter in my life and ministry. I can’t wait to see where God takes us as we learn to depend on Him and circle His promises in prayer.
Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks. — Jesus in Matthew 7:7,8
When you’re driving you’re supposed to be moving FORWARD. You need clear sight. Clear vision to safely arrive where you’re going. So naturally, the windshield needs to be quite large to allow for clear vision. But while you’re driving, you need to occasionally look up to the rearview mirror to evaluate what is going on behind you. But you don’t focus on the rearview mirror. In fact, if you drove down the road with your focus on the rearview mirror, you would definitely crash. You might even hurt or, worse yet, kill someone.
I believe that ministry is the same. My focus as I lead my church needs to be on what lies ahead. I need clear vision so I can safely arrive at my destination. And ultimately, if I am truly leading people, we will arrive safely at that destination together.
However, if I am constantly looking BACK through my ministry rearview mirror, I will not only have no idea where I’m actually going, I may actually hurt people and leave a path of destruction behind me.
This morning, I was praying about the church I pastor. Currently, we are laying out our Mission, Vision, and Values on Sunday mornings this January. And so I was praying and giving God a chance to speak to me. As I did that, He ultimately led me to Philippians 3:13 & 14 in which Paul writes:
No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.
Now, obviously Paul didn’t totally ignore his past. He was honest and open about his journey all throughout his letters (including 1 Timothy 1:15). In fact, the verses that preceded the quoted ones above are evidence that Paul didn’t pretend like his past didn’t happen. It happened and he was real about it. But that wasn’t where his focus was.
My focus are on where God is taking us. I am looking ahead and following God’s Spirit into the future. I dare to dream big and believe that God can deliver on dreams that are inspired by Him.
How about you? If you are wandering in life directionless and going nowhere, maybe it’s because you’re not looking forward. Maybe you’re living in the past and therefore, you’re moving backwards. Maybe you have no direction. I challenge you today, follow the words of the Apostle Paul. Don’t look back. Look forward. And move forward in faith.
I received a gift in the mail a few weeks ago. And it was from an old friend who has blessed me in many ways over the years. Dave Ramsey.
Yes. I’m talking about that Dave Ramsey. No. I don’t know him personally. But he has really blessed me.
A few months ago, I was at a conference in Atlanta where I received three copies of his new book Entreleadership and three more books from him for FREE. Not only that, but several years ago, his practical wisdom based on Jesus’ truth led my family and me out of debt as a young couple. After our stupidity led us back into debt, his ministry is currently guiding us back out. I think it’s safe to say this relationship has been pretty one-sided and I’ve been on the receiving end. Thanks, Dave.
Anyway, I received a package in the mail from Dave. (Our church had led some 15 or 16 families through his Financial Peace University class. I believe this was his way of saying ‘thanks’ in addition to his ongoing investment in young leaders). He sent out a book to which he had written the forward. It is called The Monk and the Merchant by Terry Felber. I’d never heard of the book before. I’d never heard of Terry Felber. I didn’t even realize that there had been a legend on which the book was based. It turns out, I had been missing out.
In the book, a grandfather is imparting wisdom in his 19-year-old grandson who is himself setting out on manhood. The younger character was preparing to make some decisions that would determine the course of his life. What would he do with his life? How would he make his living? At the center of the decision was his question whether to pursue full-time, vocational ministry or go into the market and become a merchant. The grandfather shares his own journey with the boy and passes on several nuggets of wisdom along the way.
Of all the great things I read, my main walkaway points were:
1) Do what you love. That way you’ll never have to work a day in your life.
2) Put God at the center of your pursuit, and you’ll find blessing and favor at every turn.
and 3) Trials should develop your character, not crush your spirit.
I’ll admit, these were all three lessons I had heard before, but I really needed to be reminded of them. Yes, I’m past the decision of choosing what to do with my life. But the reminder that ministry was (and IS) the passion of my heart was vital to me right now.
I feel blessed to be where I am in life. Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. But I’m thankful for the subtle reminders that bring me back to an attitude of gratitude with regards to the part I get to play in this world.
I would highly recommend The Monk and the Merchant to anyone, particularly young people who are at that crossroads of deciding what vocation to pursue. It very simply lays the groundwork for making clear-headed decisions and trusting God’s leading through our passions and desires as we stay centered on Him.