Sometimes my 5 year old son asks me, “How can you hear God talking to you?” He asks this when we’ve been discussing how the Lord leads us to do his will, such as when Nichole and I got married or when we moved to Dixon’s Mills, Alabama, to pastor Central Baptist Church.
After a couple of false starts, I’ve come up with an answer that – I think – satisfies both the stoics and the mystics. More importantly, it seems to satisfy Wesley. I tell him, “When you love God with all your heart, you’ll start wanting the things that he wants for you.”
When he gets older, we’ll talk about how God uses the Bible to fuel our love for him. For now, we’ll just use that Scripture that believers have leaned on for millennia: Psalm 37:4, which says that when we delight in God, he will give us the desires of our hearts. I think my answer – along with much of my life – agrees with the spirit of this verse.
It explains how we came to Dixon’s Mills, something we’ve had to explain more than once!
Now, almost nine years later, it explains where we’re going next: 2600 miles away, to Seattle, Washington, to help plant a church.
In another time and place, I may tell the story of just how God got us to this point. But for now, I’ll just say that he was working in our hearts long before we knew it. From placing a missionary burden on my heart 16 years ago, to marrying me to a woman who shares my preference for cool, rainy weather (one of precious few preferences we share), to closing a series of life “chapters” earlier this year, God has been leading us. There’s more – much more – but God has shown us Seattle and its spiritual need, and as we’ve sought him, he has increased our desire to plant churches there to share the Gospel with those who have not heard.
Friends and mentors have helped confirm this as we’ve spoken with them, and through an intense assessment program, other experienced church planters have helped confirm it, as well.
So, on Sunday, November 2, I announced our plans to a meeting of the members of Central Baptist Church. I am grateful for my time as pastor of this church, for I am certain that I have learned as much or more from them than they have learned from me. And I look forward to our partnership as we move ahead with God’s calling.
…but not quite that fast.
Unfortunately, I may not have communicated everything as clearly as I thought! It seems that some think we will be moving posthaste, or as early as the first of 2015. This isn’t the case for a number of reasons.
First, we have several local commitments that we want / need to fulfill this spring.
Second, until my last day, I am still the pastor of Central, and I believe I have some responsibility to help the church through a smooth pastoral succession. I will not pick my replacement – the church must recognize the pastor Christ has chosen for them (Eph. 4.11) – but I can help the church find and prepare for him. I’ve offered to help the church with this, as well as continuing to lead this ministry through the spring. Our deacons and finance committee will propose a plan, including my final date, and the congregation will vote on it in December.
Third, and most critically, we must find partners who will join us in this church plant, and that will take time. Our partners will share in the opportunity, challenge, and joy of taking the Gospel to an extremely unchurched part of our country. And they will do so in three ways:
Prayer – we’re looking for people who will pray with us faithfully and regularly about the needs of this church plant and our church planting team. These will be earnest pray-ers who will make this church plant a priority before the Lord. Without God, we can do nothing; with God, anything is possible! So prayer is our most important need right now.
Finances – church planting takes money. Lots. Seattle is one of the more expensive areas of the country, especially when compared to the southeast. Our personal and ministry expenses will be higher than in many parts of the USA and the world. (Example: in Seattle, housing alone is, on average, 135% higher than in Tuscaloosa.) Our mission board will be able to help with some of the cost, but until the church is fully established, most of the support will come from our partners: churches and individuals who give a one-time gift or contribute regularly.
Planting Team – we already have one family planning to come with us. We’re praying for more, that God would lead others to come to Seattle and help us plant this church. Some may be able to arrange a transfer with their employer; others may look for jobs in the area. Some may move permanently; others may consider a one- or two-year commitment. Regardless, we believe that God is already preparing the right people for our team.
Actually, God is already preparing all of our partners, but it will take us some time to connect with them.
(I might as well ask, How about you? If you think God might be leading you to help us, contact me, and let’s talk!)
So, I hope this explains a little bit about what God’s been doing in our lives lately. It’s exciting! Part of me wishes we could be there now, but another part of me is glad that we have some time to tie up loose ends, say “see you later” to dear friends, and to finish strong. I have no idea how long that will take, but I’m praying that we can be finished and ready to go some time next summer.
My family and church and I would appreciate your prayers, and don’t be surprised if we call you, asking you to partner with us in some way. God’s going to do some great things, and we’d love for you to experience him with us!
For those who wish to contribute financially, I will be able to provide the necessary information here very soon.