Thursday, November 14, 2013

Greener Pastures (literally!)

I spent four months as worship pastor and communication director at Crossroads.  As much as I loved serving there (especially working with senior pastor Mike Haub) God had stirred in me a restlessness.  I wanted more than anything to serve full time; to really dig in and give my all to that which God had called me to do.  Problem was, both Mike and I knew that Crossroads would never be able to provide a full time position for me.  If I were to stay, I would be foreced to be bi-vocational, which means my attention would be divided.

Through Pastor Mike's Bretheren in Christ (BIC) cluster group, a pastor from Manheim BIC approached me and asked if I would consider applying for a position there.  Moving away from our family and selling our home really wasn't on our radar, but we agreed to pray about it and seek God's guidance.  At the same time, I was taking a good hard look at the available options in the town where we were living, and we realized that all the doors were seemingly slammed closed. 

We realized that our house–while beautiful–was just "stuff" and God would provide what we needed.  I went through the formal application process and met with the staff and the board of MBIC, and it just seemed like a perfect fit!  A great facility, lots of young families, lots of adopted kids, a contemporary service and a great staff.  Not too big; not too small.

Now the hard part: we had to sell our house.  In addition, our tenants in our old house that we were renting out let us know that they were moving out.  So Amy had to give notice, we needed to get rid of two houses, we needed to find a place to live in Manheim and I really wanted to find a worship leader for Crossroads.  No problem.

Well it may come as no surprise, but that's excatly what happened!  We sold out house in 23 days.  We found tenants to sign a 2 year lease on our rental property. We found a great house to rent in Lititz, PA which is a short 10-minute drive from the church.  And a friend of mine named Russ Long agreed to step in as the worship leader at Crossroads.  Amy's employer even agreed to let her work remotely until they found a replacement for her.  Absolutely incredible!

It was clear that God had ordained and directed this move, so on Sept. 28th, 2013 a group of men from the church came down and moved everything in our house in 2 1/2 hours, drove to Lititz and unloaded into the new place!  The sense of community was incredible, and it was even more affirmation that we were heading in the right direction.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Crossroads

After leaving BranchCreek, Amy and I took a few months to explore some of the other churches in the area.  When you're in ministry, you don't really get to see what your brothers and sisters in your community are up to on Sunday morning, and we relished the oportunity to visit.  

I was amazed at the number of church plants that we found!  Smaller churches that were setting up and tearing down week after week.  And there was a joy and excitement there that I didn't expect.  It was a far cry from the large auditorium where I formerly served, but we saw the New Testament church lived out among people all over our community.  Varied expressions unique to their city and people, as I would expect in the early days of the church.  It was refreshing and wonderful.

One such community resonated with me, personally.  It was a small Bretheren in Church (BIC) church plant of about 60-80 people and the pastor was doubling as the worship leader every week.  So he was preparing the message and the music, rehearsing the team, and doing all of his regular pastoral care duties every week.  My heart was immideately drawn to him and to the congregation.  I knew that I could help and sow into this church and ease the pastor's burden allowing him to focus on his love of teaching and leading.

After several wonderful meetings with Pastor Mike Haub, I joined the staff of Crossroads Community Church as in April 2013.  While I enjoyed my four month hiatus from leading, I was eager to get back in the saddle and lead His people in worship once again! The worship team welcomed me with open arms and were very receptive to my leadership and enjoyed not having Mike run around on Sunday mornings trying to manage everything.  And what brought me the most joy was seeing Mike smiling in the back while I was leading.  It wasn't a "one man show" anymore; we had a team–a staff–and we were both in heaven!

Because the church met in the chapel of Biblical Seminary, our staff meetings were held in coffeshops and Wi-Fi cafes around town.  Our "office" was wherever our laptops could connect. It was a kind of freedom that I had never experienced, and honestly I loved it!  We talked through the service and various church matters, but Mike became a great counsellor, coach and friend.  He recognized that Amy and I were realy struggling with our separation from BranchCreek and helped me navigate the challenging emotions and stay focused.

During this time, God revealed my own pride and arrogance. He tore away my feelings of entitlement;  He challenged the value that I drew from my title and reminded me that I can do only that which His grace has allowed me to do. It was a painful lesson, but one that has forever changed my thinking, and while I wince at the thought of the pain, I can be thankful for the transformation that it brought my life.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

When It's Time to Move On...


This Sunday, Dec. 30th will be my last Sunday at BranchCreek Community Church.

I can’t tell you how excited I am excited about what God is doing at BranchCreek as they join the LCBC family! I have been honored to interact with some amazing people through this journey, especially Matt Goss and Phil Schwartz.  In getting to know them and listening to them share their hearts, it is clear that the music ministry at LCBC is strong and vibrant with gifted leaders that care deeply about their teams.

As I thought about where I might fit in the new landscape, God began revealing that my leadership gifts are desperately needed in other local churches.  So I faced a really difficult decision:  I really wanted to be a part of LCBC and all that God is doing.  The leadership, staff and vision are exactly what I’m all about!  But there are no opportunities for me to use my gifts and calling leading and facilitating worship–now or in the future.  In fact, taking a technical director or producer position at LCBC would mean that I might never sing in the church again!  

That didn’t feel like God’s plan for my life.  What made more sense was pursuing my gifts and calling as a Worship Pastor; stepping out in faith knowing that God has something for me in the future . . . even if I don’t yet know what that looks like.

The decision was hard.  I mean really hard.  But just like Saul and Barnbaus in Acts 13,  God sometimes calls us out of a really good situation to further His work and fulfill His purposes.  While leaving is painful, I cling to the hope that God has work for me to do, and I’m honored to be His instrument.

I’ve been leading worship at BranchCreek for over 9 years.  I have learned so much under Dave Detwiler’s gracious leadership.  He’s been a true friend and mentor.  He has watched  me grow from a self-centered, hot-headed worship leader into a someone that strives to die to himself every day and simply live in obedience to God. 

I love my BranchCreek and LCBC family! I will miss them so much!  From the very beginning, they have been warm and welcoming.  I've enjoyed the interactions around the table at staff meeting, the friendly and encouraging e-mail exchanges and all the great relationships I've made along the way.  It has been a joy, honor and privilege to serve alongside them!

I can’t wait to share all that I’ve learned at BranchCreek wherever God leads me next!

“Beginning empty-handed and alone frightens the best of men. It also speaks volumes of just how sure they are that God is with them.”  Gene Edwards, "Tale of Three Kings"

Sunday, November 25, 2012

perspective

I have three kids.  It's a fact that I take for granted sometimes, but tonight as they were in the bathtub together, laughing and playing, it hit me that I have three kids!  How in the world did I get here?  How did I become that guy?

Without question, the last 5 years have been life-changing.  Having two kids in 2008. Another in 2010.  Each one unexpected.  Amazing. Traumatic. Overwhelming. And utterly euphoric!   Spending the last few years at home with them has been one of the great joys of my life.  The connection that I have with each one of them is unlike anything that I can express.  The best illustration I've heard is that parenthood is like watching your heart walk around outside of your body.

I have three kids.  And I wasn't responsible for bringing them into the world.  I wasn't in control at all.  We didn't plan to have three kids; they just arrived–miraculously–one by one!  In fact, we never really had a chance to catch our breath and adjust, we had to get ready for the next one.

As I watched my kids play in the bathtub tonight, I realized that this wasn't what I had planned for my life.  It was so much better!  God was in control of my life.  He knew what I needed even though I had no idea what I wanted from life.  

It's no surprise that God is reminding me of this as I'm dealing transitions at church.  As a result of the merge with LCBC, I'll soon be laying down my worship pastor role to step into a new season of ministry.  It's been unbelievably difficult, but as I was reminded tonight, I don't have the bigger picture in view.  God sees what's in store for me, and while I love my current role, He's got something immeasurably more that I could ever ask or imagine!  I enjoyed what I was doing before I had kids, but I honestly can't even remember that life . . . everything before kids is fuzzy and inconsequential.  My life began when my children were born.  In the same way, I feel that I'm about to come alive in this next season that God has in store for me.  While I don't yet know exactly what that looks like, if it's anything like my kids, I know I'm never looking back!


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Open Hand

We recently had a message at church where they played a clip from the movie "Titanic."  I hadn't seen the movie in years, and while the film is based on a tragedy, it never really affected me.

But things are different now.  I have kids.

Watching the images of the passengers' panic to find room in the lifeboats, I found myself gripped with terror.  In that moment, I felt their helplessness and fear as I thought, "What would I do?  How would I protect my kids?"

While I'm not planning any trips across the Arctic sea, the fear is one that every parent faces daily.  We bear the responsibility of protecting our kids from harm at any cost, and the thought of being helpless is unimaginable.  Even worse are the stories of parents who have lost their children, like Steven Curtis Chapman whose daughter Maria was killed by a freak accident in the family's driveway.  Or the couple from our church that have buried two sons in the last 2 years.  While Amy & I have experienced the pain of miscarriage, my heart cannot begin to comprehend the agony that those couples have faced.

And yet we're called to hold our children with open hands.

It's hard to trust God with our kids.  It's hard to let them go out and play and trust that God will protect them.  But as followers of Christ, we have to believe that He is in control.  Our children are His, given to us in trust; we are to protect and care for them until He asks for their return.  

All three of our kids were miracles.  All three were completely unexpected.  We were not in control of their arrival, and it was clear that they were sent to us directly from God.  They came suddenly and unexpectedly and we had to acknowledge that they could be taken away just as unexpectedly.

Parents are called to great faith.  We must believe that God is both sovereign and good.  He is ultimately in control of everything, and we have to trust that He sees the fuller picture.  At the same time, we have to believe that He is working for our best interest; to give us not that which we desire but that which we require.  We must trust Him with everything, and hold back nothing.  We have to be willing to have the faith of Abraham, dagger raised above his son Isaac, and hold our children with open hands.