Almost 3 years ago, we began a journey to South Florida to be the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Belle Glade. Last Sunday, I submitted my resignation in order to join the staff of The Journey Church in Boca Raton. I will be the Pastor of Families and Evangelism. To say we are excited would be an understatement! We believe that this is an almost perfect fit for my passions, personality, and skill set.
Here is the copy of my letter of resignation that tells all about the thoughts behind the move.
March 16, 2014
A LETTER OF LOVE TO THE FIRST BAPTIST BELLE GLADE FAMILY . . .
Today I resigned as senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Belle Glade, FL. This letter is written so you can take with you the facts about this transition. Jenny, Taylor, Tucker, and I will be moving to Boca Raton, FL to serve in a church plant. I will be on the leadership team of The Journey Church. My official title will be Pastor of Families and Evangelism. In the “family pastor” role, I will give staff oversight for “all things families”. . . Journey Kidz, Student Ministry, as well as parent ministry. In the “evangelism pastor” role, I will oversee the outreach efforts and short term missions projects. I will also take a very active role in the promotion of the church (website and print media). I will be a member of their teaching team and preach on a regular basis on Sundays. We feel that this new church plant will be a great fit for my gifts and passions. Please feel free to email or call me if you have any questions or comments. My final Sunday will be March 30, 2014. My first Sunday at The Journey will be April 6th. I will be commuting for the time being so the boys can finish out the school year at Glades Day School.
THE LETTER OF RESIGNATION . . .
To The First Baptist Church Family,
Almost three years ago, we followed God’s prompting to move to the Glades to be your pastor. Today I submit to you my resignation. Just as I have always “known” concerning major moves in my ministry, I know that it is time for me to ask for understanding and blessing as I leave this work that I have so dearly loved.
Together, I know that we have journeyed and grown. I am not the same person that came here three years ago and neither are you. Today my journey has come to a fork in the road. I must follow God’s calling to begin a new chapter in my work as a planter of churches. It is my request and prayer that you will release me and then commission me to do the work that God has laid on my heart.
Forever I will be indebted to First Baptist. It is truly a great church. While pastoring here, I have been prayed for, supported, and loved. Throughout my life, I will say, “I was proud to serve in the Glades at First Baptist Church!”
As you search for your next pastor, you will constantly be in my prayers. I believe God has picked out just the right person to continue your efforts to reach the Glades for Jesus Christ.
THE BACKGROUND FOR MAKING THIS DECISION . . .
I have been committed to staying at First Baptist as long as I felt I was of most impact for the Kingdom with my gifts and passions. I always have thought it would be great to be like pastors Bill Hybels and Rick Warren and even my pastor, T.T. Crabtree, that served their churches for decades or even their entire ministry. God has made it very clear to me, however, that His plan for my life is different. At numerous times in my life, God has changed the course of my plans and dreams. I have always been willing to follow God’s leading even when it differs with my own dreams and plans. Sometimes, like Abraham, I
find that when I get to top of the mountain, he shows me a “ram stuck in the brush” and shows me a different way than I thought God intended as I climbed the hill. Isaiah heard God loud and clear when he said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” (Is. 55:8) Solomon also wisely said, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” (Prov. 16:9) And “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” (Prov. 19:21). I honestly believe that God has led me to alter the course of my life and accept this new ministry position.
WHY THIS IS THE RIGHT DECISION . . .
1. I feel the call of God. At each of the churches I have served, God has let me know very clearly when it was time to go. If I was looking to leave First Baptist, I might second guess myself and see this move as my own will at work, rather than God’s will in action. One of my mentors, Dr. T.T. Crabtree always told me to “never go handing out your resumé everywhere.” I didn’t even have a current resumé to give to the church because I had no plans to leave First Baptist! Nelson Searcy, the pastor of Journey Boca, has been asking me to submit a resumé for over two and a half years now. The fact that I don’t want to leave is an assurance that I’m only going because I feel the Holy Spirit leading me to do so.
2. This decision is best for First Baptist. If I were to disobey the Lord by staying at First Baptist, God would remove his hand of blessing from my ministry. You would suffer like the sailors did when Jonah fled from God’s calling by taking passage on their ship. It is never pleasant to be near someone who is running from God! I also believe that I might not be the best fit for this next season of First Baptist Church. I know God has just the right man, with just the right gifts, personality, leadership style and passion that will be a perfect fit for First Baptist and the Glades.
3. The decision is best for the body of Christ. The gifts, experiences, and personality God has given me are needed in this new church plant. I am best when I am involved in daily use of my gifts in a church planting environment such as the Journey. It is always best for the Kingdom of God for the people of God be in their “sweet spot” of service.
4. This decision is best for my family. Moving the boys will never be an easy transition, but we feel this time of their lives is a good age to move. The community and schools in Boca Raton will also allow for many more opportunities for them to grow their gifts in the fine arts. I know that the fine arts such as choir, band, and orchestra were integral to Jenny and I all throughout our schooling—from grade school all the way through graduate school.
5. This decision is best for me personally. As I have served here at First Baptist, I have neglected my health, recreation and personal time. Often when you see me I am tired and always worried about what people think of me and my leadership. I believe much of that is because I am somewhat the proverbial “square peg in a round hole” with my gifts and leadership style. I am committed to maintaining better balance in my life as I establish new habits and patterns in my new ministry setting. Plus, I feel that my passion and gifts of church planting will really be of value in this new assignment. I really want to be serving the Lord in the “sweet spot” of my gifts and passions. First Baptist also deserves a senior pastor who’s “sweet spot” is a perfect fit here in the Glades in regards to gifts, passions and leadership style.
WHY THIS IS A DIFFICULT DECISION . . .
1. I love the Glades. For almost three years, I have pastored and led you. The people of this church and the community have truly shown us a Southern hospitality that we have never experienced before. We have grown together, prayed together, laughed and wept together. My life will never be the same because of our relationship.
2. My goals are not yet achieved. In the spring of 1999, God put in my heart a passion to plant churches. I truly believe that God called us here to “replant” or revitalize a traditional First Baptist Church that is very similar to the church Jenny and I were raised. I know we have made great strides and, in many ways, are a much healthier church than when I first came here to the Glades. However, there are many dreams and successes that did not come to pass over the last three years as I have been your pastor. In the same way God did not allow David to build the temple in Jerusalem, God has revealed to me that this burden is no longer mine to carry. I am confident that God will provide you with a “Solomon” who will finish the task that I began to bring First Baptist to all she can be for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of the lost and dying without Christ here in the Glades. I identify with Paul who planned to visit Corinth but was prevented by God. Paul later said, “I was so sure of all this that I made plans at first to visit you, in order that you might be blessed twice. For I planned to visit you on my way to Macedonia and again on my way back, in order to get help from you for my trip to Judea. In planning this, did I appear fickle? When I make my plans, do I make them from selfish motives, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? As surely as God speaks the truth, my promise to you was not a “Yes” and a “No.” (2 Cor. 1:15-18)
WHAT I WANT TO SAY TO ALL OF YOU . . .
1. Let’s make our last days together special. Let’s thank God for our journey together and show Christian love to each other as often as possible.
2. I am committed to the direction of the church. First Baptist Church needs to continue to go forward with (1) each person growing in their relationship with Christ; (2) a continued passion to reach lost people who are without hope without our Savior; (3) an awesome and exciting children’s and student ministries; (4) community building small group bible studies; (5) and making a difference in this community and around the globe. I truly believe FBC’s best days are ahead!!
3. Show loyalty to First Baptist by following and praying for the staff, the Deacons and our committees. They are CALLED by God to minister and LEAD US, especially “for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14) I know God will provide you with a great senior leader! Now is the time for you to support the church with your attendance, ministry, and finances.
4. Make this a time to grow closer to God and one another. Great churches always unite during a time of transition. One of the greatest times of growth in this church was over a summer with no pastoral staff—simply a summer intern who was willing to give all for the cause of Christ! The key to this growth was that the First Baptist family rallied around the gospel and the lay leadership in ways they had never done before. Please give visible love and support to the staff and lay leaders as they guide you during the transition. Know that I will be praying for you all to have a renewed closeness of the Spirit of God in each of your lives!
5. Release me to the calling God has given me with your blessing and support. I have tried to teach you that the greatness of a church is how many people go out to minister, not how many people attend. I am going out. Give your love and loyalty to the next pastor like you have given me. He will have my total support and love. In Acts 13, the church at Antioch placed hands on Paul and Barnabas and released them to go and leave to minister to others. Everywhere they went, they were an extension of the local church. That is my desire . . . to be released and sent out by you and the Holy Spirit, to touch lives for the glory of God!
I love you always,
Please be in prayer for the boys as they finish up the school year here at Glades Day School. Please pray for my hour plus commute each direction to the Journey Offices in Boca. We are also praying for a house to rent with a fenced in yard for Pepper and Marley. (Don’t think they will do very well in an apartment!) Pray also for First Baptist Church as they begin the search for an interim pastor and their next pastor.