Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Stepping Down



Dear Online Friends and Family,

This past Sunday I announced to NorthStar Baptist Church that I would be resigning from the position of pastor.

NorthStar is more than a church to me, more than a job. NorthStar is my family. And I don't just mean that in a sentimental way to say I am really fond of them. I mean family in all the depth and complexity that that word implies. They're my family, and I've cried with them in their loss. I've celebrated with them in their births and birthdays. I've received and tried to give instruction and encouragement and wisdom. We have sometimes gotten annoyed with each other, but like family we've continued to love each other and we come together to share meals and to live the life that God has given us. We're a family centered on the message that God has revealed to mankind in his Word.

When Jana and I came to Idaho in 2006, newly married, freshly graduated from seminary, we had no idea what was in store for us. We officially committed to serve at NorthStar for two years, and poured ourselves into serving in the area of youth, lifegroups and missions and whatever other idea Scott Hanberry, the founding pastor, and Tom, our current worship pastor, came up with. We saw the youth group triple (from three to nine!), we led a wonderful lifegroup, we orchestrated mission opportunities and mission partnerships with other churches. It was a challenging, yet exiting time. We fell in love with the area so much that we bought a home and started expanding our family still not sure of God's long term plan for us. Fast forward to today and we look back on 11 amazing years of ministry at NorthStar, 6 1/2 years as the lead pastor.

After a lot of prayer and conversations and tears, searching our hearts and the Word of God we started to get a sense that it might be time to take a break from full time ministry. Jesus invites us to take on his yoke because his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Yet for me, the burden has felt increasingly heavy. In spite of my attempts to “pray it away”, delve into the spiritual help books and work through it with other pastors I trust, there's been a growing unease in my heart toward this specific calling. I've come to the decision that this unease is a growing indication that it is time for me to do something else. I'm sure that may be hard to understand. I'm still struggling with it myself. There's a temptation to feel shame and failure at such a decision. There are a lot of voices out there that equate growth and success and longevity with righteousness. There are voices that say good pastors don't take breaks. Good pastors' churches don't stop growing. Faithful ministers don't leave. If you do the right things then you'll never be weak. If you perform properly this kind of thing won't happen. Those statements, according to the biblical witness, are not true. Not for pastors - not for anybody. Some of the most faithful people in scripture were complete failures from the world's point of view.

One of the things God has spoken most consistently to me over the last few years is that He is not concerned with where you are and what you are doing as much as He is concerned with who you are becoming. In other words your identity is in Christ. It is not in what you've sacrificed, what you've accomplished, who has recognized you, your resume, your transcript, your rap sheet, your degrees, your friends list, your likes or shares. God will use those things to help you know him more, but He certainly could care less about them for their own sake. It's you that He is after and He can use whatever means He wants to win your attention. As a pastor it is easy to confuse the church's growth and success with God's favor. It is easy to take criticism, members who leave, goofed sermons, etc. as God scowling in disapproval. He has reminded me again and again, that all of those things are well within His ability to handle with or without me. He's not desperately depending on me to come through and save every situation. He gives us chances to grow. Maybe I am hard-headed and it takes repeated lessons, but He is often more patient with us than we can imagine. As proof I look to numerous characters in the Bible.

In our searching God has shown us our time at NorthStar is done. The work is not done of course. There are challenging days ahead for the church. Exciting days of opportunity for things that God will do that we haven't even imagined yet. Please pray for our church as they enter this time of transition into a new phase of their mission to Glorify God, magnify his character and multiply his kingdom work.

Also please pray for my family as we seek what's next for us. It is a scary and exciting place to be for us, but one with which we are at complete peace. If you would like to talk to us more about our decision feel free to email or call Jana or me.