From our first beautiful Sunday together, October 12th 2003, until today, Chrissy and I have worshiped, wept, prayed and shared life with you for these (nearly) seventeen years! Hardships have certainly come our way – but the joy-filled and fruitful days seem countless in comparison. We cannot fully express our sense of gratitude and honor for being with you through so many wonderful years.
I write to you today because Chrissy and I believe King Jesus is leading us to a new call, a couple of hours away, in Birmingham, Alabama. Discerning his call has been surprising, even excruciating at times, as well as wild and wonderful. We love you deeply. Thus hearing our Lord call us elsewhere seemed unthinkable at first. Since we firmly believe he is moving us for his glory as well as your good, I wanted you to know some of the process he used and address the timing of this announcement.
One of my mentors and heroes, Rev. Sandy Willson, began to reach out to me in August 2019 on behalf of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Birmingham. Initially, being so content and with such a strong sense of God’s blessing here, I simply was not interested. But by early December I began to feel as though I was avoiding an important conversation with Jesus.
Chrissy, unsurprisingly, was tuned in before I was. Knowing we should pray together about such things, she began to pray in August. Then by late December I went from “there is no way this is happening” to “wow, this is happening, isn’t it?” I was shocked. And this was strange: we had yet to meet a single member of their search committee. We began to have a keen sense that Jesus was calling us to leave NSF and go there. Now we had to enter into a process with others.
Throughout January and February the Lord met us in remarkable ways. Through prayer, time in Scripture, a couple of sleepless nights and a few tears, we believed more and more the Lord was calling us to follow him in this new direction. While we waited, one of the things we prayed was that their search committee would not nominate us. If we were wrong about his call, we wanted King Jesus to shut it down! One of our deepest anxieties was leaving so much we deeply love: our city, our church, our whole amazing staff team, and four generations of our family…and have I ever mentioned our four grandchildren?
Finally, in early March their search committee voted to nominate me to serve Covenant Presbyterian Church as their next senior pastor. A few days later I accepted their nomination (their body must act upon this in a congregational vote) and asked them to give me time to shepherd you and lead our staff through (what seemed then) the earliest and scariest days of COVID-19. They fully respected that request and graciously left the timing of the announcement up to me so I could remain with you during these difficult and frightening days.
So we decided to delay this announcement for a couple of months. Now we believe it is time to communicate and prepare for an important transition. There was always the risk of people finding out second hand. But most of all, I need some time to love and serve my family well before Chrissy and I transition to a new place, Lord willing. As I write these words I am asking our Savior to comfort you now and in the trying and uncertain days ahead. With or without us, our God will meet your every need through the Chief Shepherd. Anything good that happened here through us was always his work, according to his mercy, and by his grace. He will continue his good work in you until he brings you all the way to glory!
I asked the session last night for the privilege of serving our body here for 30 more days. They graciously accepted that offer. We will have more things to say soon. So please keep your eyes and ears open for messages of hope and plans for the future to come your way.
Always in Christ Jesus,