Navigating Seasons of Change

Posted on May 26, 2019


I didn’t know when I started a series five weeks ago called Wonder and Wandering (Navigating Seasons of Change) that I would be the one moving. 

God had a plan and I wasn’t in the loop on all the steps. Psalm 119:105 says that God’s Word is a lamp to guide our feet and a light for our path. I tell our church all the time that we don’t always get floodlights to take in all the surroundings and the 5 or 10 steps ahead, but God does promise us a lamp for each step.

Here’s the story of a life changing few weeks that was predicated upon learning to just follow where the Lord is leading…

I flew into Tampa, FL on the evening of April 31, 2019 for the board of trustees meeting at my alma mater, Southeastern University. Our plane didn’t end up arriving until 12:30am. I got my rental car and hit the road around 1am… a 45-minute drive from Tampa to my hotel in Lakeland. My normal operating mode is to put on my favorite rap/hip-hop playlist and really test out the rental car speakers. No judgement, everyone, I think we all push the limits of rental cars. However, this night I felt prompted in my spirit to just turn the music off and converse with God.

That’s a strange statement, right? Conversing with the unseen God. I don’t get it either… but I feel God. Deeply. Personally. Intimately. I know when I speak he listens as eagerly as when my kids come home from an event and I want to know all about it. A big difference is that Father God already knows what we are about to say, and he still listens. I’ve developed a belief that he loves hearing my voice (and yours).

A bit of context… I had recently received a few inquiries to see if I would be interested in other jobs that would take us away from Charlotte. None were as interesting as this beautiful expression of the gospel called Center City Church. Gritty. Raw. Honest. Genuine. Insert other words that represent my heart poured out over the last 10 years and the love I have for this city and the people that make it beautiful.

I started to talk to God about my commitment to Center City Church and the call that he gave us to shepherd this community well. I literally prayed, “God, I will choose Center City every day for the rest of my life if this is what you have for us.”

During that time of prayer committing my heart to this call… a name popped in my mind.

This person is a dear friend of mine. I’ve known him for 15+ years and he’s a faithful man of God, amazing husband and father, and an incredibly gifted pastor. I felt something shift in my spirit. I felt like he might be the next pastor at Center City Church.

That was weird.

I called Dara the next morning on my way to the board meeting. “Hey love,” I said, “I was praying last night and I heard a name pop in my head. What do you think of him next at Center City?”

Side bar… for ten years, Dara has been absolutely resolute that this is our call to carry the mantle of pastoral leadership at Center City Church. On my hardest days, she would look at me and say “We are called to this, and we do not quit. You can do this and God is with us.”

I couldn’t believe her response on the morning of May 1, 2019 as I was driving to the board meeting. “That makes a lot of sense,” she said. I was extremely confuzzled (a made up word that our 15-year-old son uses perfectly in situations like these).

I met with my friend (we will announce “who” soon) at The Movement Center a few days later. We ran all of this by him and he immediately and instinctively started to “see” Center City Church.

I could see it in his eyes… I’ve seen that look in the mirror for ten years. I cried sloppy tears as we were praying together that day.

As a note, whoever is next at Center City Church is out of my hands. There’s a whole process that will happen over the next several weeks that includes our board (unanimously, by the way) presenting him to the church as the primary candidate to be the next pastor. We have bylaws for a reason, and the process will include meetings with elders, staff, church members, and a church vote.

God has used this process to make something very clear to me, though: our season as the lead pastors at Center City Church was coming to a close. For the first time in 10 years, we started to sense the “well done” from God and we could envision someone else caring for our community in a way that will take Center City Church into the next 10 years of health and life.

I am announcing today (I’m writing this before church on May 26, 2019) that I will be stepping down from my role as the lead pastor of Center City Church on June 30, 2019.

It is incredibly surreal to type that sentence into my Macbook. Even more surreal will be in a few hours when I stand before our church and say the same thing out loud to a group of people that I love with every ounce of my heart.

I had no clue that I would be the one moving when I started teaching on Wonder and Wandering. I had no clue how intimately and uniquely God was going before me months ago when he dropped that series in my heart. Who knew that the next series, Be Strong and Courageous (entering into seasons of purpose and promise), would be so timely for me?

So, today is a big day… and the next few weeks are huge for our church. Here’s a rundown of our next steps:

Today (May 26): I will announce to the church that I am stepping down on June 30th and that our board of directors has unanimously selected a primary candidate to be the next lead pastor at Center City Church. The pastoral candidate will begin meeting with our staff, elders, and members of our church to share his heart for Center City Church and open himself up for questions and interaction with our beautiful community.

June 2: The pastoral candidate and I will share our story together at Center City Church. The church will get to meet him in person, and we will introduce the vision God has put on our heart to create a family of churches that are stronger together than we are alone.

June 9: The pastoral candidate will preach at Center City Church and we will make that sermon available online for the next seven days for anyone that is not able to attend.

June 16: I will preach, and all members of Center City Church will be given an opportunity to give a vote of affirmation during church. Our elders will also be given an opportunity that same day to give their vote of affirmation, as well. The results of this vote will be presented to our board of directors and they will make the final vote on the pastoral candidate as the next pastor at Center City Church.

June 23: My final sermon at Center City Church. I feel surreal even typing that, but I also feel a sense of excitement and peace. It’s odd to feel multiple things, but that’s the reality of life, right? This is real. It feel, joy, pain, sadness, excitement, and anticipation simultaneously. Life is weird and awesome.

June 30: There’s a team of folks that are in cahoots to plan this final service and I have no clue what’s in the works, other than I will give a final charge and that Dara, our kids, and I are going to need all the Kleenex that Charlotte has to offer.

July 1: The first day of the rest of our lives as we enter the unknown. We have multiple options that we are exploring, but we’ve sensed that God asked us to take these steps of faith before knowing exactly what is next. Through the generosity of our board and others involved in this decision, we have been given a three-month sabbatical that will give us an opportunity to reflect, refresh… I can’t think of another r-word to make the alliteration work here… and just get a sense of what’s next for us.

Lisa Hanna (one of our elders) summed it up so perfectly, and I’ll finish with this (for now). She said, “Center City Church has been following your lead for ten years, but you’ve always taught us that we are a part of a body with Jesus at the head. If Jesus is truly at the head of this as we have all stated, Center City Church will continue to grow and thrive.”

I can’t think of anything else in my call to ministry that would bring me greater joy than seeing Center City Church grow and thrive well beyond our time as the pastors of this church.

I love you, Center City Church. Dara and I have loved you since you were an idea in our hearts.  A beautiful, genuine, honest, raw community that does life together and genuinely pursues the vision of loving God and neighbors.

I love you enough to let go when God says go, but even as I type this I am a mess. My tears are representative of a decade of our lives that have taught us so much the wonder of wandering with God and each other.

One of God’s names in the bible is Immanuel. It means, “God with us.” Immanuel, God is with us, Center City Church. We serve at his pleasure, and we go where he tells us to go. We follow him when we don’t know where the steps will lead.

God is with us. Always. I love you.

If you want to hear more about the behind-the-scenes things with the transition, I recorded this podcast with my friends, Joseph Phillips and Steve Witherup, two weeks ago in the midst of the unknowns of what’s next for our family:

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