Nearly seven years ago my wife and I packed our cars with everything we owned and drove from Vancouver, British Columbia to Tustin, California. Like the Gold Rushers of the 1800’s we scrambled to get to California as quickly as we could. But this was no search for gold. In fact, we were leaving the gold! The reason was simple: prosperity gospel theology and the lifestyle we were immersed in had left us spiritually and emotionally bankrupt. No matter what the money provided, we couldn’t shake the conviction that had taken hold of our hearts.
During the years that followed, God did extraordinary things that were beyond anything we’d ever imagined.
There was my true conversion. There was a church-wide transformation from the seeker-driven model to a “Bible Church” model; complete with expository preaching and a joint effort with other leaders towards biblical ecclesiology. Three name changes and a whole lot of other changes later took us from being “Moment Church” to “Mission Bible Church.” There was the loss of my title as “pastor” and the whole-hearted embrace of seminary classes and re-training for biblical ministry. There was the bond of new relationships and friends who became family. There was discipleship that impacted us eternally. And there was four years of silence and supervised ministry before beginning to push back against the prosperity gospel and word of faith heresies that I’d taken part in. Perhaps the best summary would be to say that the grace of God overflowed and saturated every area of our lives and we came under the oversight of Christ’s Church. We were part of the true Church for the first time in our lives.
Now, a time of transition has come. In June I’ll be joining the team of elders at Redeemer Bible Church in Gilbert, Arizona.
The Spirit-Led Process
One of the biggest blessings in the process thus far is that every step has been led by the Holy Spirit through prayer. Elders on both sides of the process have continued to be floored by how the Holy Spirit orchestrated every step. The process has been very simple and very spiritual.
Last fall I had the privilege of preaching at Redeemer Bible Church in Gilbert, AZ during a two-day conference. We enjoyed fellowship and the word during a brief 36 hours together. It was exciting to hear about their ministry and what was a powerful story of revitalization. The church had gone from around 90 to 900 in four years and was doing nothing uniquely innovative. They were simply preaching the Bible and shepherding the people. In similar fashion to what we witnessed at Mission Bible Church, they’d seen the Lord bless their work as they determined to be faithful in what mattered most.
Around that same time two of the elders from Redeemer were praying for the Lord to add to the team of elders because of the growing needs within the church and the region. Shortly after my visit they reached out and we began having friendly discussions about life, ministry philosophy, preaching, and training. After developing a friendship with these men, we stayed in touch and soon reconnected at another conference. That’s when the Lord made it very clear that there was a door opening for ministry in Arizona. After spending some weeks in prayer and talking with my wife, I knew it was serious enough to take to my current elders.
Upon conferring with the elders at Mission Bible Church, the affirmation of this call was unanimous and we began to make plans for a smooth and God-honoring transition.
The Spiritual Need
During the process my intrigue (and excitement) grew as I studied the region I’d be moving to if I accepted the call. Gilbert is a suburb in the Phoenix/Scottsdale region and if you know that area, you know the harvest there is plentiful! That area consistently ranks as one of the fastest growing regions in the nation, and is top three on the list of highest Mormon populations in the nation. When we visited last week, we were blown away by the amount of Mormon wards either already built or being built within the burgeoning suburban developments. Equally as encouraging as the opportunity for ministry to lost souls was the unity amongst local pastors. We’ve heard story after story of how many of them help each other, meet together, pray for one another, and encourage one another. Personally, this was refreshing. Like many other Christians, I loathe cutthroat and competitive attitudes between pastors. There’s so little time to waste and souls to be won.
In the region we’ll be moving to there is a huge spiritual need and I am thankful that God called us to join the army of Christian workers already laboring there.
The Superior Replacement
What few will realize at this stage in the transition is what a superior replacement the new executive pastor at Mission Bible Church is. Simply put: he is far better than me in that role! I know this because not only is he a very dear friend, but I’ve watched him faithfully shepherd the local church and prove to be an administrative mastermind. As much as I feel like God opened a door for me to step deeper into my calling as a preacher and a shepherd, I can’t help but simultaneously think that He moved me out-of-the-way in order to take Mission Bible into the future under a better leader. Only God can make all the pieces fit so perfectly. The new XP is a gift to MBC and the best is yet to come because of his God-given talents. I’m excited to shift roles from pastor to cheerleader for the amazing leaders and people who’ve been our family for these past several years.
Like any transition, there is a mix of emotions. God has allowed us to foster relationships that will impact us for the rest of our lives. As Pastor Tony described it in his announcement to the congregation at MBC on Sunday, “It’s a time of both tears and cheers because of how much we all love each other. But remember, this is not a loss. This is simply our Father moving one of His children from one room in His house to another. We’re all still part of the same family.”
There will undoubtedly be many new challenges and many joyous victories ahead. No matter what, Jesus is building His church and we’re honored to be laboring to that end at Redeemer Bible Church.
Arizona here we come!