Although we are very excited about the future and all God has done, yesterday was a very difficult day as Jack announced his resignation at Ewing Road Baptist Church. Ewing Road has been our home for the past 6 years. All three of our boys were born while Jack has been on staff here. We've had the great privilege of ministering to incredible students- seeing many saved and grow deeper in their relationship with Christ. We have made life-long friends during our time here. It will be hard to say good-bye next Sunday. And yet even our goodbye will be with hope- for many of our dear friends we will see again! Our friendship requires at least a yearly visit with many of them! And for those whose paths we may not cross again, in Christ we have the amazing hope of eternity!
As I have pondered all that God is doing, I am reminded of my journey towards a life of gratitude. Amongst the good byes at Ewing Road, the hellos in Rock Hill and all of the details that must be worked out in between, I am praying for a heart of gratitude- a heart that finds joy in the everyday gifts I am given.
181. a loving church family
182. new friends who even now are working to find us a place to live in rock hill
183. life-long friendships
184. family support
185. phud and christie
186. a loving God who goes before us
187. looking back and seeing how far God has brought us
188. knowing He is in control
189. the sweet college girls who God used- sierra, ruthie, jessica, audrey and erin
190. prayers and petitions made for us
Jack did an amazing job with his resignation. It was heartfelt and honest and I am so grateful for the way he has handled this entire situation. He is such a godly man who challenges me, loves me, and is Jesus for me everyday. I want to post his resignation here so all of you who weren't in our church yesterday can read it. And tune in next week when we reach the 200th gift!!
In November of 2004, Ewing Road Baptist Church extended a call for me to come as the pastor to students. It was an exciting time for us as a family. Seminary graduation was just around the corner and we were eager to move into a full-time position, working to equip teenagers to know and live the Gospel. So, after feeling God's leading, it was with much enthusiasm I accepted the position and we packed all we had and moved into our new home in Austell.
In the months and years following God granted me the amazing privilege of seeing students come to know Jesus and then follow Him. I lost track of the number of times I had the opportunity of baptizing teenagers who had given their lives to Christ. From mission trips and small groups to Disciple-Nows and one-on-one mentoring, my desire was to see students come to know Jesus, grow deep in their faith, and be on mission for Him. And it was amazing to see God do just that.
In December of 2007, we attended our first Youth Evangelism Conference in Macon. While there, I began to sense God's stirring in my heart. Though I was very happy here and didn’t understand why He would be stirring me to something else, I began asking God exactly what it was that He was preparing me for. I knew that He had given me two passions: missions and discipleship. I began wondering how God would want to take those passions and use them. I began to feel that it was possible that He would move me into a role at a local church doing those two things. I even sat down one morning and wrote out a plan of how I would go about designing and implementing such a ministry in a church. However, the few positions I applied for were not for me.
This led to a time of difficulty for me. I had no doubt that I sensed God doing this in my life, but there were either no positions available or I didn't qualify for the ones that were. I strived to remain faithful serving the congregation here at Ewing Road. I never stopped loving this church or the incredible group of teenagers here. But still I was seeking where God would have me to go. To be honest, it didn't make much sense. I could not understand why God would put this in my heart but not open the door for me to move forward with it.
I began wondering if maybe I had misread things. I began surrendering to things I had been somewhat closed to. I surrendered to going to the international mission field or even being a lead pastor. Every time I felt God putting his arm around me, telling me He was glad I was willing, but that this was not what He was getting ready for me. I was not unwilling to go where God led, I simply didn't have a path to walk down.
Then through a course of events, something else happened. My precious wife asked me if I had ever considered collegiate ministry. This was amazing because for a few weeks, I had been thinking about collegiate ministry but hadn't said anything. I began to pursue this avenue and through an email sent to a man I had never met, in a state I had never lived in, about a job I had never held, a conversation began. And through that conversation God's grand design for our family began to unfold a little more.
Through a series of questions I was asked, God began to open my eyes to the way He had been preparing me in those three years of searching. From mentoring relationships to missions experiences to books I read, He was grooming me for a position that I have come to believe is perfect for me and my gifts and passions.
On Friday, I was offered the position of Campus Minister for Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Though there are several specifics, the position boils down to campus evangelism-viewing the campus as a mission field and the students as a people group, small group discipleship, and missions mobilization. As well, I will have the opportunity to preach on a regular basis, something I would more than likely not have been able to do in other positions. It is an incredible mix of the gifts and passions God has given me.
Though this is bittersweet for us, Carrie and I have stood in awe of God's sovereignty through it all. We thought we were ready to move, yet God wanted to do more with us here. And though at the time we wondered why, throughout the process different events- a pastoral transition, a catastrophic flood- would happen and I would sense God telling me afterwards, “Here is another reason I have left you here. You were needed for such a time as this.” But then quite suddenly, God opened this door at Winthrop University and just as before when I could see why God had not moved us, I can also now see His plan and timing in it all. As our church faces a financial strain, God has lovingly provided at the same time relief for the church and a new position for me. It is just another example of His goodness and provision in His perfect timing. I am reminded of God's words in Isaiah:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9
Ewing Road has been home to us for the past 6 years. It is where we saw our family grow from 2 to 5. It is where we grew to love your children as our own. It is where I have so many times shouted with joy over what God has done in the lives of teenagers and worshiped Him because of the evidence of His hand in their lives. To be completely honest, though it is hard to leave you all, it is hardest to leave the greatest group of students I have known.
Our family loves you all and it is with bittersweet joy I submit to you my resignation as Student Pastor at Ewing Road Baptist Church.