Quite a few of you have messaged me privately wondering what has been going on lately. When the blog grows silent, it is often a sign that something is going on in my life — sometimes good, sometimes not so good. This time it was good.
A little over a year ago, my unpleasant and tumultuous tenure in a South Florida ministry came to an end. In the process, I was suddenly left dramatically under-employed with a house that I could no longer afford and which couldn’t be sold for what I owed and with enough “wounds” from an out-of-control “board” at a ministry that it left me with a pretty strong commitment that I wanted to shift away from church ministry and immerse myself in higher education.
We were able to sell our house via short-sale and moved back to our retirement house which had been on a rental program in Lake Lure to live over the summer. The Lord has been so gracious and generous to us in meeting our needs. Thankfully, I’ve been a Dave Ramsey/Financial Peace University kind of guy before Dave Ramsey was cool and had a few months living expenses squirreled away. In addition, the Lord has given me multiple opportunities to teach as an adjunct continue. my work at Liberty University, work with Boston Baptist College, teach and speak at various places and do some consulting work for a few schools and churches. Just when we’d need to pay some bills, the Lord would open a door. It’s been exciting to see the Lord provide each step of the way without so much as a day of need or panic.
I’ve had a variety of opportunities ranging from returning to the Senior Pastorate to working for colleges and seminaries vocationally and even a few non-ministry possibilities as well — but none of them felt right or didn’t pan out. If I’m not in philosophical sync with a place, I just know it’s not going to work. I also have gained enough experience where I think I recognize what gifts the Lord has assigned to me and how those best fit in ministry — so I need to limit myself to those areas.
Last summer, a friend and former church member contacted me about a possible position at a church he attends. At that time, I was not in the frame of mind to even consider what the position was about and I summarily dismissed it without giving it another thought, quite frankly. In January, my friend contacted me again and this time, the Lord caught my attention — though I’ll admit that at first, my mind was pretty well closed to the position. However, I decided to go through a prayerful process with each fresh possibility during 2011 and I did so out of a sense that I needed the discipline. I checked out the church, checked out the pastor and did some homework and suddenly began feeling something that I hadn’t felt in a while — hope, passion, enthusiasm toward something a church was actually doing.
It was at this point that I met Dr. Bobby Conway, founder and pastor of Life Fellowship Church in the area of North Mecklenburg, NC — just north of Charlotte. Technically, the church meets in Cornelius, has it’s offices in Huntersville and draws families from through the Charlotte metropolitan area. Bobby is a younger than me by more than a decade and has one of the most exciting testimonies I’ve heard in some time. I won’t repost it here, but it’s worth listening to some time. Life Fellowship is a church plant that runs a bit over 500 and is growing rapidly. It is a non-denominational church that is affiliated with Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Arkansas and is deeply committed to things that resonate with me: expositional teaching and preaching, sound doctrine, accountable leadership (in the pastor/elder tradition), apologetics and Biblical worldview, spiritual authenticity and transparency, relevant community and Biblical values integrated throughout their ministry strategy. As a church plant, they don’t have some of the baggage and cumbersome generational baggage that older/more established churches have in their culture and which I’ve struggle with for years.
Bobby has a YouTube channel that is just taking off that is called, “The One-Minute Apologist“. He’s simply brilliant in terms of scholarship and gifted as a communicator. He’s a graduate of Central Baptist College in Conway, AR, Dallas Theological Seminary, Southeastern Evangelical Seminary and hopes to complete a Ph.D. at Southern Seminary in the future. He’s a laid-back looking Southern California guy whose spiritual journey is just amazing. Best of all, he’s one of the best, straightest, expositional teachers I’ve ever heard. He preaches for 50 minutes and it seems like five. He drips with passion, evangelism, discipleship and scholarship.
To make a long story longer, Bobby and the elders of Life Fellowship asked me to join their team as Executive Pastor and I have accepted. We will be moving back to the Charlotte area by April and I’m excited about getting to work. My job responsibilities (for the first time in a LONG time) will not include dealing with a crisis or fixing broken things. The church is bursting at the seams and needs preparations begun for the next phase of growth and the acquisition of permanent facilities. My role will to be to assist in that process, work with the staff and to be a servant in what ever capacities are needed. The number one quality that an Executive Pastor brings to a staff is LOYALTY (something I’ve discovered the hard way) and I’m looking forward to putting my shoulder to the wheel as part of a team of elders who have deep spiritual roots and understand how a church should be properly and Biblically administrated. Bobby has honored me already by asking me to fill the pulpit this Sunday, February 27 and again on March 20th.
There have been a lot of changes since January 1, 2011 already in our family this year. Nathan, our soon-to-be 23-year-old son landed an outstanding job in, of all place, my hometown of Moberly, MO. He’s set up house there and I’m jealous of how he gets to live next to my extended family. It’s a long way from Miami and even Lynchburg, but he seems to really enjoy it and I’m proud of him. Megan, our soon-to-be 20-year-old is hopelessly in love and became engaged to a fellow Liberty University student and former pastor’s son, Justin Mook. We have fallen in love with him too and he comes from a great family. They will be married in July here in Lake Lure. Josh and Katie are still at home and we homeschool them for now. Julie and I are looking forward to returning to civilization — where the nearest WalMart isn’t a 45-minute drive! :-D The one negative thing is having to leave our wonderful church family at Lake Lure Baptist Church and our fantastic pastor and his family — Anton Roos. We have become very close since moving here.
So…I anticipate having more opportunities and issues about which to blog in the future. As was the case previously, my public role will mean that this blog and my Facebook interactions will need some modification. When one works for someone else, it is wise to be mindful that we can inadvertently reflect on our employer and the organization with which we are affiliated. It would be foolish to assume that everything (or anything) I write is some sort of official representation of anyone other than myself and frankly, sometimes it doesn’t even represent me — I just enjoy seeing a debate break out so that I can learn from both sides. However, I’m going to scale back some of my more “wild-eyed” postings and you’ll note that I’ll be less partisan in my political opinions and perhaps a bit more thoughtful in some of my spur-of-the-moment observations. That said, should you ever see or read anything that makes you go “Whaaaat???” — you can ALWAYS assume that it’s me on a tangent or just stirring stuff up and it is not a representation of anyone else. I don’t plan on making that a habit, but you know how we writer/commentators can be….so I’m offering this as a disclaimer and I’ve promised my new pastor that I’ll be on my best behavior.
Seriously, I do plan on returning to a more disciplined approach to this blog and hope to post some thought-provoking articles on matters of worldview, philosophy, culture, theology, family and other topics that I hope will be a blessing to you. After a more than a year of piddling around, I’ve got some more serious stuff to post as the opportunity emerges.
One last thing….I’m sure some will question whether or not it will be awkward for me to return to a city where I once served as the Senior Pastor of a high-profile church — Northside Baptist. I’m the kind of guy that likes to hit those kind of questions head on. I love many, many people who do or have attended Northside Baptist. I have kept open communication with the Senior Pastor there, Pastor Brian Boyles and I wrote him of what God had been doing in my life before I made any public statements about returning to Charlotte. He called me and graciously congratulated me on this new opportunity and I look forward to getting to know him better now that we will be in the same neck of the woods. How foolish would it be for any of us to want anything except the very best for our brothers and sisters in Christ and fellow ministries. I rejoice in every good report I hear from Northside (including their District Co-Champs and Conference Champ boy’s basketball team!) But it’s been nearly four years since we left and we’re located a good distance away from their campus and it isn’t a problem for any of us. I also contacted my dear friend, Ben Rudolph, at Providence Church — just across the lake in Denver, NC to let him know of my plans as well. We helped Ben launch that church the year before I left Northside. Ben also offered me his best wishes and he’s just one of the greatest guys I know and I love him like family.
So…..that’s the update. Thank you to so many of you who have written me privately (and publicly) letting me know that you’ve been praying for us. I’ll be continuing my work with Liberty University while others sleep. I’m so jazzed that one of the other pastors at Life Fellowship is a Cuban-American who is doing ministry in his home country and we’re going to lock arms and do some more work there in the island nation just off our southernmost point. I’m still going to teach my annual course at Boston Baptist as long as they’ll continue to have me as I approach my 10th year doing that. Life is good, God is great and you all are awesome!