Saying Goodbye

Five years ago, I was honored to be chosen as the Senior Pastor for Gages Lake Bible Church. I was 29 years old and had little leadership experience. I had served on staff at a large church and had experience writing and editing, but had never been a pastor. Yet GLBC not only affirmed my call to the ministry, they opened up their arms and allowed me to grow as a father, a husband, and a Christian leader. In these five years I learned much about church ministry, theology, and life. Three of our four children were born during our time in Gages Lake. And some of our best friends are at Gages Lake. I owe much to this church. I am excited about my new future with the ERLC and Dr. Moore, but I will miss GLBC.

I will miss the long talks I had with good friends. I will miss preaching to the same people every week. I will miss seeing the gospel grow in the lives of people every week.

This church and these people were so generous to us. They were gracious. They were a refuge during very difficult seasons. They stood with us when we faced unfair attacks. They treated our children like family. They hungered for good preaching and teaching and loved the gospel with us. We were given infinitely more by Gages Lake Bible Church than we gave out.

So leaving is hard for us. Even though we are absolutely convinced of God’s direction in our new position at ERLC, saying goodbye to people you love is always difficult. This is how it should be. God’s purpose and plan for this age is the Church and specifically the local church. The Holy Spirit unites you to your fellow brothers and sisters as family. I believe that what happens on Sundays at Bible-preaching, gospel-centered churches is the most important thing happening in the world at that moment.

But here is the good news. Though we are leaving Gages Lake geographically, we’re not really leaving at all. We are still united forever in the family of God and we’ll spend all of eternity reveling in the goodness of the gospel toward us. And this work at Gages Lake was not my work, but God’s work. It was there when I arrived and will continue on after I’m gone.

I have no doubt that Gages Lake will continue to grow and prosper. There is great, great leadership in place and I couldn’t be prouder of the man God has called to take my place as Senior Pastor, Jay Lovelace. In God’s providence, He brought Jay and Cheyenne and their two boys, Jack and Cody to us so that when we left, Gages Lake would be in good hands. Jay is a first-rate preacher, he’s a great leader, a man of integrity and grace. He’s fun. He’s well-loved. And, he’s a Bears fan.

As we move forward in this new season of life, we will always be grateful for God’s good gift of Gages Lake Bible Church to us. You have enriched our lives in ways that only eternity will reveal. Thank you.

From Chicago To Nashville

So today I’m announcing a big new change my life and in the life of our family. I’ve stepped down as Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church and have accepted a position with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention as Vice President of Communications. To make your life easier, let’s just call it ERLC.

This is a decision I did not take lightly. For one thing, I dearly love the good people at Gages Lake Bible Church. I’ve been privileged to serve there for five years and have formed deep and lasting friendships. We were prepared to continue serving there for a good long time. But alas, God’s plans are higher than ours. Tomorrow I will share about our experience at Gages Lake.

Today I want to talk about serving at the ERLC. In July, Dr. Russell Moore, the new President, reached out to me about serving on his team. After much prayer and counsel, God led Angela and I through the decision to go to Nashville.

I have long admired Dr. Moore. As a pastor, I learned much from his teaching and preaching that has impacted my life and ministry. I’ve been particularly impressed by his application of Scripture to big cultural questions. His tone of “convictional kindness” is one our generation of the Church needs as it assesses it’s role in an increasingly post-Christian age. He is a first-rate preacher, scholar, and ethicist and to join him in serving Southern Baptists and the wider evangelical world is an honor.

My role will be Vice-President of Communications. This will be a great and fun challenge. We have great talent on our team, with folks like Andrew Walker, Daniel Patterson, Philip Bethancourt, Barrett Duke, Trillia Newbell, Joe Carter and others. Our job is to craft a 21st century communications strategy that helps equip the Church to live out the gospel.

So this is a big life-change for our family as we move to Nashville from Chicago, a city I have known and loved for all of my 35 years. For Angela, this is a chance to return to her roots below the Mason-Dixon line. For me, an opportunity to embrace a new city and make new friends. We look forward to what God will do in us and through us in this next season of life.

Finding God in the Mundane

I interviewed Michael Kelley this week for Leadership Journal. Michael is one of my favorite writers and teachers. His book, as I’ve said numerous times, Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal is a fantastic, raw, journey of faith.

Well, Michael is out with a new and interesting book, BoringI like this idea, because it’s the kind of counter-cultural message Christians need to hear. His premise is that consistent, ordinary faithfulness in service of God can, in it’s own way, be radical. One of the questions I asked him was this:

Do you think many faithful Christians feel a twinge of guilt because they are not headline-making world-changers?

I think they do, mainly because of conversations I’ve had with people very close to me. I think about the stay at home mom who spends a bulk of her day changing diapers and wrangling kids. I think of the office job guy who commutes the same route every single day. The temptation in those people is, because of what seems like drudgery, to escape. I wanted to encourage those people with the book by saying that meaning and significance isn’t found outside those ordinary arenas; it’s found inside when we begin to see the constant presence and work of God in the mundane.

Read the entire article here:

Guest Post: Finding Grace in the Ordinary by Michael Kelley

Michael Kelley is one of my favorite writers and speakers. He’s the Director of Discipleship for Lifeway Christian Resources. He wrote one of the most raw and poignant books on faith and suffering I have ever read: Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal, about this journey through his son’s rare form of cancer. Now he’s back with another fantastic book, Boring, Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary LifeYou can follow Michael at @_MichaelKelley . 

I’ve asked Michael to share a guest post with us about this new book. At the end, find out how you can win one of two copies he’s generously agreed to give away. 

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loadIMGI’ve never met a president. Or saved a child from a burning building. Or climbed Everest. I don’t run in powerful circles or tweet nuggets of wisdom adored by millions. My office walls don’t have pictures with me and the Queen of England or medals from my wins at the Olympic Games. Perhaps if I were an international man of mystery, I’d look over and see a picture of me standing next to a world leader at that ceremony when I was awarded some token for my bravery. Then I could turn and see another wall full of mementos and trinkets collected from my adventures. Instead I’m looking at four family pictures, a calendar, and a particularly fierce-looking rendering of a black and yellow fire- breathing dragon laying waste to a castle.

Ah, parenthood.

A regular life isn’t bad, necessarily. In fact, a certain kind of bliss accompanies the “normal” life. There aren’t a lot of surprises, and for a guy who has a to-do list for every day (with the last item on that list being “Make tomorrow’s list”), a lack of surprises can be very comforting. What is more, an ordinary life actually affords an opportunity to love things like pictures from an eight-year-old of dragons and castles. In an ordinary life, your existence becomes papered with moments like these.

And yet . . .

And yet there are those days that just feel boring. The routine becomes monotony, and you find yourself refreshing your e-mail over and over again, waiting for something—anything—to break up the ticking of the clock. You feel something inside of you, something that appreciates the life you have, but at the same time wonders if there’s something more. Something that you’re missing. I feel that way sometimes.

The truth is that we will all spend 90 percent of our time here on earth just doing life. Just being ordinary. If I were writing a self-help book, I might follow that realistic, slightly demotivating statement up with something like: “Break out of the ordinary. Pursue your bliss. Go skydiving. Do something important. Carpe diem.” The same motivation, in Christian terms, might read: “God’s will is that you have a life of adventure. Get out there and make an eternal difference. Do something big for God.”

All of those statements are true in a sense; all of them can be appropriate. What those statements communicate is that we should be focused on Jesus and expanding His kingdom. That should be our priority. Those statements challenge us to recognize that we only have a limited time here on earth, so we need to make sure we spend our time doing things that matter. However, implicit in an exhortation like “do something big for God” is the notion that we are currently not doing stuff that matters, and we have to abandon that insignificant stuff to break out of the rut—chase the dream . . . be the man . . . overcome obscurity . . . all that stuff.

Chasing dreams isn’t the problem. Neither is maximizing what you have to make a difference in the world for the sake of Christ. The problem is in our definition of significance.

People tend to believe that the pathway to significance is paved with the big, the showy, and the grand. The people who are most often lauded as influential are the ones doing the big, impressive things with their lives. Consequently, those same people cannot involve themselves in these mundane details of life. Indeed, the mundane details are like anchors that weigh a person down from the bigger and the better. So moving toward a life that matters involves moving past the details that don’t.

But what if we’re wrong? What if “bigness” is not an accurate measure of significance? What if the whole idea of “ordinary” is a myth? And what if a life of great importance isn’t found by escaping the details but embracing them? What if God actually doesn’t want you to escape from the ordinary, but to find significance and meaning inside of it?

That’s what this book is about. This book is for the stay-at-home mom and the office job dad. It’s for the regular church member and the ordinary citizen. It’s for the person who has ever looked at the seemingly mundane details of life and wondered if they are really doing anything that’s worthwhile. It’s for all of us ordinary people who are following an extraordinary God. My hope, as you read the first half of this book, is that you would be awakened to the myth of the ordinary as you see and extraordinary God who is constantly moving and working. Then, as you move into the second half of this book, I pray that you might see the greater purposes in a few specific, but often ordinary, areas of life that we tend to push to the margin. And maybe, when we get to the end, we will have begun to see God, and life, in a whole new way. Perhaps we will have begun to see that there really is no such thing as ordinary when you are following an extraordinary God.

Michael is giving away two copies of Boring to the first two people to comment on this post (not counting trackbacks or spam). 

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