After service yesterday I announced that October 20 will be my last day as the campus pastor at the Catawba Valley Campus of The Cove Church. This has been in the works for a long time. Four years ago I sensed God calling me to plant a church … pretty much out of nowhere. After spending 6 months trying to talk myself out of it, and then trying to talk Stephanie into it, I can honestly say it’s a desire that Stephanie and I have been prayerfully pursuing ever since. After a lot of prayer and conversation with my leadership at The Cove, we believe it’s time to move forward with the next step of this journey.
This is definitely bittersweet. On one hand, Stephanie and I are very excited about what’s ahead. Church planting is incredibly difficult, but it’s also an adventure – an adventure where we will see enemies of God become worshipers of God. I have been completely unable to shake the desire. And I’ve actually tried.
On the other hand, Catawba Valley has been my church for 2 and a half years. I’ve been able to cut my ministry teeth. I’ve seen people meet Jesus and get plugged into church. I’ve seen leaders rise up to new levels. On a personal level, I had my third child while there. God has done so many good things in, through and for us during our time at Catawba Valley that I could never recount them all in a blog post.
All in all, this is a good thing. Stephanie and I are pursuing what we believe God has called us to do, and the campus is getting a great new leader – Michael Strickland. Not only is Michael a great leader, he’s also one of my best friends.
A lot of people have asked about what’s next, which is great. So I want to give an update. There are several things on the horizon, here’s a brief summary:
- Assessment – Stephanie and I are going to Atlanta on October 24-25 to be assessed by the Launch Network. I’ve already completed their online assessments, and I’m currently working on a packet of assignments to be completed before we go. The Launch Network’s primary role is to assess and train potential planters. Far too many men have planted churches because they believed they were called, but no one confirmed their calling, so they failed. Others may have been legitimately called, but they weren’t trained enough to be successful. Launch (as well as other similar networks) is seeking to change that and to plant healthy and reproducing churches.
- Recommendation – After the retreat, I will have a Skype call with a representative from Launch and they will give me one of four “grades.” Option A: I will be recommended to plant. This means they believe that I am indeed called to plant a church and I will move onto the training phase. Option B: I will be recommended with conditions. This mean they think I’m called to do it, but I need to read a couple books addressing some weaknesses they’re concerned about. Option C: They think I may be called to plant a church, but I’m not ready yet and I should assess again in 2 years. Option D: They do not believe I’m called to plant a church, but will make recommendations on where I may be a good fit.
- Residency – If I receive the recommended or recommended with conditions score, I will be placed in a church planting residency. This means I will go on staff with a church planting church for approximately a year as a resident. Once or twice a month I will go to a Launch “hub” for training. This will involve everything from choosing the city, developing a clear and compelling vision, raising funds, developing specific competencies, and more. The rest of my time will be completing that background work.
I’m also being assessed for a church planting residency through The Summit Network with The Summit Church in Durham, NC. They are an incredibly gospel-centered church and a real leader in church planting. Their assessment and residency are separate from Launch’s, but those two networks have a great relationship with each other. They have 4 phases of assessment, and I was recently invited into Phase 2. Basically I’ve made it past the first week of American idol … Jesus style. If I make it through their assessment process I will go on staff with them for 9-10 months to be trained, and they will send me.
- Plant – Once the city is picked, I’ve been trained, the funds have been raised, and everything is ready … we will officially plant a church. This could be almost anywhere, but right now my desire is to stay in North Carolina. I want to plant in a college town, for a variety of reasons. Outside of that, I’m very open to wherever God puts us.
- Or … not – If I am not recommended to plant, that’s where it gets a little tricky. We know that our time at The Cove is coming to a close regardless, so we are getting backup plans ready as well. At this point, our most likely back up plan is for me to go to seminary. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my heart is in ministry, so my next step may be intensive training as I work on a Master of Divinity. I’ve already started my application for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary as well as a grant to help cover the cost.
If you’ve read this far, you obviously love Stephanie and me. I would really appreciate your prayers as we continue to pursue our calling. We know that God has his hand on our lives despite us, which is why we feel so confident in this pursuit. We have never been so unsure of where we’ll be going or when we’ll be going there. I’ve also never been so ok with being so unsure. So please pray for God to place us exactly where He wants us, to use us mightily, and to draw people to Himself through us. There’s a lot more to pray for, but that’s the big thing right now.
Also pray for Michael Strickland. He’s also stepping out on faith with a family in tow. Being a campus pastor is a great next step in ministry for him, but it can also be very difficult and discouraging at times.
Thanks for reading, I’m looking forward to updating you even more as our journey progresses.