A Letter to Central Oaks Reflecting on Five Years
Dear Central Oaks,
Today marks five years since Lynsey and I (and Caroline -6 months) moved to Michigan to pastor what was then known as Central Free Will Baptist Church.
Reflecting on it this morning, I remarked to Lynsey how we were a bit scared about the arrangements. Tom McCullough had a plan for me to take his place as the Lead Pastor, but that wouldn’t happen until two years into the arrangement. We had heard of pastors who don’t stay at a church very long (think 2-3 years), so it felt like a significant commitment to agree to be an associate pastor for two years before I became the Lead Pastor.
In fact, I remember a question I was asked in a town hall meeting we had before the members voted on us in 2013. A member (who is perhaps more outspoken than others) asked me, “If you come here for two years and finish your education, what’s keeping you from leaving as soon as those two years are over?” It was a fair question. I said publicly, “We realize we’re committing for more than two years. The way you can know we won’t leave after two year is I’m giving you my word.” I thought about that before I said it, and I admit, that was a scary thing to say. (Let’s be honest, how well did we actually know each other then?!)
Now we’re three years past that two year mark, and it feels like we’re just getting started.
After the first year I felt like I finally knew most people’s names. After the second year I almost knew who was related to who (still working on that one!). After year three I felt like I understood how the church generally functioned. By the end of the fourth year you guys learned your pastor isn’t perfect (maybe that goes both ways?). And after the fifth year I think I may have learned something about how to lead. (The jury’s still out on that one though.)
Looking back, five years doesn’t seem like that long. It certainly doesn’t seem like long enough.
Pastor Tom felt God leading him to me because he felt God wanted to see our church be revitalized–to start seeing people come from darkness to light to helping others do the same. We’ve made good strides toward that goal and have a good foundation, but it’s time to ask God to build on that foundation and start to use us to make more of an impact on the darkness with the light of Christ.
Nearly every week we have first-time guests. That was rarely the case for the first few years. God has led us to see several adult baptisms and new members over the past two years. He’s provided for us to update our building (again!). We’ve renamed our church, re-written our constitution, cleared our membership rolls, and have seen very few people leave because of being disgruntled.
It’s God who gives the growth. While we haven’t seen colossal numerical growth over five years, we’ve seen progress. I’m praying over the next five years that, by His grace, He gives us more.
But even if He doesn’t, we will still praise His name and serve Him. He’s the reward, after all. And He is so good.
Thank you, Central Oaks, for the honor of being your pastor. I don’t take it lightly, and next to being a servant of Jesus, the husband of Lynsey, and the father of Caroline and Meredith, there’s no greater privilege I have in this world. I love you all.