Ok, so that language might be a little strong for my last Assurance blog. But there have been moments when this transition felt like a death, and yet it is simply a chance at new life. I remember when I graduated High School, in the yearbook we had an opportunity to “will” certain things to underclassmen that were sticking around. So if I build on that theme, I’d like to “will” some things to you to remind you of how much they mean to me. I told you in the last blog that I would share with you some things that I had told Pastor Lonnie about you ... so here you go.
- You love Jesus - I know every church has to talk about Jesus, but you really love Him. I have seen you wrestle with what it means to take the Bible seriously and yet allow it to speak in our modern context. You continue to do that and I love that you love Jesus because you have helped me love Jesus even more.
- Your heart for service - We talk a lot about “Growing and Going” but you don’t forget the importance of the going. So many churches want to “study” something to death and by the time they get around to acting on it, the Spirit has moved on to either another task or another group of people that actually want to serve in His name. I love your willingness to love even and most especially when it’s hard. And your willingness to not just throw stuff at people and move on but to build relationships that have changed our church as much as they have transformed the people we serve.
- Your Spirit of Joy - We have encountered some very not pleasant things in my time here at Assurance, and most of the time we have found a way to laugh even in the midst of tears. Joy is a part of the fruit of the Spirit - God is joy-filled and I love that almost everything that happens at Assurance turns into a celebration. We are a people that know the “end” of the story - God wins. So if we can’t be joy-filled in knowing that Jesus has “got” whatever we face, then who could? People are drawn to joy because every single one of us needs more joy in our life! In the creation story, God created parts of the world “and saw that it was good.” God smiled so why don’t we?
- Your leadership team is phenomenal. Staff leadership, lay leadership, clergy leadership - it’s just staggering the leadership capacity at Assurance. We have leaders that truly long to discern the will and movement of God - and want to join in and follow that Spirit. Sometimes we have had the right intentions but the wrong plan, but I love that our team has been able to learn where we’ve been to inform where we are going. Please pray for our church leaders and support them and when asked to volunteer, please say “YES”. And don’t be afraid of failing - experimentation in the life of the church is essential - and failure is only failure if we waste it - if we don’t learn from it. Otherwise, God can redeem anything. And has.
- I could go on and on but I’ll stop with this last one - I have told Pastor Lonnie what a beautiful place this is to be a pastor. I don’t know exactly what that looks like for Pastors Daniel, Danny, and Lonnie - but for me I have begun to find words for it. Assurance - you have been church for me. I know it’s my job and you have paid me some of the money you have given to God so that I could help order the life of our church - but YOU have been CHURCH for ME. Assurance has less pretense and judgement of any church I’ve ever been a part of. For YEARS, people have said something to me that I didn’t know what to do with when they would attend or join Assurance: they would say, “Assurance is a place (maybe the first church) where I’ve ever felt comfortable.” Honestly and confessionally, I never knew what to do with this language. Comfort is a dangerous thing in church - in Jesus’ path to making people holy very rarely did he encourage them to be comfortable. But in my own grief about “losing” my home church in this move, I FINALLY know what they have meant all these years. They (YOU) weren’t saying that Assurance was a comfortable place that wasn’t challenging you in your life and faith - you were saying that Assurance is a place where you can simply be yourself without pretending to be something better or less than. For me what that has meant is that Assurance has just always looked beyond my flaws and let me be me. You have always known that as one of your pastors, I’m just as broken, and messy and scattered as you are. And like you. . . I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t want to grow in grace. But Assurance, I am broken, and messy and scattered. And you allowed me the “comfort” of space to “Grow and Go” from the place that I was rather always expecting me to be somewhere else. I might be grieving that the most - this assurance of a God who loves me in my brokenness and messiness - and the community that has always reminded me of that reality and that fact. This community that has picked me up when I was down. NEVER take that for granted Assurance - and continue to create an environment where messy and broken people can find their path in following Jesus. Pastor Lonnie is just as broken and messy as I am - ok maybe not that messy - but I know some of his warts and he will fit right in at Assurance. And in Lonnie and in all of us is the beauty that is the light of Christ that shines through our cracks. 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”
So thank you for loving me even when I messed up, even when I was too raw, and even when I offended or wasn’t the kind of leader that you needed me to be. Thank you for reminding me that redemption isn’t just a theological concept, but a spiritual reality in Jesus. I’m glad that the “Assurance of God” that you have given me was made to travel because I’m taking it with me :-)
We.Are.Assurance - God has given us a message that the world needs desperately. And we know because we are a part of that world. So “Grow and Go” Assurance - because the message in you is too important for you to do anything else. And take care of Pastor Lonnie - he’s a good man that is so excited to be a part of the Assurance family. Some of the things I’ve mentioned above are the reasons why. Help him find that balance between pastoring and being a family man. His heart is truly good and it does my heart good to see him so excited to come and you getting excited to receive him!!!!
If there are ways I can ever help you and support you, I am quite literally a phone call, email, text or Facebook message away. Just because I move to become one of your former pastors doesn’t mean that I can’t support you as a former pastor and friend. I will of course, do this in cooperation with Pastor Lonnie’s role in your life and would never do anything to intentionally disrupt that relationship. Why? Because Assurance only moves forward in it’s mission as you and your new lead Pastor “Grow and Go” together.
Know that at the end of my life when I am counting my blessings, you will be near the top of the list. Not just as a whole, but the individual relationships mean more than I could say. Please receive a THANK YOU for all the well wishes, gifts, cards, texts, messages, love, and most of all the HUGS. They have been literal lifesavers. It has been overwhelming and beautiful, all at the same time. The privilege and grace that has been extended to me in these 12 years is far more than most people ever receive in a lifetime and I do not take that or you for granted. I love you Assurance and most of all - I love the God in you.
Having said all of that, #weareassurance forever. Amen.