The “in between” (an update)

The past 8 months has flown by. I’ve been serving at The Rock as leader over discipleship. It still humbles me that I get to work alongside such amazing leaders and be a part of something so life changing. It’s been fun and it’s been intense. Operation solid lives is in over 160 churches in the USA, in at least 11 countries, and reaching thousands online. Every week hundreds are being discipled at our church. I serve leaders that are supporting this movement! Every week I receive testimonies of transformation from our church and from around the USA and the world. It’s overwhelming. And we are constantly working to strengthen and expand; we have lots of projects to reach a dozen more nations waiting for OSL, to prepare OSL for translation, to expand our reach online, and more. What’s our biggest need? Leadership! Just like Jesus instructed: pray for laborers.

I’ve been doing a lot of leadership and project management. I’m learning a ton from the leaders of the Rock. I have the privilege of teaching OSL a couple times a week. I’ve seen many receive Jesus, receive physical healing and deliverance. I’ve also had the privilege of preaching a few times at some of our other congregations of the The Rock (there are 13 to date; St. Louis may be #14) and another church. One of my joys is hanging out with some young men who are called to pastor and teach; I’ve been giving the tiny bit I have. Michele is serving with young adults, homeschooling, retaking OSL, preparing our homes to sell, and putting up with me. God is preparing her heart for a great work in St. Louis as well. 

It does feel strange to live “in between”–I let go of pastoring newcommunity (at Jesus’ direction) so that I could start the process of planting churches in St. Louis. A church planting truth: it always takes longer than we expect. I was aware of this before the process began. The past 8 months I have enjoyed serving and learning at the Rock. I also deeply miss the people of newcommunity. I pray often for newcommunity, The Rock, and St. Louis. I am grateful for the new pastors, Barry and Meagan Mulock, and excited to see Jesus continue to build his church through their leadership in Glendora. 

I love this season and yet I know it is an “in between” phase. I feel like a stone in a sling shot being pulled back. God is going to do great things St. Louis; he is going to launch us out. First, the sone has to be pulled back in the sling; first, we prepare. The obvious: learning the culture of the The Rock, building relationships with people, doing research, and praying. The deeper: increasing in evangelistic anointing, growing in leadership skills, and strengthening our family. 

It reminds me of how Barnabas brought Paul (previously called Saul) to a church in Antioch for a year before they were sent to plant churches. Paul was called to plant churches through out the world when he was first saved but he did not get started for many years. It seems this year in Antioch was a major preparation phase. 

Acts 11:25-26 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. 26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

Acts 13:2-3 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.

What’s next? Our plan is to begin team meetings this September and visit St. Louis in the Fall. We are praying God will draw people to be on our team. We don’t have a move date or a launch date yet but I believe we will know this Fall. Likely 2016 will be a year of moving, building a launch team, reaching people, and launching services. As plans develop, we will keep you up to date. 

Please pray for us and for the people of St. Louis. God loves that city and has a destiny for that city.

Why am I going to St. Louis?

Many have asked me, “Why are you going to St. Louis?”  The simple answer: God told me to.

Let me tell you the story:

I had served at NewCommunity Church for 17 years; I’d been the lead pastor for over 7.  I love the people; I loved the assignment.  The community had been a family to me, a place of healing, a place I grew in the Lord and my calling.   The church was gaining momentum spiritually and numerically.  Vision we had seen and worked in faith towards was beginning to bud.  It was one of the most exhilarating times of ministry.  I wasn’t looking elsewhere; I wasn’t wanting something different.  I only longed to see the vision within me become a reality outside of me.

And then I had a dream (like that kind you have while you are sleeping).  I don’t often dream but one week in Spring 2014 I had three dreams and each were clearly from the Lord.  How did I know?  Because of the content and the presence of the Lord.  In one dream, I was walking through a courtyard with my wife, Michele. We walked out into a grassy area and were standing under the St. Louis arch when I heard Jesus speak to me saying, “This is is your city.”  I sensed the presence of God and the compassion of God exploded in my heart.  I began to pray for God’s unfailing love to be revealed to the city.  Then I woke up.

My first thought was, ” Lord I don’t like the cold.”  As I began to debate with God, he began to speak to me.  He spoke to me (or impressed on me) that we would bring the gospel to St. Louis, planting churches, bringing healing to neighborhoods in the city through serving people.  He even said, “This year.”   That word made my brain go tilt.

I’d love to tell you how full of faith I was; how surrendered I was.  But it would not be true.  I could not fathom what God was calling me to.  I could not comprehend moving my family or leaving my church.  I could not fathom something that was so far outside of my “plans”.  So I asked God for a confirmation.  Sounds noble?  But it was really out of fear. God can confirm his word if he deems it necessary.  But to ask God for a sign when he has already revealed himself is just stubborn unbelief.  I was bordering on phariseeism.  I told God I was willingly but I was not truly surrendered.  In fact, I tried to forget it. I tried to wait it out.  For three months I wrestled.  I could not shake it.  I’d heard God before.  I’d left everything in the past to serve the Lord (and he had blessed me).  I taught my church to do the same: hear God, do what he says.  I was torn between love for my church and obedience to Jesus; between comfortability and blessing and full surrender; between desire to follow Jesus and fear.  How could I teach and lead others and not surrender?  How could I be a man of integrity and not surrender?  How could I follow Jesus and stay in SoCal?  I told Jesus when I was 16 that I would leave all to follow him.  This was a test of that vow.

A few months later, I was listening to the Word at a conference.  One of the speakers prophesied, saying, “You are about to do something you thought you never would.” Instantly, I knew the word was for me (and others).  I began to weep and surrender to the Lord.  I heard Him tell me, “It’s time to surrender.”  And I did.  As I wept before God, I decided in my heart to leave everything and follow him.  I resolved to go to St. Louis.  All fear went away and God’s love filled my heart with faith for what he said he will do.

And so I am going to St. Louis because God told me to.  It was hard to leave my church, but God has blessed that church with a new pastor.  I have grieved deeply.  And yet, I am filled with exhilarating joy for this new assignment.  After all, though I did not know it, this is what I am created for, this is the vision that burns in my heart.  I am excited for what he will do.  Since I surrendered, I have not been afraid (well, I was tempted for a few days).  I am at rest, confident he will lead us, provide for us, and produce much fruit through us.  Following Jesus, losing all for him, is the best place to be!  Its so good to be at the center of his will, walking in the path of his commands.

What’s next?

The Lord led me to 1) transition leadership in my church before 2015 and 2) partner with the Rock Foursquare Church in Anaheim (a partnership that was birthed by God about 6 years ago).  We will serve at the Rock in Anaheim for about a year while we learn and prepare (I am realizing it just takes time to plant churches).  As the Lord leads, we will launch a Rock church in St. Louis.  Yes!  The Rock is going to St. Louis!  Our church will reach tons of people for Christ, disciple them, and empower them to fulfill their destiny.  Our church will love God, walk in His fullness, and serve their neighbors in love.  Our church will multiply leaders and plant other churches.  Our church will be a blessing to St. Louis.  We will bear much fruit to God’s glory.

You can pray for us and our kids as we walk through transition.  You can pray God brings a team around us and you can pray for the people of St. Louis.  Please declare with me over St. Louis that God’s love is unfailing.  He is pursuing that city, loving that city. He has a purpose for that city. He will restore and fulfill the destiny of that city and the people who live in it.  Thanks!