Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Here We Go!

So many of you have been incredibly faithful to pray for Sondra and me over these past few months. We are humbled and grateful for your prayers on our behalf regarding our next position in ministry. If you have kept up with social media at all then you already know that I accepted a position at Friendship Community Church in Mt. Juliet, TN as Director of Groups and Discipleship. If you are interested in the back story then read on.

Friendship is a church that I have had a relationship with for the past close to 3 years now I guess. Our relationship began when I guest preached at the recommendation of Teresa Snyder who is the children's minister here. I have known Teresa for many years and she was very influential in our daughters' lives as the children's minister at New Hope. Teresa has more energy than the Energizer Bunny has ever thought about for sure. I preached a few other times over the next couple years as they were without a pastor and then last Fall the church called Michael DiMarco as their pastor.

Michael and Hayley and their precious daughter have been friends of ours for the past 12 years or so. We first met them when Shelbi was playing volleyball at DCA and Michael worked with the team. One time at practice Michael and I struck up a conversation and I discovered that he and Hayley were authors and I worked at LifeWay and Michael started lobbying hard. (This is a joke. He was a little more subtle in his approach.) Over the next few years Michael and I fostered a relationship that caused me to lean in and think a little differently. Michael has a unique way of seeing things from a fresh perspective. We did some brainstorming together; he allowed me to help massage some of the things he and Hayley were writing; and he became a friend that I did not always agree with but always walked away challenged and better. We dreamed (might turn out to be a nightmare ;-) about one day getting the opportunity to minister together more directly but put no plans in action to make that happen.

Fast forward to Tuesday, 2/28 of this year about 30 minutes after I walked out of LifeWay for the last time as an employee. Michael and I had scheduled to meet and talk as we did many times in the normal course of life. I had not told Michael that I was no longer at LifeWay and as we talked that day he asked, "So. . . what's new?" I shared that I had just left LifeWay after 24 plus years and was a free agent so to speak. He made a very soft mention about looking for someone to guide groups and discipleship at Friendship and I sort of heard it but was in a bit of shock and grief from the LifeWay departure. He offered nothing other than genuine friendship and pretty much left me alone for the next few weeks.

Over the next fews, God was gracious to provide Sondra and me with so many friends like you who were diligent to encourage us and pray for us. (And you are still doing that for us and we are thankful.) I talked to many different churches over the next few weeks. I sent my resume' to a couple of friends who obviously shared it with many churches because we started hearing from churches from around the country. In all, we heard from over 60 churches in a four week span. It was completely overwhelming quite honestly. I tried to keep up with them via a spreadsheet and know that there are a couple or so that I just missed along the way. The theme that kept coming back through my prayer time was, "Either you trust Me or you don't trust at all." I kept (most of the time) replying, "Help my unbelief."

Two of the opportunities seemed to be "best fit" situations for my desires and skill set and one of them seemed way too easy. And because it seemed easy, I pushed it to the back burner. I kept saying to myself, "this seems too easy and seems to require little faith. No move, very little 'disruption' seemingly, etc." The more I prayed, read Scripture, it seemed that the Lord was leading us to stay here in Nashville, minister in a setting that we already know (to some extent) and to serve alongside a staff that I had already come to know and begun to love. I sent a text to Michael saying, "Were you serious about that role at Friendship? I can't stop thinking and dreaming about what God is doing there now and can do in the future." He answered with a "yep" and we began talking more and even had a dream session and wrote on the white board - "so you know we were serious when the dry erase markers come out."

I started Monday, May 15th. I have much to learn.  I ask you to continue to pray and lift us up. Our girls are delighted that we are staying in Nashville. They seemed to be most worried that we would move out of the house that they did their "growing up teenage years in" and I grossly overstated that. I'm sure they were concerned about some other things as well.

Thank you so much for how you have supported us and lifted us in prayer. We are grateful for the investment that LifeWay made in us for those 24 plus years. So many people there who have helped me become who I am. I will forever be grateful for those years there and excited beyond words for the opportunity to serve at Friendship. Pray that we will be faithful to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and making disciples.


Michael Cooper said...

So excited and happy for you as you start this next season of life and ministry.

Anonymous said...

Lifeway and FCC no how to pick em'! Praying that God uses you in a mighty way there and that your friendship with Michael grows even stronger!