This will not be a short post, but I will try to be brief in what I write. There are a million questions surrounding what the heck has happened to us over the past 3-4 years and even more in the last 3-4 months. It is time I answer the questions people keep asking…so here we go.
First I want to say that I am writing this so that speculation and other stories can stop. I have always refrained from posting sketchy details as I feel that it honors God and others, but it also leaves room for people to make up stories to fill in the gaps, which some have done. [It is our human nature to do this].
I also know that for some reason, there are people who are Christ-followers who are hell-bent on spreading malicious talk about myself, my wife and our calling. You should be ashamed. No, really, you should be. I say that in all love. [And yes, I have made efforts to contact or try to contact these individuals. They have made no reverse effort.]
You have hurt and continue to hurt our family…so if you want to talk, please let me know. E-mail me and I will send you my cell phone number [Matthew 18].
So…with that being said…here is an update on what the heck is going on in our crazy God story. [ps. If your God story is always golden, easy, up and to the right, happy and cheery...then WAKE-UP, for you aren't living much!]
1. What Are You Doing Right Now?
Tiffany is working as an Optician [first outside job in 12 years...we need change her -StayAtHomeMom76- handle huh?]
I am still running the coaching/consulting network that we have. I am coaching several amazing planters and doing consultations for churches as they call and ask [Hit me up!! :]. As for a “main” job, I do not have one right now. Scary, yes. I am aggressively looking, praying and doing what many of you have done in the past few years and am filling out endless applications.
2. What Happened to Planting a Church in Columbus, OH?
A lot has happened since we were called out of New Hope in Ohio, then planted One Community Church in Utah, and turned it over as well after 3 years. We have battled with whether we are called to be planters forever and start and release or are called to something different, more permanent. We feel we are called to plant and stay with this next plant or accept a role in another ministry on a different level. At least for now that is what we feel called to! For now, I just need a job of any kind…ya feeling me?
We did not leave Utah expecting a church planting opportunity to fall in our laps, but it did and we felt it was from the Lord. Many are the plans in a man’s heart though, right? [Proverbs 19.21]
We were fully funded, with salary and benefits and were asked to pick a location. I/we felt a bit rushed, but we prayed, sought wise counsel, and drove a couple thousand miles praying and seeking God around Columbus. We were here in Columbus, maybe this is where we were being called after all? We began a Bible study at our home, we adopted a name, bought a website and began laying the ground work for a church to be birthed.
In a very unexpected turn of events, the support group laid off/terminated/not sure what to call it…3 of the 4 people in the church planting network including my boss who hired me. There was no wrong doing with anyone, myself included.
Someone from the group flew into town and without advance warning, gave me notice that our funding was being terminated and that in 3 days, we would receive our last paycheck. I never even heard from the groups leaders/founder. <—No, really. And some of you know that this is not the first time this sort of thing has happened to us. Please don’t do this to other people as followers of Christ. The church is not a business, it is the church of Jesus Christ [who left us the example of how to treat others] and we are real people and a real family. [Rant ends here, because I know I have hurt people over the years too].
I know we seem to find trouble [some of it by MY OWN doing] at several turns the past few years time and time again it seems…but 3 of the 4 of our group were laid off/terminated without true cause in our opinion. After a couple of months of sifting, it appears that the financial impact of moving too quickly with a new division of church planting with the group caused some sort of financial dilemma and decisions were made. We were the fall-out.
I am not going to talk badly about the group here, but the way it was handled was yes, very poor. My family and the other family involved have suffered tremendously as a result of the way it was handled. This impact could be far-reaching into the future before we personally pull out of it. So glad we are all sinners saved by grace and I am no better at times than they have been to us.
4. Why Stop Planting Just Because of Money? What about your “calling?”
Tiffany and I have battled depression ever since leaving our first calling in Ohio at New Hope Community Church in 2009. I have never dealt with depression before and I am pretty resilient, but even I have suffered greatly in the past 3-4 years. Even if things exploded in Utah and exploded in Columbus…no one will ever understand our love, commitment and passion for Ashland County and the surrounding areas. We trusted God as He called us out from there, and it has not been easy. We will go to our graves with that being our “home.” We miss and love you all more than you miss us, trust me. Wish God would have penned a different story.
There are times that I have despised God and grown very angry, even when things were going well. We were neighbors with some of our best friends all around us, family down the street and a church and community that our ENTIRE FAMILY [they get forgotten in the mix] loved and felt connected to.
I deal with this depression in myself on a regular basis and my wife has battled for years. At this point, I probably feel that Tiffany is doing better right now that I am! Praise God:)
As a result of getting kicked in the teeth yet again in our pursuit of what God has for us, we decided to put the brakes on planting and resume with the plan that we felt called to when we left Utah: To move to Ohio, sit, wait, pray and listen.
This is what we are doing again. We never left One Community Church in Utah with the intent to plant. Of course that was an option, but we thought it was a very rare percentage.
I was looking more for an opportunity to join a team or to lead a new team, not plant a church. The opportunity really came out of left field and as quick as it was here, it was gone [6 weeks]. Combine this with the hurt we still feel from the past 4 years, and we just felt that we needed some time to re-group, pray and re-start the process as God allows. We have now been on this journey for almost 7 months [with the 6 week blip of church planting mentioned above].
We do not feel called to sit back for a couple of years and “take time off.” Our counselor said we were fully OK to engage in full-time ministry. Of course we have some un-healthy areas in our lives, but we are ready to resume ministry when God reveals the place. [This was November, 2011]. We are called to ministry and every day people see eternity for the 1st time, and we feel compelled to do something about helping them find Jesus.
5. What Now?
I can honestly say that we do not know. I daily am setting up meetings with pastors I know, love, respect and am asking God to continue to form potential opportunities and networking from these individuals. I am also exploring and meeting with new friends as we seek what is next. We are primed, prepared and ready to move to wherever and whatever crazy call God has. It might be to stay right here in Hilliard, OH on this street. It might be somewhere else in a small, out-of-the-way town. [We are pretty set in our calling to Ohio, but we are still hearing people who share stuff with us around the country.]
I do know that both Tiffany and I are doing much better in our soul and feel on the rebound. Once we find our calling and some stability, we will pull out of the funk we experience at times, our counselor told us. We are not whacked out, we are not on the edge, we are not needing some time away. I have not been in ministry now for almost 7 months now and though our hearts hurt mainly for our KIDS!!!!!!! [wouldn't yours?]…though we hurt for them and for us, we know that God is teaching molding, shaping and refining.
One thing I do know. God is faithful. It is painful to write that line with all that has happened in the past 4 years and again freshly in the past 4 months, but God really is faithful. Without Him, I would be lost. Though we have had some choice words with God and my soul and heart hurt, mourn and cry out, still I find that His mercies are new every morning.
My beautiful bride has stood by my side while many have left it, and our kids have done all this with a smile and faith in Jesus to lead. What more could a man ask for? Love you Tiffany and kids.
6. What Have You Learned?
Dang, if you are only reading this answer, it might be worth it all.
I have been beaten up over the fact that God needed to take me out to the wilderness to teach me many things. He is dealing with my humility, pride, ego, forgiveness, love, true character and calling just to name a few over these past almost 4 years.
Standing in a welfare line with no job in sight [our income was cut by about 50-60% this year and we lost all insurance...so things are very tight, rocky and a bit scary at the moment], no calling, no direction and only your family and Jesus will forever shape me in a positive way. Some of you have been there with me in the past and know the pain! Praise Him in the storm, right?
As far as forgiveness…I know I have wronged several people in the journey and have asked and am asking for forgiveness each step of the way with those God leads me too. I am also learning to forgive the people who have wronged me and my family as well. It is a two-way process and is not easy, and it takes time.
God has exposed aspects of my pride and arrogance, and thankfully, is still willing to use me, grow me, shape me, teach me and refine me. Praising God that 10+ hands went up yesterday in a church I preached at in Eastern Kentucky. Had an amazing consultation with a church in Texas as well on Saturday who benefited greatly from our time together. Glad God still uses sinners like me.
I am being shaped, challenged, molded and refined in ways that only God could do. I don’t feel punished, I don’t feel threatened or feel that we made bad decisions. Looking at scripture, I feel that the highs [which were many, many, over the years] and the lows [that we have experienced and are experiencing] put us in about every great story of Scripture. Thankful that their example rings true for us today! They had severe ups and downs, should we expect any less? Praise be to God.
7. In Closing
I don’t want to drag on and on. There is our account of what has transpired over the past 3-4 years and more recently. I have remained silent about it on purpose. I didn’t want to write in sin or in anger [and I read and edited this at least 5+ times], nor did I feel that I needed to vindicate or defend myself [I pray that there is no defense felt in this post, I pray it is only fact and a mild rant:] It was time to let others know where we were and what was happening because while some of you want juicy details, others of you truly do love us and pray for us. Thank you.
I am looking next for any kind of job. I have spent a couple of months applying for secular jobs and talking about some potential ministry options. There are 0 immediate plans unfortunately. We still believe that we are called to church planting, and dang, look around, the harvest field is great.
Waiting, watching, listening and praying is where we are right now. Listening to all opportunities and sitting back patiently waiting. If you want to talk about an opportunity, we are willing to listen and pray. We are not desperate, yet we are confidently waiting, watching, praying and seeking HIS direction.
THANK YOU to those who have supported us and know that we appreciate and love you to death. We have watched God provide in miraculous ways with food, needs and financial support coming at just the right time. We have learned to live with our daily bread and with needs, not wants. Somewhere that is kind of Scriptural and commanded. It is a hard way to learn it in real life though:)
This is but a passing moment, and I look forward to updating each of you with what is next! Something HUGE is on the horizon. We are holding on and waiting for it.
For those of you who read as friends including those in our coaching network and my pastor friends who haven’t dropped us in our darkest hours…thank you for your love, support, calls and DM’s these past 4 years and recent months.
To my family here in the states and in China…couldn’t and wouldn’t want to live without you. THANK YOU for your love and support. You are why I love living life.
For those who read as leaders of ministry in THE STICKS: Keep pressing on! Don’t be afraid to step out and lead courageously. We aren’t promised green pastures at every turn!
For those who read as church planters: I told you it was hard. Keep your nose on the grindstone of Jesus. We all have bad
days, years, decades [just kidding, but you get the picture]. Call me if you need to, we can weep and celebrate together and I promise that I will do my best to encourage you! [E-mail me for my direct cell #: email@example.com]
And to everyone including my God…I can’t wait to see what the next chapter is in serving our God. We are doing our best to hold on and at the same time to LET GO and fall into the faithful hands of our God.
PLEASE PRAY. We need it, welcome it and understand it’s power! –the end.