Beginning in early September, I will be the new senior pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California.
The last month has been intense, as I have continually held two emotions at the same time. In one hand I hold a deep excitement and anticipation for the new season of ministry the Lord has for us. I am humbled to be joining the Mariners’ family, honored to be learning from Kenton (the current senior pastor), and thrilled to serve alongside the team that is there. The Lord’s call to Orange County and to Mariners has been clear and fierce and has been confirmed over and over again.
In the other hand I hold a sense of loss. I am losing my team, the team I have built around a set of values—a set of values we have completely given ourselves to. Serving on a team where there is clarity of mission and clarity of values is a thrilling thing. Leaders I have invested in and developed are thriving and doing incredible work and it is a joy to watch. I will miss them so much.
I am losing the opportunity that Dr. Rainer graciously gave me when he invited me to join his team seven years ago—the opportunity to serve tens of thousands of churches in a comprehensive way through a myriad of resources.
Letting go and leaving has not been easy, and I am glad. I am glad because it means this last season has been so special. When leaders long to leave their current context it typically means they don’t enjoy their current assignment.
But the Lord unearthed the roots we have here by giving an overwhelming desire to go back to the local church and by making that desire specific to Mariners. In my role as senior vice-president at LifeWay, I oversee a lot of incredible employees (there are over 4,000 in the division I lead) and I have hired a lot of ministry leaders from the local church. When I started hiring leaders from the local church, I promised the Lord I would “high five” them if they left to go back to the local church. The thinking was that our team would be the best if we populated the team with people who are crazy about and committed to the local church, so much so that they would have pulls back to the local church. It has served us well. We have people deeply committed to serving the Church in her mission of making disciples.
But as I stood in front of my team, the division I lead, for the last time last week, I simply asked for them to “high five” me on my way out. It is my time to go back to the local church. I go back better because of my time at LifeWay and because of my team’s impact on me.