08 October 2010
As many of you have already heard, I have accepted the position of College & Career Pastor at Dover Shores Baptist Church. Since I haven’t been around First Orlando for a while, it seemed appropriate to let everyone know about the exciting things that have been going on the last few months.
At the beginning of summer, as part of an independent study course for my M.Div., I began working with Dover Shores Baptist Church for what originally started out as a two-month commitment. The journey to Dover Shores began with a number of other churches and a bunch of unanswered calls and canceled appointments until I finally ended up at lunch with Dr. Fortinberry and Rev. Kozy. Thus began the independent study in church revitalization.
Over the course of the next month or so, I visited their church (initially unannounced – since the focus was not on me, but instead on the church) for their Sunday morning worship service, then a few of their Sunday school classes, and finally the Sunday and Wednesday evening youth and college gatherings. As I continued to “take notes” for my independent study, little did I know that the church was also “taking note” and “taking notes” about me, and spending time in prayer, as well.
One Sunday, I challenged a student (shout out to Tyler) to a competition with Eric, Youth/College & Career pastor, to hand out the bulletins. This was greeted by Eric asking me to speak to the students the following Wednesday night, a message about God and text messaging (yes, God DOES send text messages!). About this time, lots of others at Dover Shores (Matt, Darci, Chas, Jake, Daniel, etc. started attending discipleship groups and Bible studies, and getting me to Chilly Spoons and Ginza).
As I neared the end of the independent study with Dover Shores, Dr. Fortinberry and Alan (Rev. Kozy) approached me and asked me to prayerfully consider the position of College and Career pastor at Dover Shores. The next four weeks, were some of the hardest weeks in my life as a Christian.
If you wonder about the power of prayer, it seems that the yet unknown prayers were changing my heart; the “project” shifted to the “people.” Ironically, this ties directly into the topic of the final research paper being prepared for the independent study; in order to make an impact for the Kingdom of God, we have to be concerned for the same thing for which Christ is concerned. In Luke, Jesus tells Zacchaeus,
“For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10, ESV)
In order for any church to be successful, the focus must never be on the church (the institution, location, events, programs, etc.) but, instead, on the people (please don’t get technical and get hung up on the fact I didn’t mention the Word or Christ, he’s the one doing the talking). Don’t get me wrong, the “stuff” of the church is important, as long as it’s not the goal; the numbers are important, as long as they aren’t the goal.
After much prayer (both myself and others, shout outs to all who joined in – regardless of your direction of prayer 🙂 ) and countless consultations with friends and mentors (there’s no way to thank everyone who listened, offered advice, listened some more [haha, good thing I don’t like to talk much! – I’M KIDDING! :-P]); I finally approached Dr. Fortinberry and Rev. Kozy with my decision.
On September 12th, the church body unanimously voted that I become their College and Career pastor. And, subsequently, it is with seriously deep and heartfelt regret that I have left First Orlando, and more importantly the college ministry there. For the last twelve years (or so) I have been involved with high school and college ministry there, I have many fond memories and many long-lasting friendships from my years at First Orlando.
There is no way a price tag can be placed on the lifetime friendships I’ve been privileged to gain, the people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve shared, the long nights, the road trips, the discipleship groups, the families I’ve been part of, and the influence that the high school and college students at First Orlando have had on my life. When I was baptized about fifteen years ago, I quoted:
“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12, ESV – although there was no ESV then)
This verse was a testimony to a college student (Matt) who rented a room one summer from a 31-year-old (me), whose way of life impacted me beyond any way I can ever say “thank you” enough; a high school junior (Heath), who became my first discipler; a tenth grader (Matt), who invited me to get involved with the homeless ministry (in a time when I equated homelessness to leprosy or the plague); and a young, energetic THGA (Jake) who crashed into the first Sunday school class I led, and challenged his friends to actually study the lessons I prepared. AJ, Cole, and Josh, what can I say, you guys invited me into the journey with college ministry!
Over the years at First Orlando, many, many more stories like these could be told; if I didn’t mention you, it’s not because I don’t care, it’s because I don’t want everyone to be asleep before they finish this note.
As I’ve told many people, “Who would ever have thought twenty years ago that I’d be going to church three times a YEAR, let alone three times a week… But, God will do what God wants to do; I’m going along for the ride, hanging on to his coat tails (think ice skating and spinning around) – he will not fall, he will not fail, the journey is his.” His journey is taking me to the next chapter of my ministry, not lightly or easily; but, with lots of excitement and dreams for the future.
In this chapter, I hope and pray that I may keep the friendships both past, present, and even future, that I’ve made at First Orlando; while adding new friendship at Dover Shores. And, all the while, continuing to bridge the gaps between churches to gain a single-minded stand for Christ among college and high school students in a world desperately in need of a Savior.
Moving On, But Not Moving Away…
“Love God, Love Others.
Know God, Make God Known.”