On June 18th, I resigned as the Lead Pastor of the Church of God of Landisville. I had been their pastor since September 2001, arriving just a few days before the epochal events of what is now known as “Nine Eleven.” (In fact, I met a large portion of my congregation at a prayer meeting called on that tragic and historic day.) The church and I had journeyed along a Holy Spirit-led and well-documented path from being a traditional church with an inward-focus to an outward-focused church known for its service to the community and being a safe place for people in need. A million dollar building expansion to better serve the community (not just the church) was paid off in two years. We became the second highest per capita giving church in our region, but more importantly, helped lead and influence dozens of people to begin following Jesus as Savior and Lord every year for the past ten.
In recent years we had struggled, as have many congregations, with the powerful changes occurring in our world and were impacted frustratingly by the fallout from the economic collapse of 2008. Like most middle-sized churches we saw some of our dreams thwarted by events happening to individuals and at least two unexpected staff departures. Yet God had continued to prosper the people and we to this day are a wonderful church that very much aims at being the best church for their community. They are still a people on mission with Jesus and new people continue to find Christ through them.
The church needed to go to the next level of fruitfulness at a time where some were comfortable with who they were and others desiring to pull back so they could find relief from some of the tough times that come from living on the cutting edge of the Kingdom of God.
The elders of the church felt the latter position was unacceptable, but the former also needing some new passion to ignite the fire again. Both the elders and I agreed that my passions were shifting elsewhere which they understood and even affirmed, but they needed a new leader at Landisville.
I felt the Lord say, “I have other things for you to do and the church needs someone else to lead them where they need to go” and so I resigned. July 22nd was my final Sunday with the church.
Now here’s crazy part.
I did not have another job waiting, nor even a clue. I am not particularly flush with money and basically live closer to paycheck to paycheck than I would like. In eight weeks, the paychecks would end. I had often counseled young people dissatisfied with jobs not to quit until they had a new one. And here I was doing the opposite.
When one of my friends heard the news, his first reaction was “Steve was either very angry at the church, or he was just crazy.”
Later, when I explained how I felt God had told me to step away, that my wife Dianne was in complete agreement, he said, “You really have a lot of faith.” (That wasn’t mildly disguised sarcasm, it was a statement of respect.)
A lot of things have happened since then, which I will write about later. A lot of things have happened that have confirmed that God has something in mind even if I don’t have a clue. What I am learning to do is live by something that I have long taught as a pastor, “We walk by faith, not by sight.”
So for now, Dianne and I are simply on a crazy journey of faith. Because of the ethics of my profession and the practice of my denomination, I will need to move from the community if I continue to pastor; so that is what I am expecting to do. But now, a few days shy of two months since that resignation, I am still without a clue of where God wants us to land.
But I am eagerly anticipating what God intends to do in and through Dianne and myself.
Did I tell you God sold our house in 28 days?