God brings a partner church our way, but not exactly the way we expected.
August 27th, 2014 - Received an email from a guy named Mark **** . He's from XYZ Church (NOTE: Actual church name redacted) in North Carolina. Oddly enough, this is the same church we worked with during one of our bbqs in July. He wants to get together during our time in Calgary in September (he happens to be there the same weekend).
September 13th, 2014 - That evening, we go to a Calvary Stampeders football game. When we get there, it turns out Mark is there. We talk as we watch the game, and he asks if he could travel with us to visit the town of Chestermere on Sunday.
September 14th, 2014 - After attending Vertical Church's one year anniversary service, we meet with Mark and head to Chestermere. On the way, he begins asking about our calling, vision and plans for a new church in Calgary. His questions are very direct and more than passing curiosity or simple "get-to-know-you" type queries. I soon realize he is essentially interviewing me - though I have no idea what for.
Mark, Amber and I sit down at a gazebo on lake Chestermere as he begins to tell us a little about XYZ's involvement in Calgary. Their church has agreed to be the lead partner with NAMB, bringing financial partnerships, training, mission teams and increased awareness to Calgary from the states. But their big plan is to sponsor a church plant from inception to maturity (or at least self-sufficiency). Mark shares with us that they are looking to hire a planter to come to their church for a 3-6 month intensive training, after which they will be sent to Calgary with just about all the support they might need. Mark asks if we would be interested in being considered for the position. We tell him we have lots of questions, but that, yes, we would definitely like to pursue a potential partnership. He asks me to prepare my resume and send it to him ASAP.
After our discussion, Mark says he wants to take us by one more area they've identified as a potential plant location. We head to Symons Valley on the far north side of Calgary. It is a collection of 5-6 brand new subdivisions (several of which are still in the build out phase). Amber and I immediately see the potential of the area and the three of us pray that God would give direction and power to our plans.
September 20th, 2014 - I send XYZ Church my resume, Amber's resume, a copy of a recent sermon, and a digital copy of the prayer cards I've been working on. They tell us their search committee will meet soon to discuss the resumes they've received.
Amber and I are incredibly grateful to be considered for the position. It would provide security and support, not to mention significantly lightening the amount of fundraising we will have to do. But, it's also difficult because we can't make any firm plans until we know what direction XYZ church is going. For instance: if we are not partnering with XYZ, my last day at Medulla will be in June. If we are partnering with them, my last Sunday could be as early as March! We are anxious to have answers. Meanwhile, God is teaching us to be patient.
Our other concern is to be sure that we don't subtly shift our dependency from God to a megachurch. While we really want to partner with XYZ, we have to remember that God may choose to provide for us in other ways. We have to keep our hearts aligned with Him at all times or we will be in trouble.
October 6th, 2014 - We meet (in Lakeland) with Aaron Wallace to discuss our plans and to get his input on XYZ Church. He has known for a little while that we are going to Calgary, but we haven't had any time to sit and discuss it. He is very excited to see how God is working to take care of our needs, and has nothing but high praise for XYZ. He says we would be foolish not to pursue a relationship with them. He knows a couple of their pastors and offers to call and give a personal recommendation for us.
October 16th, 2014 – I receive a call from Mark. The search committee has looked over the packet I sent to them, and they would like to fly Amber and I out for interviews with the search committee on Nov 13-15. I am so humbled. There have to be guys out there with better skills and more pedigree, and yet, they are taking the next step with me. They may be interviewing other couples, or they may decide Amber and I don't fit well with what they are trying to accomplish. Regardless, God uses the situation to remind me yet again that no matter what happens, He is working this out in bigger and better ways than I could have ever imagined.
If only we didn't have to wait a month!
November 13-15, 2014 – Amber and I fly to North Carolina to met with the XYZ search team. It is three straight days of meetings and interviews, and it is exhausting! But, they are great hosts and are truly passionate about Calgary. Their church is gigantic and their ministry reach is huge. I have no doubt we could learn a lot from them.
From our perspective, all of the meetings seem to go very well. The team tells us that they will get together after we leave to compare notes and present us to the pastoral staff for consideration.
We come home to Florida and wait for their call.
November 21, 2014 – I hear back from XYZ Church's search team. After consulting with the pastors, they have decided we are not the couple they are looking for. They say they are concerned about our lack of experience in church planting. They do offer to become monthly financial partners with us, for which I am grateful.
But mostly I’m just heartbroken.
What did I say that I shouldn’t have? What did I NOT say that I should have? It’s hard not to take it as a personal rejection.
It is one of the lowest points I’ve experienced in ministry in a very long time. Why did God make us go through all of that, only to shut the door in our faces? Why dangle opportunity in front of us, only to snatch it away?
Despite the sting and ache I still feel, I can think of several good things that came out of the situation:
1. Another monthly financial partner. It wasn’t exactly what we hoped for, but it is helpful.
2. I was forced to get more organized and specific about our strategy, plans, values, etc.
3. I think it was also good for Amber and I in terms of letting go of Lakeland. Over the last couple of months, we’ve finally started to think in terms of what we are gaining in Calgary, instead of focusing on what we are leaving behind.
4. It has reminded me that this is about God, not me. He doesn’t want me safe and secure – where is the trust or faith in that? He wants me leaning on Him for direction and provision.
(NOTE** I've sought to be honest about this portion of our journey. I could have hidden it, perhaps not told anyone about it because it didn't turn out in our favor. But I promised you a no-holds-barred look at what life has been like over the last few months. And, I truly am grateful for this church and their continued support and help!)