After 20 Years...a Change is Ahead
Twenty years ago this month I sat in a conference room in Mishawaka, Indiana. The Granger Community Church personnel committee, led by Phil McMartin, was interviewing me for a position.
It was 1994, I was 26-years old, sitting there in a suit and tie, my wife seated next to me with big hair and a very nice floral dress. We were dressed to impress.
At one point, Phil asked me what my ultimate dream was for this job. Without hesitation, I pointed at Mark Beeson and said, “I want to put feet to his dreams.”
And that’s what I have done without regret for two decades.
Faith and I, along with little baby Heather, had been attending the church for about two years prior to that interview. And we had completely bought into the vision for this growing church in Granger. We didn’t want to just support it with our tithes and attendance—we wanted to give our lives to the cause. I was 100% convinced that this little start-up church would some day have a greater impact in the kingdom than the national ministry I had been part of previously for nine years.
As we began praying about it, so many people in our lives said, Don’t do it! Don’t you know they meet in a movie theater (aka “den of iniquity”)? Don’t you know they are United Methodist (aka “liberal socialists”)? Don’t you know they don’t even have a building and might not even survive?
Many in our close family were opposed. Many of our spiritual mentors were opposed. But God was telling us to step out in faith. And we did. We accepted the job a week before baby Megan was born, and I started in my new role a few weeks later.
And for twenty years we have put feet to the vision. We’ve designed and built buildings, raised money, hired staff, added services and locations and sites, launched into global impact, initiated conferences and workshops, started new entities such as the ELC, Granger Commons and the Eatery, navigated moments of crisis, and helped craft and recraft the vision over the years.
Each step of the way, Mark Beeson has been my mentor and my friend. He believed in me long before my leadership gifts had matured; he gave me the resources I needed so I could best serve him and the church; and he gave me opportunities and exposure that have enabled me to soar. We have vacationed together with our wives, we have shot guns together, we have gone to scores of movies together (including one time when we inadvertently ended up in the wrong theater full of women watching Bridget Jones Diary.)
In essence, Mark and I have done life together.
But long ago, I determined I would not stay at Granger past when I felt I was no longer the right person for the job. And friends, God has given me a clear peace that my time at Granger is complete. I have given my all for 20 years to help put feet to the vision—and I now have a confidence that my mission is done. I can’t explain the peace that I feel, because I’ve only left one other job in my life and that was twenty years ago—but it is undeniable in its’ presence and has been confirmed again and again over the past few days.
This sense of peace, though, is also mixed with apprehension. I did not want anything to cloud my judgment, so I have not pursued job opportunities with other churches or future employers. The peace about leaving is clear; but the direction for our future is still a blank slate. Faith and I have two girls in college, a boy about to start his senior year, and our youngest who will finish up middle school next year. So if you are the praying type, ask God to hurry up and show us His will!
The peace that this is the right decision is also mixed with deep sadness. I have had the high honor to work with the greatest team on the planet. I played a part in asking so many of them to join the team—and they all worked together with Mark and me to make it a healthy culture and fun place to “work.” We also love our church. I know that a change in jobs may mean a change in where we live. We accept that possibility, but it will be a very hard day when we have to walk away from the place we have worshiped and grown in our faith for more than two decades.
But there is an abiding peace within me that this is the right decision. And I’m confident God already knows the path ahead. So we are just going to do our best to be faithful day by day and see where we end up.
I’m a huge proponent of leaving well. Like a friend reminded me recently, “People will remember how you leave longer than anything you did while there.” I am planning to do everything I can to make this a smooth transition and not leave the church in a bad place. That means I will be continuing in a reduced capacity for a short season as we identify leaders and hand off responsibilities.
I would love your prayers for our family as we close out a chapter and trust God for the adventure ahead.