Brothers and Sisters,
I can hardly wait to see all of you this Sunday! After 8 weeks away on sabbatical it will be thrilling to worship our King together this coming Sunday morning as we start Philippians. Wednesday night was a great connection with several of you but Sunday will feel like a family reunion (without deviled eggs).
By God’s grace I began serving in vocational ministry as an 18-year-old and have been doing so ever since. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 22 years. What a privilege it’s been to serve as one of your pastors for seven of those years. All that to say going on my first sabbatical was a very strange experience.
The time you graciously gave me away enabled five things to happen. I’d love to share them briefly:
- Life Among the Nations: As you know, LATN is our new joint effort at being a church family God uses to reach the nations at ASU in increased ways. Providentially this partnership came together in the late spring and the sabbatical allowed me to devote two weeks to getting the word out about this great ministry. God is bringing the nations to Tempe as international students flood to study at ASU. What a joy we have to share the gospel with diverse people and give those who trust Jesus a vision for going home as missionaries! I was able to meet with friends outside our geographical area to tell them about the ministry and invite them to partner with us in prayer, sending volunteers and staff, and finances. One family graciously gave $10,000 to help get this endeavor started. A group of experienced missionaries will be visiting COM later this fall to pray about how they can get involved and do some training for us. God’s kind hand is on this fabulous ministry (please come to the Members Meeting on August 28th to learn more).
- Study and Pray: Since I was not preaching and teaching weekly, I was able to devote dozens of extra hours each week to reading and praying. God taught me a lot regarding the critical importance of walking daily with him, pursuing holiness in everyday life, and persevering in suffering. This time was a wonderful breath of fresh air for my soul. I especially enjoyed learning from a dead guy named JC Ryle. Check out his terrific books Thoughts for Young Men (free .pdf)and Holiness.
- Enjoy and invest in my family: I love being a pastor and can’t imagine doing anything else. Jill, Abby, and Micah are all partners in the gospel as we seek to enjoy and serve God together. We love the life God has called us to. But having me as a husband, father, and pastor does have its challenges, including atypical time constraints. My family and I had the privilege of spending 2 weeks in Colorado. I would study a good portion of the day and spend the remaining time with Jill and the kids. We’ve never been away that long before and deeply enjoyed each other. Frankly, this was time I’ll never forget. We laughed, saw new things, read the Bible, enjoyed meals as a family, and I tried to be fully present as a husband and father. Additionally, my brother and father are both pastors and we were able to study and enjoy each other.
- Bless other churches: As a church family we are committed to helping other churches. It’s such a joy to be a part of a church that does not care only for itself. Over the sabbatical I was able to do some training for pastoral residents, staff coaching, and preached at a sister church here in the Valley. Additionally, it was fun and helpful to visit fellow Gospel Coalition and SBC churches to encourage the pastors we have close relationships with. It’s amazing how much it encourages pastors to show up at their gatherings, affirm the work God is doing, and pray with them. I served others as an extension of your love and support for the Church.
- Develop classes for our new seminary-accredited internship/residency: A dear friend, who pastors in the west valley, and I have had the dream of offering interns and residents seminary credit for the terrific work they already do in the churches we pastor. Additionally, the hope has been to allow fellow Arizona Chapter of The Gospel Coalition pastors to send their interns and residents to study with one of our churches but serve as interns with their home churches. Many of you know we’ve been working towards realizing this God-sized dream for several years. It’s a joy to share with you that a few days after the sabbatical began, Phoenix Seminary agreed to form an alliance and allow us to offer an entire year of master’s level seminary credit at Church on Mill and Trinity Bible Church. Through this unique partnership, interns and residents will get top-notch biblical training and hands on experience in the exact same church environment. This rich approach to pastoral training did not exist when I was in seminary and would have been extremely helpful to me. Well, Church on Mill, we now get to do this together! The last three weeks I worked on developing the syllabi for these courses, which will begin with five interns at Church on Mill later this month. The time needed to develop the courses once the seminary’s board agreed to the program would have been impossible under normal ministry circumstances, but God knew and worked it all together for good in his kind providence.
Thank you, Church on Mill, for providing this helpful change in the rhythms of life. Through your kindness and by God’s grace, I feel spiritually refreshed, excited for the fall, and confident that God is blessing us as a church in genuine gospel-advancing ways. The Transition team, staff, personnel team, and church members all did amazing work in carrying on faithful ministry this summer. Thank you for your love, sacrifice, and thoughtfulness!
See you Sunday if not before,