I wanted to take a few moments to express my heart and tell you personally about what God has been doing in my life.
Almost 3 ½ years ago we made a bold move to come to Kingsport and assume the leadership of a hurting and very broken church. In all honesty, I was scared to death and a little confused at why God had called me to such a difficult situation. But, one thing I have learned, God’s plans and God’s ways are certainly higher than my own. He had a plan that I could not see, and all God wanted from me was obedience, faith and boldness. In the past 3 ½ years we have seen God at work in ways that are beyond belief. We’ve seen God move us from a run-down schoolhouse to our current space that we were able to pay cash for, something young churches almost never do. We have seen God nearly triple the number of people who call Grace Church home. We have watched as over 500 people have discovered life in Jesus, 327 of those in the last 10 months. We have seen hundreds baptized. We have seen broken families restored. We have seen people set free from addictions. We saw over 5,000 people join us for the Easter Egg Drop this year. And, we have seen God create a place where people can find hope, healing and love no matter their story. What God has done at Grace Church is beyond belief and something only God can do. I assure you that what God has done is not due to any skills I have, it is due to bold faith and obedience to God’s calling.
God has been working in my heart in the last 6 months in a huge way. He has been challenging me in ways that are, in all honesty, very tough. God has been teaching me about radical obedience, radical faith and radical boldness. My hope is that you have caught these things from my teaching and my life during that time frame. What is often true about God is that when He is teaching you something, He is often preparing you to live it. And, that is exactly what God has been doing.
About 6 months ago God spoke quietly in my heart that He wanted me to begin praying about going to start a new church. Like most people, I argued with God. I kept saying to God, “There are enough churches…..” But, God did not let me alone. Over these last few months God not only spoke to me about starting a church, but He placed a deep burden inside me to put that church where there is a great need. For 4 of the last 6 months I did not share this with anyone, not even Allison. I diligently prayed and often fasted as I considered what God was telling me. About 2 months ago I finally shared my heart with Allison in anticipation she would assure me that I was not hearing rightly from God! However, she immediately believed and knew that this was in fact what God was doing in our lives. In full transparency for you, I was immediately heart broken, and sacred to death. This is exactly what God had spoken and it meant I have to be obedient. That obedience must be without contest, and with all of my heart. One thing I have learned is that delayed obedience or partial obedience is disobedience. I have learned that disobeying God never ends well. But, often our obedience to God means personal sacrifice and extreme faith.
In obedience I have taken the steps necessary to do exactly what God has spoken to me. After months of prayer, seeking counsel and wrestling with God’s call, I am going to be obedient. This means that I am going to be stepping away from Grace Church and will no longer be the Lead Pastor. That may be the hardest sentence I have ever typed in my life. I love Grace Church with all of my heart, and so does my family. We have poured our lives into serving the vision and the people of Grace Church. As I said before, I have wrestled with God over this decision. But, I cannot ignore God’s voice and I must be obedient. I am also convicted that if I am going to be bold enough to call you to be obedient and have radical faith, then I must be willing to live it out.
Over the next month I will be working with the leadership of Grace Church to make sure that a proper transition is in place. I will do all in my power to ensure that the DNA and the vision of Grace Church is preserved. The leadership that God has placed around me at Grace Church is amazing. They are Godly, selfless and bold. I can assure you that they are going to work harder than ever to watch over our church. In the next few weeks we will communicate regularly and with clarity about the next steps for Grace Church. Please be in prayer for wisdom, discernment and boldness in these coming weeks.
As for me and my family. God has called us to go to Austin, Texas. Austin is a an area with almost 2 million people, and over 92% of those people are far from God, and have no church. Austin is an exception in the south. We probably feel as though there are 500 churches for every one person in the South. In Austin there is roughly 1 church for every 6,000 people. There is a great need. God has placed that burden deeply in my heart. Austin is also known as the “church planters graveyard” because it is one of the toughest cities to start a new church. This is a huge step of faith and obedience for us. We are leaving the comfort of friends and family, the assurance of a paycheck and the familiarity of our church. We greatly covet your prayers. We need MANY prayer warriors paving the way for us as we go. We promise to keep you informed of our journey. You guys are all playing a part in seeing Grace Church’s vision, people far from God discovering life in Jesus, grow greater than the City of Kingsport.
We love you guys and are grateful that God has allowed us to share this season of life with you. I believe that God has greater things ahead for Grace Church. I believe that lives will continue to change every week. Change is the only constant we have in life, and this is no exception. I and my family are dedicated to continually praying for you all and for what lies ahead.
Thank you for the amazing honor of serving as your pastor for the last 3 1/2 years. It has been some of the greatest years of our lives. And, we know that God has more in store for us all.
Pastor Michael, Allison, Evan, Noah, Kaia and Karis