Dear Emmanuel family,
God tells us in the book of Ecclesiastes, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, . . . a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance . . . .” Over the last several months Jo and I have a been wrestling with God’s timing in our lives.
As we had been praying about how God wants to use us in the final season of our full-time ministry, we began to feel more and more that He might have a new direction for us. We thought this new direction was to be fulfilled at Emmanuel and we began to reflect on what that might look like. Around this time, I was approached by the present Regional Director, Bob Flemming, of our FEB Central Region (the region of the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches to which Emmanuel belongs). He asked me to prayerfully consider taking on the Regional Director role upon his upcoming retirement. At first Jo and I did not feel that God was calling us to such a dramatic change in ministry. But we also felt it was important to take time to pray, to seek godly counsel, and to wrestle with what God was saying to us through this request. Over a period of weeks, God made it clear that this was a door He was asking us to consider walking through. Though it was incredibly painful to think of ever leaving the Emmanuel family, we have now come to a place of conviction that it is God’s will for us to make this change.
We are writing this letter to tell you that, after several months of an interview process with FEB Central, I have been formally offered and have accepted the call to become their next Regional Director.
Some may be wondering if there is a concern or issue that has led to this decision. We want to assure you that is not the case; we love the Emmanuel family so deeply. My personal health is good; my passion for the ministry is strong. The Emmanuel staff, leadership and church family are united and healthy, and the Lord is doing so many incredible things in this community. Emmanuel Barrie is strong; Emmanuel Orillia is flourishing; and we are excited and anticipating the launch of Emmanuel Barrie North and the new Arabic work. The most difficult part of considering this change is the thought of leaving Emmanuel and the incredible bond of love and partnership we have with you all. We feel so blessed by God to have been able to serve the Emmanuel family for over 23 years and to be a part of an amazing team of leaders, staff and volunteers who are committed to the mission of the gospel.
With sadness, but with confidence of God’s call, we are letting you know today that as of March 29,my role as Lead Pastor of Emmanuel and Emmanuel Barrie will formally end. We can all take encouragement from the incredible God we serve and that He is sovereign in all things and makes everything beautiful in His time. We take comfort that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever and He is the author and finisher of our faith and yours. As we all keep our eyes on Him, I’m confident that He will finish the work He has begun in our lives and in the Emmanuel family.
The Apostle Paul’s words to the Philippian church in Philippians 1: 3-6 reflect my own heart towards the Emmanuel family: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Jesus is Lord of the Church and He will Shepherd us all every step of the way. It has been the greatest joy of Jo’s and my ministry life to serve God’s people here. Please know that you will continue to receive our deepest love and prayers in the days and years to come.Words really fail us to express how much you all mean to us. Your encouragement in ministry over these 23 and ½ years has been a special gift from God. We know Emmanuel will continue to flourish as you fix your eyes on Jesus, seeking to fulfill the mission of the church for God’s glory.
Soli Deo Gloria