Yesterday I announced to my church a new season of ministry. Erin and I have accepted the call to Stevens Street Baptist Church in Cookeville, TN. We are excited, but the transition is bittersweet. We leave behind many good friends in Murray. I’m being sent from a great church with a heart for missions to another great congregation passionate about God’s global mandate to reach the lost. I was blessed to serve in Murray. I am now blessed to serve in Cookeville. Below is a letter that I wrote to my church. I am posting it publically on my blog as a way of thanking many people in Murray who have offered my family encouragement and support.
This transition is bittersweet for me. As most of you know, I announced on Sunday a new season of ministry for my family in Cookeville, TN. I am saddened to inform you my time as senior pastor of FBC Murray is coming to a close. I love what God has accomplished during my tenure at FBC Murray. I love the people—a church that works hard for gospel fruit. I know my departure will not hinder the work here.
Selfishly, I must admit my time here has personally benefitted me. Both FBC and the Murray community have taught me several life lessons.
I’ve learned how to be a dad. I become a dad here. Murray will always be special to me for that reason. Maggie will always be from Murray. She was born in the local hospital, and we all know that means she is connected here for life. Some of you have helped raise her. You are like grandparents to her. Not only did I become a dad here, I learned how to be a dad. I saw what godly fatherhood looks like. I’ve been surrounded by men who modeled for me what I’m supposed to do as a father. I was watching and learning. I’ll be a better dad because of Murray.
I’ve learned how to live in a small town. It’s no small accomplishment for this city boy. All pastors live a public life. A pastor in a small town is under a particularly strong microscope. Through Murray, I’ve learned how to be a better statesman and figurehead for the church, something you don’t necessarily learn by default in a big city. No Christian is called to live anonymously; we are called to a public testimony. This small town has challenged me to be more intentional about relationships and my witness.
I’ve learned how to have close friends in the church. Sometimes pastors have difficulty making friends in the churches they serve. I’ve had more close friends in Murray than in any other place I’ve lived. FBC has graciously given me the blessing of shepherding while also having close friends. Too few pastors experience this blessing. I do not take these friendships lightly.
I’ve learned how to follow. All pastors lead. It’s an inescapable part of being called to serve the local church. One of the most difficult aspects of leading a church is discerning when to follow and who to follow in your congregation. At FBC, I’ve served with and under the leadership of people wiser and more experienced than me—laypersons more spiritually mature and equipped with gifts I do not have. I still do not follow well, but I’m learning how to curtail a claim on pastoral authority to follow other servants who lead better than me in certain situations and environments.
FBC Murray is a great church in a charming town. I love it here. But God has called. I pray you will not view this transition as one of me leaving, but rather as one of you sending my family. Undoubtedly, I’m excited about the future and a new season of ministry. The transition, however, is bittersweet. While I will not have the privilege of pastoring here anymore, I will be cheering for my friends. I know the mission will never stop. And I know you will persevere, regardless of who stands in the pulpit. It’s one of the biggest reasons I love you.