I have always liked big churches. I realize that’s not really the “in” thing to say, but it’s the honest truth.
What I like about big churches isn’t necessarily spiritual, just personal. I like the resources big churches have to do big things for God. I like the momentum big churches have to keep moving forward rather than getting mired in the past. I like the excellence with which big churches tend to do things. I could go on, but you get the point: I like big churches. But I have never been a part of one. In my 23 years of ministry, I have only served in two churches, both of them definitely on the smaller side of the scale. And that has been very good. I have never felt the need to trade up or look for a role in a big church. I have always liked big churches, but I have never felt the need to leave smaller-church ministry in order to be part of big-church culture.
But early in the summer of 2016, God called me to a big church. I don’t say “God called” lightly. I believe firmly that God does involve Himself directly in our lives, guiding and leading us, but when you get to know me, you’ll know that I avoid spiritualizing my decisions with “God said” and “God told me” kind of language. That kind of label I reserve for those rare (for me at least) instances where God’s leading has been unmistakable. And this was one of those cases: God called. I didn’t even apply for the job! And yet, through a variety of circumstances, God made it clear to the search team of this church and to my family that this was His will. Coletta (my bride) and I actually sat down one day in the middle of the process to write down the specific events and circumstances that seemed to have His fingerprints all over them, things that were making us think that He was at work in this. We got to 34 separate things before looking at each other and saying “well, that seems a little too clear to ignore.”
And so I became the senior pastor of Missions Hills Church in Littleton, Colorado.
Accepting this call has required me to say goodbye to Ridgeline Community Church, a church where I have served in a variety of roles for the last 20 years. This is a church that I love deeply, full of people I have been blessed and honored to serve. Ridgeline isn’t a small church, at least not by national averages. Barna says that the average church in the U.S. has an attendance of 89 people. As I leave Ridgeline, our weekly attendance is closer to 400, which puts it in the top 10% of US churches. So it’s not a tiny church, but it definitely feels small when compared to churches of 2,000+ which is the threshold of the so-called “mega-church”.
And that’s where I’m headed. To a mega-church (and then some).
You might be wondering how that happened. How did I go from leading a church of 400 to leading a mega-church practically overnight? I already told you: God orchestrated it.
I believe that with all of my heart. Sure, there are other parts to the story. Humility, education, experience, preaching ability, leadership style…these have all been mentioned more than a few times in the candidating and call process…but at the end of the day, any of these qualities I possess have been worked into me by the Holy Spirit and it is God’s orchestration alone that has led to this radical pastoral change. And at the end of the day, that’s what I am clinging to, because here’s the honest truth: I have no idea what I’m doing.
I probably shouldn’t put that admission out for public consumption. It’s probably not a good PR move, but I’m going to say it anyway. Because it’s the truth and truth always trumps PR. PR might obscure the truth for a while, but truth always ends up leaking out.
So here’s the truth: I don’t know much of anything about big churches. I don’t know how to shepherd a staff of 70+ people. I don’t know how to love and care for thousands of people. I don’t know how to navigate complicated org charts or deal with any of the thousand or so things that seem to be part of the landscape of a mega-church.
But I start this week, so I guess I had better start figuring it out!
My one rock-solid anchor point in all this is the confidence that God has called me to this. I didn’t go looking for it, didn’t leap at the opportunity, didn’t cut corners or compromise any of my integrity in the candidating/discernment process. God orchestrated and I have obeyed. I am clinging to this truth because I know that where God guides, He provides.
So He’ll enable me to figure it out, or at least to figure it out enough to do what I’m supposed to do: lead the church to accomplish the purposes for which God has called us together. And I won’t do it alone. There are numerous godly men and women I will be working alongside and lots of people I will be turning to for wisdom and advice. So we’ll figure it out together.
But from here, on a Sunday afternoon before the week that leads up to my installation weekend as the senior pastor of a mega-church, the magnitude of what I don’t know is pretty intimidating.
OK, big breath…