Since one of these items is clearly more important than the other, I’ll go ahead and dispense with the lesser of the two first.
Last year, I started this blog with this extremely innocuous, probably-not-as-witty-as-I-had-hoped post. I followed that up with a whole slew of other posts, and I do hope that there were a few quality ones mixed in every now and again.
In light of my original tagline, I don’t think that I’ve posted as much under the “life” and “culture” headings as I may have initially intended. My own blogging interests seem to have skewed the content towards the Reformed Confessions and excerpts from theological writings. (In hindsight, Bavinck occupies a notable amount of space here, which doesn’t surprise me given my appreciation and affinity for his work.)
The biggest ongoing project that I’ve attempted, clearly, has been reflecting upon the contents of the Heidelberg Catechism in honor of its 450th anniversary. I’ve personally enjoyed doing so, though I doubt I’ve advanced the analysis of the catechism to any great degree. Mostly I’ve just added some devotional thoughts and brief observations.
But I’ve also been a little inactive on that front recently–and on the blog in general–which brings me to the primary, and more salient, topic of reflection: the Lord’s call to a new place of pastoral ministry.
When I began this blog, I was finishing up my fifth year as the senior pastor/head of staff at Bethel Presbyterian Church. Though I’ve been involved in ministry and leadership for about fifteen years and worked extensively with four congregations prior to this, Bethel was my first ordained call after my time in seminary at Gordon-Conwell.
The Lord worked in some pretty amazing and unexpected ways to bring us to Bethel, and it was clear that this was the place where he was calling me to serve in pulpit ministry at that time. The congregation was willing to follow the Lord’s lead and call a young pastor, and we have been blessed deeply by our time here. My youngest son was born here (well, at a hospital nearby, to be more precise), and it’s been an incredible place to raise our family.
It is a strong, loving, supportive, and faithful congregation, and we’ve seen some wonderful growth and maturation these past six years. We’ve begun new missions and ministries. We’ve prayed and celebrated and wept together. I’ve buried and married and baptized a lot of people in the community. (Not in that order, of course.) We’ve seen the Lord work to heal hearts, transform lives, and display the glories of his grace among his people as we labor to lift high the name of Jesus Christ.
But some months ago I began to sense that the Lord was calling me to something new. Through some events that only he could orchestrate–and following long seasons of prayer, fasting, and discernment–we became convinced that the Lord was asking us to serve him in a new setting.
In November, I’ll begin serving the Lord as the pastor/head of staff at Bellefield Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh.
Now, for someone born and raised just outside of Pittsburgh, and for someone who is excited about ministry in an urban, university setting, this is a thrilling opportunity. But for a Penn State alumnus with Nittany Lion pride, being the midst of the campus of the University of Pittsburgh can only get filed under the “Lord Works in Mysterious Ways” heading…
The past few weeks have been an interesting experience in dual emotions, but overall we’ve been blessed and humbled by the support and encouragement and love that we’ve received from both sides. I’ve been invited to more breakfasts, lunches, and dinners in the past two weeks than I thought possible (including days with all three), and I may weigh in a few pounds heavier when I arrive at Bellefield than when they last saw me. One of the hazards of the job, I guess.
I suppose one of the blessings of transitioning out during a “high point” (as opposed to being forced out due to congregational strife, boredom, or some other unhealthy factor) is the sense of love and appreciation that most people are taking the time to show. The corresponding challenge, however, is the genuine sense of grief that many–including our own family–are experiencing.
Yet the Lord is faithful, and as I shared in my sermon this past week, although some are nervous about what it will be like to have an interim pastor or weekly pulpit supply, we should all take comfort in the fact that there is no such thing as an “interim Christ” or “weekly Throne supply” because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), and he is the one who is the Head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18).
So I may be somewhat sporadic with my posts over the next month or so as we move into the city, get the kids settled into new schools, and begin to partner in the Lord’s work with the congregation and staff at Bellefield. I’m sure it will be a great, hard, easy, beautiful, joyful, exciting, tiring, fulfilling, draining, known, and unknown time all at once.
We are thrilled for this new opportunity and appreciative of the previous one the Lord set before us. We are sad to leave dear friends and looking forward to making new ones. We are grateful for the Lord’s leading, and we are prayerfully striving to be faithful to calling to exalt the name of Jesus Christ together with his people–wherever they may gather.
I wouldn’t have expected to write this a year ago, but I’m resting in the Lord’s strength as I do so now.
Who knows what I’ll write next year…