I come to you as a congregation with news that will perhaps be difficult to hear. It’s hard to even know how to begin since I have never had to say goodbye to a congregation before. On Sunday, June 21st I traveled to visit family, but also to preach a candidating sermon at Evergreen Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Beaverton, Oregon. The congregation voted to call me as their pastor the following week. I have made the difficult and important decision to accept this call.
There are a number of reasons why my family and I feel called to this place, including the fact that we have numerous family members who live in the Portland area. Arryn has an Aunt and Uncle, another Uncle and aunt, and nieces and nephews. My own brother lives in the area. We also anticipate that Arryn’s mother may eventually come to live near us as well. We have lived more than 8 years apart from any family since leaving Kansas, and we can see in our own family’s life that this lack of family has slowly become more and more difficult to ignore.
The Gospel need in the Portland area is also quite real. I really hope that you as a congregation will come to see yourselves in all of this as sending our family to a difficult missionary context. The Portland area is a deeply secular place that is in need of consistent and biblical Gospel witnesses. I really do see Pearl as being partners in this type of missionary work, sending me with gladness, with continuing prayer, and with a zeal to see men and women, boys and girls come to Christ and made disciples.
Pursuant to all these things, the session is announcing that they have scheduled a congregational meeting for Sunday, July 12th immediately following the morning worship where the congregation will vote to request that Mississippi Valley Presbytery approve dissolution of the pastoral relationship between me and Pearl pending my being received into Pacific Northwest Presbytery. The session’s plan is for me to continue serving at Pearl through July 26th.
Making this announcement is difficult for me for a number of reasons. One thing that makes this difficult is that I am not telling you in the way I would prefer. I would rather we had returned to normal: no masks, no gloves, no real concerns about health or sickness. I want to greet you and even say farewell to you with hugs, with affection, and with visible expressions of love. 2020 has not exactly transpired the way any of us planned. It is a cold and clinical time and you are a loving and warm congregation. James reminds us that we should always say we will only do something “if the Lord wills it.” And I am still very much of that mindset. This whole year has been an illustration of that principle in living color.
Second, it is difficult for me because I have loved my time with you all. This church took me in when I was brand new out of seminary and was a fresh preacher. You gave me a chance, you put up with my Converse sneakers, and you welcomed this yankee into your church family with open arms.
You have loved me. And you have shown that love with action. Whenever members have heard of a need there have always been those willing to step up and help our family out. When my car became unusable members stepped up to help get me a newer one.
There is more: you have always received the preaching of the Word with openness and gladness. You have been a congregation with a willingness to hear the things of God even when they have been difficult; even when they may have hurt your feelings. This is no small thing. I have known fellow ministers whose churches beat them down, spoke with harshness and cruelty to them, and they endured such treatment for years as their congregations nearly drove them to despair. It is no exaggeration for me to say that when I tell other pastors about my time at Pearl they have expressed envy. I speak well of you all. You have treated me well, with the sort of love and honor that every pastor hopes he will receive, and that is no small thing.
Third, it is difficult because I have grown very close to many of you. We have become friends, even. I am saddened to think of how disappointed you all will be in me to see my family ministering in a new place instead of here.
You have shown love, charity, and care for one another, too. During times of sickness our congregation always rises to the occasion to care for others. I’ve seen it year in and year out. It is clear to me that this is a church that is dedicated to the Lord and bound by a strong sense of affection in the bonds of love. This is a church that shows forth the fruits of the Spirit. For all of these reasons and more, this announcement is difficult for me.
I remind you again of James’ words: “If the Lord wills,” we will go to Beaverton, Oregon. If the Lord wills. All things are bound by his sovereign hand. In the meantime, please continue to pray for my family. Pray that God would grant us peace. This is a tumultuous time for all the world, and our family feels that tumult as well. Pray for our children, that they would make Christian friends. Pray that they would be supported in the faith by this new church family.
In exchange for your prayer, I can promise you this. You will also be prayed for. I know for a fact that the session and congregation of Evergreen have already begun to pray for Pearl Presbyterian Church. I am praying that God would even now be raising up the right man to come and serve here when my time here is completed. Yours is a church that traditionally has ministers who serve long terms – longer than I’ve served. We will be praying for someone to come and serve you for a long fruitful season. We will be praying that God prepares his own heart, even now, to serve you with joy, with gladness, with zeal. We will pray that this church remains focused on the essentials of the faith; the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the Great Commission, and the importance of the Ordinary Means of Grace. I will pray for Pearl. I will pray for all of you. And in so doing I will remember that God knows exactly what His church needs exactly when she needs it. And He always gives that to us exactly when he knows we need it most.