During the months of June and July, Grace had the privilege of sending the Wright family on a nine week sabbatical for the purposes of rest, renewal, and recalibration. Now that they’ve returned and reacclimated to normal rhythms, we had the opportunity to hear back about the fruits of the sabbatical time. Below is an audio recording of an interview with Danny and Charity, facilitated by Jason Kerns.
Below is the letter from Danny regarding his family’s upcoming sabbatical that was read at LIFEgroups during recent elder visits. In the coming week, we will add at least one additional post with answers to questions covered during these visits. In addition, at the end of this and future posts we will provide ways in which you can pray for Danny and Charity and the kids during their sabbatical.
In 2006, I heard John MacArthur share on the benefits of 30 years in ministry at one local church. (That means he is now up to 40+ years at Grace Community Church!) This was the first time I was really introduced to the idea of a pastor staying long term in one location. Growing up, it seemed pastors either were only in the church for a few uncomfortable years that everyone was anticipating would end (either by the pastor’s choice, or the congregation), or just about the time that a church felt comfortable with their pastor, he would announce to the congregation he was moving on. This created a constant instability. Either you knew your pastor was struggling and wondered when he’d be gone, or you felt the pastor was flourishing and wondered when he was moving on to something “bigger and better.” But what MacArthur was sharing was different. There was a beauty and peace to the stability he was describing, both for the congregation and in the soul of the pastor.
We had just made the transition to me being the Teaching Pastor at that time. I remember returning from the conference and speaking of my heart’s intention to stay at Grace for the long haul. I was convinced that the greatest challenges and greatest fruit would come through serving in one congregation. I remain drawn to that vision. It hasn’t waivered.
Interestingly though, not everyone was thrilled when I shared this vision. Several people came to me and told me they thought it was presumptuous that I would declare I’m staying for life. “What if the church doesn’t want that? Is that really your decision to make?” they asked. Their questions bring out an interesting tension. The day is coming when my ministry at Grace will come to an end. That decision could be made by the Lord in taking me home. That decision could also be made by the elder team, as we would discuss the need for a transition. One of my fears in ministry is that I will outstay my welcome and usefulness to the church. I have regularly reminded the elders this is a conversation we will need to be proactive to have and not wait until it is awkwardly obvious to all. That said, we’ve never come close to that conversation, and quite honestly, I’m praying it’s at least another 15 years from now!
My heart’s desire is to stay for many, many, many years to come. That said, I recognize that decision is not completely mine to make. Whether initiated by me or by other elders, they day may come when we begin to discern a different calling for the Wrights and for Grace. My highest calling and responsibility is not being on staff. The day may come when serving my calling as Charity’s husband or our children’s father may require that I step away from my current position. Those are all realities that could be around the corner, realities which you and I cannot currently see. And for that reason, it seems irresponsible to absolutely promise I’m not going anywhere.
That said, these are realities are around hidden corners. I don’t anticipate or see anything in sight that gives me pause. It’s not just that I don’t see anything around the corner, I don’t know that I even see a corner up ahead! I’m pretty sure the elders would share the same thing. I’m not aware of any significant frustrations that an elder has with me, other than some of their wives don’t appreciate my excessive use of puns from the pulpit! My wife and kids are happy and enjoying this season in ministry. I believe in all integrity your elder team can look at you and state it is not out of any hidden reason, or unusual concern of unhealthy conditions (We are all unhealthy in some fashion, that’s why I used the term “unusual concern.”) that we are taking this sabbatical at this time. Our desire is that this sabbatical is in preparation for a long and fruitful season ahead!
How to pray during the Sabbatical
- Safety and health for the Wrights during this time.
- Pray that the Wrights experience rest, renewal and even repentance where necessary.
- Pray that the experience of so much “family time” would be a formative (and enjoyable) time for all.
- Pray for the elders and staff as their load increases, and for those who also help out in unique ways.
- Pray that Danny would be encouraged both by his “replace-ability” (the Lord builds His church, not Danny) as a pastor at Grace, but also would rejoice in his unique calling there.
- Pray that Grace would see in fresh ways how the church is more than any one person’s ministry, yet also rejoice in the unique role He has given each of us at Grace.
To that end, pray that the mission of Grace would continue to move forward even as we experience a unique season.
A Theological Response
If theology is the study of God, then church planting should be a reflection of who God is in His essence. Since God is, by nature, pervasive, we would anticipate that His church would be as well—continually stretching into new arenas and bearing new fruit (Col. 1:6).
But more to the point, God Himself is a God of pursuit—He is missional. He pursues His people—He saves, redeems, restores and renews them. He is at the center of that salvific activity. From Abraham to the new covenant God has always revealed Himself and pursued His own (Lk. 15:1-10, Matt. 11:27). And so, when His people go they bear the heart of their Father (Mt. 28:19, Acts 1:8, 2 Cor. 5:20, Gen. 12:3).
More to the point, God has always had design to fill His earth with His image bearers (Gen. 1:28). When His image was tainted in His people by sin, He made them righteous again (2 Cor. 5:21) and appointed them ambassadors to engage His world (2 Cor. 5:20). From the beginning God has had a design to fill His world with His image-bearers.
New churches reflect this design of God as yet another square inch of God’s world is reflecting His glory back to Him. Not only are these new churches typically more effective at making converts who bear God’s restorative work, but the churches themselves, faithfully proclaiming God’s truth, image the progress of the gospel in new areas and to new generations.
A Pastoral Response
“Engaging” has always been the hardest of the five core values that we hold to. As a church, our history of growth has been marked by waves of transfer growth from other churches—first from Faith Baptist, then Bible Fellowship, then from the various German Baptist fellowships. This was God’s design for Greenville Grace, and we’re thankful for what He has wrought in our midst.
There have also been a steady stream of conversions, but these have not been the majority of our growth throughout the years. Partially, this is a reflection of our area—everyone goes to church in Darke County, so they had to transfer from somewhere, right? But we are trending more toward the “established church” model mentioned above.
Consider also that our building doesn’t suit us as comfortably as it once did. While Sunday morning service attendance remains manageable, consider that the perception may be that our services are “too full” and keep new comers from attending. Furthermore, our children’s wing is consistently filled to near capacity or slightly above capacity. Remember, if a visitor doesn’t see space to attend and participate, the likelihood of their staying is slim. All of these show us that we either need to build or plant—inaction is a missional problem, a fundamental rejection of our own stated values.
While we might tend to think that church planting is really about another group of people in another community it is truthfully about us too. We will be stretched and developed as a sending community. In sending out those whom we love, we bear the cost of mission–financially, emotionally, and numerically. Make no mistake: Planting a church will require sacrifice for both the sender and the sent.
Jesus tells us that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also (Mt. 6:21). In sending out a church plant, we anticipate that God changes our desire as we sacrifice to that end. As we sacrifice, we might also treasure something new, and thereby gain in our giving. This is how Jesus tells us its better to give than receive (Acts 20:35).
On a very practical level, imagine a good friend at Grace leaving with the church plant—every mention of their name, every picture you have of them will become a reminder of God’s heart for the lost. It’s been said that you don’t step into the same stream twice. I pray that this church plant will change Greenville Grace and inject a revived sense of mission into our veins.
When all of these reasons accumulate in our mind, they should drip down into our chests as well, producing in us a desire to see many churches—imaging His glory, proclaiming good news to those who need to hear it. When our thoughts reflect the heart of God, our hands should go to work. This is what we want to see in Troy, Ohio: not just another functioning body with a budget, and leadership, and a band. Rather, we want to see Jesus clearly proclaimed from another pulpit and imaged in its people because, in so doing, we will see God honored and glorified.
The natural question to ask when we mention the topic of planting a church is “why?”. Why plant a church? After all, there seem to be plenty of churches (especially in Darke County). So, why do we need more church bodies?
There are many answers to this question and I think its worth our time to investigate more of the “why” aspects of church planting before we really dig into the “how” of a church planting plan. And so, I’ve broken down my response to the “why’s” of church planting into the following categories: a scriptural response, a pragmatic response, a theological response, and a pastoral response. Read more
The Elders are excited to announce Jason Bloomingdale as our choice for the Youth Ministry Position. Please take a few minutes to watch the video above to hear his testimony and learn a little about who he is. The elders welcome your feedback: they’d love to hear what you think and how you might be encouraged, or challenged by this decision.
Sunday night at our church family meeting Jodi and I announced (with the support of our elder team) that we would like to plant a church campus in a surrounding area. For reasons, which I intend to explain in this post, we want to extend Greenville Grace to another community within a 20-30 minute radius of Grace within the next 1-5 years.
I know that this likely leaves many of us with a great deal of questions; where? When? How? Unfortunately, we don’t know the answers to those questions yet. In fact, we want to get word out about this plan because we’re inviting feedback. We want to start the discussion concerning sending people and resources to another community with a view to starting another church there. We thought you might be able to help us find a few of those answers. Read more
4805 Ohio 49 South
Greenville Ohio 45331
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