The Next Chapter
There are sometimes in life when you make decisions that are obviously “God’s Will”. Other times, you make decisions because you have no other options. And, sometimes, you look at all of your options and you simply make a choice that seems best.
Ashley and I have recently made a decision that falls into that third category. After months of consideration, we have decided that I will be taking a full-time job at Sanctuary to prepare for the next stage of my career and our life.
We have felt a stirring in our hearts for several months now, knowing that change was on the horizon for us. Many of you know that I have been working as a part-time associate pastor at Sanctuary (and formerly The Life Connection) for several years now while I have also been serving as the lead pastor at Emmaus Road Church. We have felt like it was time for a change, to simplify our lives, and it seems to make sense for us and for the community for us to make this change.
At the same time, while Sanctuary was in discussion with me about going full-time, they also were really interested in Emmaus Road joining the community at Sanctuary, and the board of Emmaus Road Church has decided to accept Sanctuary’s invitation. The Emmaus Road church body will also be joining Sanctuary starting this week.
Let me be clear about something: this was a choice. We were not forced into this decision. Emmaus Road could have kept going for a number of years. We also had some other potential options present themselves about the same time that we decided not to pursue in favor of the Sanctuary option.
When we first started this church, we were doing things that very few in our area of the country were doing. We were a small group of people from Evangelical and Charismatic church backgrounds who were incorporating liturgy into our worship gatherings, celebrating the arts, and engaging with some of the cultural questions raised by postmodernity. In this we were also very distinct from, and a unique voice to our parent church, The Life Connection.
Over the years, The Life Connection has also changed, beginning to adopt somethings that looked very much like what we were/are doing at Emmaus. In October of last year, The Life Connection merged with Sanctuary, another church in the Tulsa area. The new merged church adopted the name “Sanctuary.” Sanctuary has a very rich liturgical (while still Evangelical and Charismatic) culture. They are not afraid to ask some of the difficult cultural questions, and creativity is very important in the Sanctuary context.
When this merge happened, I knew that the door would be opened for Emmaus to have a greater relationship with our parent church, but I was not sure on what level this would happen. As we are now just shy of a year into it, I am confident that the folks at Emmaus Road are a perfect fit to join the Sanctuary community.
While I feel this to be exciting news, there is also quite a bit of grief associated with a change like this. This will be different. I want to encourage us to embrace the different. The people at Emmaus Road will have many more opportunities now than we have had previously, as well as the chance to meet and interact with a broader community of people.
Emmaus Road is not “closing”, “folding,” or “ending.” We are “joining” a vibrant community with values that are in-line with our own.
I think that you will find yourself very much at home at Sanctuary’s services. They are a warm and hospitable group of people. They take communion every week, weave liturgy into the weekly worship gatherings, and I believe that any recent sermon at Sanctuary could have been preached at Emmaus (and visa versa). You will see me every week (I usually lead communion or the announcements each week, and my role on the preaching team will increase).
In addition, we had some further confirmation just this week. For the past few months, Sanctuary has been in search of a new youth pastor. When we knew the board had made this decision, I recommended Ryan Boyls. And, sure enough, Ryan will come on Sanctuary’s staff to be the full-time senior high youth pastor! Exciting stuff.
We hope to launch the current community of Emmaus Road into small groups that will be under the covering of “Sanctuary Lifegroups” (a department which I oversee), and we also hope to retain our monthly game night and men’s/women’s groups. However, our goal is not to insulate “our community” but to invite more people from Sanctuary to these events.
The mission of Emmaus Road will never end, we will always be called to meet people “on the Road” and we truly believe that this is the best next step for this community.
Peace Be With You,