I think this is the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to do from this pulpit. I come before you today filled with both sadness and promise, informing you that I have accepted a Pastoral position at Grace Church in Erie, PA.
In May 2019, I began discerning the terrifying thought that God might be calling me from Wilson First Baptist Church. To say that I love this place with every fiber of my being is quite simply an understatement. I have known and loved this place as a family since I was 21. I met my wife in this church; I proposed to her in this church (literally); I announced the birth of both of my kids in this church, and dedicated them to the Lord here. Most importantly, I have preached the Gospel from this pulpit on every given occasion.
You have been part of every significant milestone in my adult life. You have watched me grow and given me grace while I moved from a young, energetic youth pastor (with lots and lots of crazy ideas) to the 32-year-old man that stands before you today. We have laughed together and cried together, and again most importantly, we have served Jesus together. Praying, worship and watching lives move from darkness to light; from death to life. Both sinner and self-righteous transformed. Baptizing people every year in Jesus’ name.
My heart beats for the local church. I love it and have tasted its beauty first hand. So as I sought the Lord for what might be next, part of my prayer was that God would allow me to remain serving His bride — utilizing not only the eleven years of Pastoral experience but serving His church with the creative design gifts He has given me.
The role that I will assume at Grace Church will allow me to serve, consult, and invest in more local churches than I ever thought conceivable. As a larger church, part of my role at Grace will be connecting with smaller congregations in need of partnership and guidance. I will also sit on the church’s strategic team overseeing the marketing, branding, and content creation for their new Leadership Institute — an accredited leadership establishment that will serve not only these smaller Regional and National churches but also the city of Erie.
Now please hear me. As excited as we are for this new venture, we are equally excited about the future of Wilson FBC. Admittedly, I can appreciate the struggle for excitement in these moments. It can be easier to be dictated by emotion and controlled by sorrow, focusing on that which is lost, not gained. But the reality is if God is calling me from Wilson First Baptist Church (which He is), that means I’m not the best man to lead this church into tomorrow. Instead, there is a more suitable Lead Pastor in store for the future of this place. I want to remind you that this church is one hundred and eighty-seven years old, not eleven and a half. God has faithfully preserved, restored, and revived a Gospel presence in this Region through this body for that long. So be sure that He will continue that in the years to come if you keep Him at the center. Wilson FBC is not Stephen’s church; it’s God’s, and it’s alive and healthy. It has strong leadership. It’s filled with young families and a vibrant community. People desiring to know God, be known by His family, and make God and His family known to the world. So whatever you do, don’t be like the rich young ruler in Mark 10 who walks away from Jesus sad over the things that he would lose. Instead, look to the faithful provisions of God and envision the future. Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Although positionally and geographically the distance will be different, the love we have for you will remain the same. Our last Sunday will be April 19. We love you all more than you know.