Last month, Pastor Rich wrote an article called "How am I Experiencing Letting Go of the Role of Senior Pastor?" Like him, Eric and I are asked by folks all the time about our own experience of this transition process…. "How are you guys managing all of this unrest?!" or "I bet you never anticipated a pandemic in your transition year?!".
The short answer is that no, we never anticipated that our transition into Senior leadership at Vineyard Columbus would come along with multiple other once-in-a-lifetime events! And at the same time, we are doing well and grateful for the grace we've experienced in the midst of these uncharted waters. Here are several of the ways we're feeling God’s grace in the midst of transition.
The grace of the peace of Christ.
As followers of Jesus, most of us know what it means to experience the peace that passes understanding that Paul wrote to the Philippians about! There are times when we should feel worried, we should feel anxious, we should feel overwhelmed. And yet: God is guarding our minds and hearts through Christ Jesus. In this season, Eric and I have felt a very clear and deep sense of the peace of Christ. I'm often reminded that Jesus doesn't promise positive outcomes, or perfect processes, but He does promise to be with us in the midst of all of life's storms. By God's grace, His "with-ness" has been evident to Eric and me in the following concrete ways.
The grace of a great team.
Did you know that the Hebrew Bible (in 2 Samuel) references a group of guys known as "David’s Mighty Men"? They were 37 men who stood by David and accomplished some pretty amazing things together! The staff at Vineyard Columbus is made up of mighty men and women: from an expert, patient, generous operational ministries staff… to a creative, committed campus ministries staff… to a pastoral ministries staff full of folks who love Jesus, love the church, and love working together and serving you! In a troubled time, Vineyard Columbus staff has been a team that has stuck together, supported one another, and given their all to be a blessing during this uncommon transition year. And that gives us great hope!
The grace of a mature community.
Good fruit grows out of healthy soil – and the fruitfulness of Vineyard Columbus is the kingdom community itself: you! During a transition year that is also a pandemic year that is also a year where politics are turned up to a level not seen in my lifetime AND where certain social structures are being exposed, questioned, reformed, and (God-willing) transformed… it would be very easy for a community to decide to lean back. However, you have leaned in: toward generosity, toward relationship, toward service, toward connection, and toward new ways of being the church (even beyond the building)! The legacy of Rich and Marlene Nathan's leadership, of our small group leaders, of volunteers… is in part a mature community that is strong in soul, mind, and heart. We know that the soil here is good because the fruit of this community continues to be so good during a very hard time. And that gives us great hope!
The grace of a healthy family.
Like many families, ours is one filled with uniqueness, with highs and lows, with difficulty and resilience, and with a tremendous amount of ridiculous laughter. We've always been committed to having a marriage that's fun and a family that laughs hard – even through the rough patches. And this year has had a lot of weight – like for all families! COVID, school schedules, homeschooling, change, transition, stress, anxiety!!! You name it, we've felt it. We check in on one-another's spiritual and mental and emotional health, and we try to keep in mind the great advice an old friend gave us years ago about technology: "take time to unplug and cuddle". But we laugh more than we don't, we're honest with one another, and we actually enjoy hanging out together (most days at least). We feel God's provision for us in this season as a family, and that gives us – you guessed it – great hope!
The grace of a great process.
Let's be honest: leadership transitions are often filled with potholes and speedbumps. But we have experienced so much grace in this process. Eric and I not only personally enjoy our time with Rich and Marlene – we also feel so grateful for a two-year timeline that's allowed us to grow into this role, to learn from Rich at close proximity, and to slowly build relationship with the staff and church. As Eric and I have shared many times before, this is a role we tried to run away from! We knew then what we know now: leadership and pastoring is hard work! And we knew then what we also know now: for this to work, it has to be of the Lord. Unless God builds, we labor in vain. And we took this role believing that God brought us into it, not out of our own strength, but out of His. And while Rich is a remarkable leader in his own right, we know it's the same way He's led the church from day one: this is God's church, built by God's grace, for God's glory. We simply do our best to steward and serve God’s people in the midst of it.
So we've had a lot of grace! And even though this transition landscape is not at all what we imagined it would be – we know the Lord is near to us in it. God always brings us further into His purposes, He is always faithful, and He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow…. And yes, that gives us great hope!