2011 has been one of the most eventful years of my life.
As someone who likes to plan and prepare things, I thought I had a good beat on where the Lord was leading me at the beginning of the year. And yet I can say that the majority of my days this year have been overturned by God’s sovereignty in ways that continually reminded me that He is in control of my life, not me. I feel like I have been living in James 4:13-16 and Proverbs 16:1-9 for the past eight months. Let me explain.
In December of last year, I met with my fellow elders for our elders retreat during which time I presented them the need for me to dedicate more time to developing the church planting network I started, called PLNTD. After much discussion and prayer, my fellow elders affirmed that call and encouraged me in the transition to move full-time into directing the network as it continues to be developed and launched. Also during this time, the door for ministry in Haiti was wide open, and I was dedicating a significant amount of time organizing mission work, creating systems to fund orphans, and forging partnerships for theological education of Haitian pastors. At the beginning of the year, it was clear that God was abundantly blessing the work locally and elsewhere.
Toward the end of February, our church encountered a great challenge. Without going into the details, a four month process of shepherding our church required the halting of all the work and plans I had in place for my life, PLNTD, Haiti, training church planters, and just about everything else. Because all my time and devotion was dedicated to leading our church through this difficult season, when it concluded at the end of May, I was not sure where to begin or what to pick up first. It was like starting over with a clean slate, knowing however that four months of what you had expected to take place never happened.
The last four months have been a season of slow transition. On the church front, we have been in the process of reforming, replanting, and relocating. In fact this Sunday is our last Sunday in a building our church has used since its start 27 years ago. After this Sunday, our church will be mobile for approximately 8 months while we move to a new location in the city with greater opportunity to impact our community, Southwest Florida, and the world for Jesus Christ. I could not be more hopeful and excited for the future of our church because of what God is doing right now in our body and through our body.
Also during this time, the transition that was supposed to happen several months ago where I would transition to full-time work with PLNTD finally took place from August to September. My plans are to remain with Grace as an elder and pastor, serving part-time and giving leadership over our missions, church planting, leadership development, and administrative needs. I believe that God has great things in store for our church and for our city, and I look forward to seeing what God will do to make His name great in this area of the country so devoid of the gospel.
Another development during this time was adding an additional full-time leader to assist me in building the network. PLNTD is in the middle of a two-year launch process, and some of the larger systems being developed require additional builders who can executive the vision. As I began to pray about this need, God brought into my path Johnny Grimes, an old friend who I first met at T4G in 2006. Johnny is an experienced church planter who stepped down from his role as pastor in January, during which time we began talking and praying about possibilities with PLNTD. After months of praying, talking, and then meeting up, we came to the conclusion that indeed God was leading him to join me in coordinating the network buildout. I’m trilled that God saw fit to add Johnny to the team lat month (September) and feel confident the the Lord will use his gifts and passion for church planting to fuel the mission and vision of PLNTD for years to come.
In the coming weeks, I hope to share with you more information about all that is taking place, especially with the vision of PLNTD and how you, your church, or your business can partner with us to train, resource, assess, coach, and encourage gospel-centered church planters who are both confessional and missional. I believe what awaits us in the coming months and years will be a massive investment for the sake of the Great Commission through local churches. And it is one I look forward to making with joy.
In summary, our church is experiencing renewal and reform as well as replanting and relocating. The network is moving forward with significantly more leadership and investment, involving many more people. Our work in Haiti is continuing with orphan care, training pastors, planting churches, and creating micro business opportunities. In fact, we had our first church partnership formed with Christ Fellowship Church in Bowling Green connecting with our church planting in Saint-Marc this past June. In the future, I hope to establish a regional network for PLNTD in South Florida to facilitate church planting, Porterbrook training, and formal theological education through a new SEBTS equipping center here at Grace.
If you think of it, please pray for me, for Grace, and for PLNTD. These are exciting days on the heels of some very difficult, painful months. I never want to presume upon God and what He will do in the future, but whatever He has in store for me, I want to gladly spend and be spent for the glory of Jesus, the advancement of the gospel, and the building of His church. Thank you for the encouragement, notes, and prayers I have received. I hope my blog will be a meaningful resource to you as I share what God is teaching me and showing me in seeking to live a gospel-driven life in the context of a gospel community on mission.