Jen and I shared some life-changing news this last Sunday morning at the end of our gathering.
We tried as best we know how to communicate that we sense a leading from the Holy Spirit to be sent by this awesome church family which we helped initiate and with whom we have walked these last nine and a half years in order to equip and lead a local church family elsewhere. It was with a profound ache in our hearts but with a peace we don’t understand that we shared this news, and we are grateful for the loving, affirming encouragement we have received.
When we started Westpoint, we started with the full intent of growing old with Westpoint. We were not looking to leave. We were not pedaling resumes. We have over the last year sensed an unsettling in our hearts that we could not explain. But we are very surprised to even be writing this, much like you might be surprised reading it.
Long story short is that someone recommended us to be considered for lead pastor of First Baptist Church of Booneville, MS. It happens to be the church family of which my brother and his wife are a part, which is not in and of itself significant except to say that is how they knew who we are. We know that we will be stretched to lead a beautiful people in a culture like which we have never led before. We pray that we will be able to equip and love and send a people eager to make disciples, live on mission, and equip future leaders to go and be the church from the most churched state in the country, Mississippi.
We have a peace in our hearts. We have sought the wisdom of a multitude of counselors. We have been affirmed in personal prayer and study of scripture. We look back and see some spiritual guideposts via a few relational experiences and God-sighting circumstances over the past year for both Jen and me. We have had so many people with the church family there who have prayed for a pastor to lead them to live sent locally and around the world. We have had the fervent prayers and full support of our elders. We simply feel like God is saying that He wants us there.
We don’t understand. But we have a peace that we don’t have to. It is hard to even proclaim excitement. But we have a sobriety that in past experiences has always indicated God’s presence in the midst of something.
We are sobered by the notion of moving our family there to learn the ways of Jesus in a whole new context as well as to think and live like a missionary among a people who are so familiar with the stories of the Bible they often find themselves, without intending to be, complacent and self-sufficient. And we sense the Spirit whispering as we lean in close that we have encouraged the church here in Central Florida to live sent, and now He wants us to encourage His church in Mississippi to do the same.
I will also continue to write. I will still continue to support and serve church starters and missionaries in Montreal, Quebec in partnership with NAMB. And I will begin exploring relationship with Mississippi Baptist church starting leaders as well as exploring partnership with the Launch Network for new churches.
The bottom line. We hurt at the thought of leaving. And the culture of Westpoint isn’t one in which there would be hurt for leaving SOMETHING, but rather SOMEONE. We hurt to leave the beautiful, caring people with whom we have been being the church together and living sent daily. Who have cheered with us over the births of our children. Who have stood beside us during the accident of my parents and the death of my mom. Who have supported us as we have tried to equip leaders both here and around the world. Who have endured so many long-winded teaching times on Sunday mornings. Who have prayed with us for the continued growth of our marriage. Who have welled up with joy with us at the continued growth of our family. And who have simply been our friends. Loving. Gracious. Forgiving. Beside us.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
We have a little time left together before we would move. It looks as though our last Sunday with Westpoint would be July 7th. We would then load up and move the following week. We hope to soak up this time with you between now and then.
As far as Westpoint goes, may she be even more committed to loving as we have been loved and living on mission unified by togetherness around sentness. Westpoint is led by a strong, Spirit-led pastoral team and vision team who are equipping others to think and live like a missionary here. A transition team is being pulled together to lead Westpoint during this transition on into the future of whatever God has for His local church here. They will begin exploring options and be regularly communicating with the Westpoint family.
In case you might be wondering – what about Jason’s dad? Doesn’t he live here, too? Well, he is moving to Booneville, as well. And as you might expect, he is grateful for how God would bless him during this season of his life to be in a town that contains both sets of grand kids. Twelve in all (at least for now). Both sets of parents are grateful, too.
Regarding Jen’s family, Jen and I will miss the blessing of living so close to them here in town. We will miss them very much, but they have been and continue to be so supportive and very affirming of this calling to equip in a more traditional setting.
Please pray with us as we transition. Thanks to all who have been praying and encouraging us through this decision.
-Jason and Jen