(written August 16, 2009)
I’m sitting in our hotel room in DeLand, Florida reflecting on the last 4.5 months and thinking forward to Sunday, August 23. That is a day I do not look forward to. For 7 years and 2 months, we have worshipped with God’s people at First Baptist Church, Vidalia. That time is coming to an end. Only, they don’t know it yet. It makes me sad. Most of them will hear the news as part of Dan’s sermon on Sunday. Others will see it on Facebook later that day or read it on the blog that day.
I’m not sad because I question God’s call on our lives. I firmly believe God has chosen our family and Stetson Baptist Church to partner together at this time. But, I am sad because we will leave our FBCV family. The people in Vidalia have embraced our family. We have spent holidays with them. They rejoiced through tears on a Sunday morning in November of 2005 when Dan announced to them that Jonah was on the way. They held my hand and walked with me through the dark days of my dad’s 2-year sickness and eventual death. They gave Dan his first position as Worship Pastor and then trusted him again as they called him as their Senior Pastor. We love them!
As I walked from table to table introducing myself to people at the fellowship dinner last night, I heard their name and took their extended hand but I saw Vidalia. I saw faces of the people we have invested our lives in. It was in that moment that I realized just how hard this is and would prove to be. I know we will love the people at SBC and they will love us but I am concerned for those we love at FBCV.
We have friends in Vidalia. Some of my best friends live there. People there know deep and intimate details of my life, but right now, they don’t know this. That hurts. There was no way to narrow it down and tell a handful of people without hurting others. So, we risk hurting everyone. This stinks. I rest in the calling of God on our lives to make this move but there are still friendships involved and as sure as we are that this is right, we are sad.
Most of you will read this blog, see our Twitter & Facebook updates and be very surprised. You might think this came out of the blue because this is the first you have heard about this. Let me assure you, this did not come out of the blue for us. There has been a small group of people who have walked this journey with us. Those people are not members of our church but are our “wise counsel.” They had questions so I will attempt to answer some of those here for you.
1. Are you unhappy at Vidalia? No, we are not the least bit unhappy at Vidalia. We love the people there and we feel so secure in the love they have for us. As a matter of fact, one of the things that has been confirmation to me is that we ARE so happy. It is easy to make a move when things are bad and you are miserable. It is more difficult to hear God’s voice and follow Him when you are completely comfortable. God has blessed Dan’s ministry at FBCV and on some of those Sunday’s recently where we see 100+ visitors, movement during the invitation and a genuine excitement to be in God’s house with God’s people, I have wondered and asked God if He was sure this was the right decision. I’ve never questioned God so much in my life as I have the last few months. I love my life in Vidalia and that is solely due to the wonderful people/family we have at FBCV.
2. Is it fair to take Jonah away from the only home and church he has ever known? Trust me…this is KILLING us! Since we have been in this process for many months now, I have watched Jonah love on and be loved on by adults that would give their right arm for him. I walk away from those moments with guilt and sadness in my heart. I have watched him wrestle on the ground with grown men and think “If they only knew this was ending…” Then, I would secretly wipe the tears from my eyes. Truthfully, I know Jonah will adjust; it is those adults that I worry about. They honestly love him and care about him and it breaks our hearts to know they will no longer have that daily interaction with him. I can’t say if it is fair or unfair because when you are doing what God calls you to do, it is the right thing, but the right thing is not always easy.
3. How is your family handling this? Our family is excited for us but sad for FBCV. They are all used to living away from us and not seeing us on a regular basis so this won’t be much different for them. Rather than a 2-hour car ride, it will be a 2-hour plane ride. Their preference is for us to live next door and let them see their grandchild daily, but that isn’t the life God has called us to and they accept that.
4. Does the church staff at FBC Vidalia know? The Ministerial staff at FBC has known for a few weeks. Dan waited to tell them until the “Why Dan Glenn” night at Stetson. That was the night the church family there got to hear the heart of the Pastor Search Committee and have all of their questions about Dan answered. That meeting followed a day of Dan meeting the staff at SBC the week before. After those two meetings, Dan felt very confirmed in the leading of God and wanted our ministerial staff to be in the know. Leaving Stephen and Dusty is tough. God has assembled a great team and it stinks being the one to break that up. Those guys (and their wives) have become very special to our family and we count it a privilege to serve with them, play with them and do life with them. We plan to stay in close contact with them.
5. How on earth did you end up talking to a church in Florida? Who knows? We got a random call from the chairman of a Pastor Search Committee in Deland, Florida. Dan immediately asked how they got his resume and he was told they had requested it.
6. Is Max going with you? Yes, Max is going with us. His little world is about to be rocked! We saw an obedience school not far from our new house. Good-bye, doggie Prozac. Hello Obedience, School!
7. Is Jonah going with you? HA! Yes, since God gave him to us, we feel responsible for him. But, we promise to bring him back to visit and to make sure he knows all the people who loved and cared about him for the first 3 years of his life. After all, those are the ones who prayed him here! I have already begun working on a book called “People who love me!” for him. I’m making a photo book of all the special people in Jonah’s life who have been a part of the past 3 years. You have been so special to him and I will NOT let him grow up not knowing you.
8. What size church is Stetson? This is a hard question to answer. Stetson had a moral failure with the previous pastor. That happened over 2 years ago and the church lost some people due to that situation. The final count for today’s attendance when Dan preached was 967 people. We understand that is up some from the past year but down some from where they were before the issue with the pastor. The potential there is HUGE! There are TONS of people that have never been reached. There are 6 new neighborhoods within 1 mile of the church.
9. How many times have you visited there? We visited the first time in June after many hours of phone interviews. The Pastor Search Committee visited FBCV in July. We visited again the first of August and then were back this week in View of a Call. There were several hundred (literally) emails exchanged and hours worth of phone interviews in the midst of this process.
10. How long have you been dealing with the Pastor Search Committee? We started the process with them on April 5 of this year. That is when the initial email came from the chairman of the search committee. We took things very slowly because we wanted to be sure God was still leading at each turn. In mid-June, we were asked to come to FL in View of a Call. There were many weekends available but due to things on the FBCV calendar (Centrikid, Centrifuge, Baptism/Lord’s Supper, other staff out, etc) we had to push this date back to August. That was a VERY long time to wait and remain quiet while we knew how God was leading us. At the same time, we wanted to be completely honorable to the ministry God has called us to at FBCV. Regardless of how we felt God leading, we wanted to honor the commitments we had already made here.
11. Why did you choose not to tell even your closest friends in Vidalia about this as it was happening? This was tough! There were people who would have been fabulous prayer warriors and unwavering support for us during this process but until we were absolutely sure of God’s leading, we had to keep quiet. You see, if this ended up not being the direction God was leading, then those people would have been in an awkward position. And, how do you choose one family you are close to over another?
12. Did you buy a house? Yes, we put a contract on a house and are very pleased with it. We hope to close on September 14. We have plenty of room for you to come visit! J Jonah got to see it a couple of times this last week and has picked out his room. I know he will have a big adjustment but we are preparing ourselves to do whatever it takes to make it easier for him. Our new house is in a neighborhood with lots of kids (3 year old boy next door) and lots of sidewalks for afternoon walks and bike rides! The house was owned by a retired couple who built it in 2003 and took great care of it.
13. Where will Nicki work? I will be home with Jonah and available to do ministry with Dan. I am super excited about getting to play the wife/mommy role on a full-time basis and look forward to getting to do ministry during the day. I hope to substitute teach on occasion at one of the public schools as a way to meet people outside of our church in order to invest in their lives and have an opportunity to minister to them. This will only happen once I feel Jonah is adjusted and handling things okay.
14. How far away will you be? The distance is right under 800 miles. It is about a 13 hour car ride and less than a 2 hour flight.
15. If we come visit, what is there to do? First of all, there is a great church who is about to get a wonderful pastor! Besides church, we will be 20 minutes from Daytona Beach. If you are a beach bum or a NASCAR fan, then you will love visiting. Daytona Beaches are drive-on beaches meaning you don’t have to lug your stuff from your car to your spot on the beach. You just drive right up and claim your spot for the day. Love that! We will be 40 minutes from Orlando. You know what that means, right? Disney, Sea World, Universal Studios, WetnWild, etc. Or, if you are a nerd like Dan, “The Holy Land Experience!”
16. How could you leave FBCV with building debt after you encouraged them enter into a building campaign? (From Dan) Renovating the sanctuary has been a project that has been looked at and discussed since the days of Richard Lisk at FBCV. This is a project that needed to happen. I was just blessed to be the pastor when this project took place. I LOVE our new sanctuary. I love everything about it. I love the new foyer where people can gather and the community of FBCV can increase beyond the wonderful relationships that already exist. I love the new sound system that allows the message to be heard with more power and clarity. I love the multi-media system that allows us to do things like “Cardboard Testimonies.” I love the new evangelistic seating that connects our entire sanctuary and allows people from the balcony to come forward when they are making decisions to follow Christ. I LOVE the whole thing. Now, how could we leave at this point? First of all, this was the church’s project. I’m excited to be able to lead the church to what they feel that God has led them to do, and I can’t apologize for leading them to that end. Second, there’s the money thing. This project was not inexpensive. However, the church has already pledged over ½ of the total cost of the project. Nicki and I have discussed it, and even with our move, we will fulfill our commitment to the project. I would think no different of anyone in our church. Commitments were not made to a pastor; they were made to God. Those types of commitments should always be kept! I look forward to seeing how God moves in the completion of this building project. I look even more forward to seeing how God continues to move in the future of FBC Vidalia. There will be other building projects. I’m just glad that I will have a little piece of my heart in each one.
17. How do you know for sure this is the right decision? Knowing for sure is a difficult thing because you are talking about God’s will. Beyond God coming down and speaking in an audible voice, it is difficult to know anything in an absolute way. There are three things that speak to our lives as far as knowing God’s will. Circumstances, the truth of God’s word, and wise counsel. During this process, Dan threw several things at this committee that we felt would negate this whole process. Each time, we walked away and he would say, “if that didn’t scare them off then I’ll be surprised.” We would then get a phone call or email only to find out that his answer was even more confirmation for them that they were moving in the right direction. Whoa! He was never dishonest or tried to sell himself or his ministry to be anything other than what it truly was/is. I can speak to this question from an experience that I had. Dan had spent countless hours on the phone with the committee and I missed most of his conversations with them because of caring for Jonah. When we were there back in June, I was able to sit in on 2 three-hour interviews. They asked some TOUGH questions and before Dan ever answered any of the questions, I thought to myself, “He is who they are looking for!” It wasn’t until that moment that I knew for sure that this was right. It was then that I felt that God had created Dan just for this time in the life of Stetson Baptist Church. The circumstances that kept (and keep) presenting themselves to us are the very things that we know God has gifted Dan (and me) for. I felt the same back in late 2004 when I began to see God orchestrating the plan to move Dan from Worship Pastor to Senior Pastor at FBC. I, like many folks at FBC, could see how Dan’s giftedness seemed to be the perfect match for what FBCV needed. And, here we sit 4.5 years later knowing that was the right move.
18. We thought you were on vacation this whole time?!?! We didn’t lie. We were on vacation! It just so happened our vacation included a few special dinners and Dan preaching in two services at a different church. We did lots of fun things with Jonah on this trip and if you ask him, he was on vacation. He has no idea that we did any “business!”