It’s official. My new assignment is Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. The church voted to call me as their senior pastor yesterday. Cheryl and I are excited.
Immanuel launched as a church on February 1, 1909 with 33 people. Today the church sits on a 22-acre campus located in the heart of Lexington, Kentucky and in close proximity to the University of Kentucky campus. It’s building has 217,000 square feet of usable space. The recreation center houses two full-size basketball courts, an indoor-walking track, aerobics room, cardiovascular workout room and a full- service café known as the Solid Rock Café. They have soccer and baseball fields.
Immanuel has a strong staff who seem eager for leadership and are already functioning as a healthy team. More than that, Immanuel’s people have a heart for missions and service and they truly want to reach Lexington for Christ. Immanuel has a great mix of seniors and youth, and I look forward to learning how to bridge the multi-generational gap for more effective ministry.
Although Immanuel’s weekly attendance is considerably smaller than my current church, I have never seen a church with more potential!
You may be wondering, what about my current church – and – have I abandoned church planting?
A couple weeks ago, I shared with the church I planted, Grace Community Church, that I was resigning. Leaving Grace is one of the hardest decisions Cheryl and I have ever made and it will always hold a piece of my heart. Grace started with 11 core families and a staff of 3 in our living room about 7 years ago. We’ve seen God do extraordinary things, now averaging over 2,600 in our worship experiences each week.
Grace is in good shape for the future. I don’t believe I would sense God releasing me otherwise. In the providence of God, I recruited a partner in this, my second, church plant, but the church was never built around a person. It is fully equipped to lead without me. The staff, who are some of our best friends in ministry, is strong and the team dynamics are extremely healthy. The best days are ahead for Grace.
As for church planting – I still love it and always will, but what about church revitalization? To me it’s the same heart. My heart is to see people come to know, love and be like Jesus. I love how that is happening in church plants around the world. As long as I’m breathing I’ll be encouraging church planters and assisting new church plants.
But, what about the older, established church? Who is going to help them thrive again? My heart breaks for church histories, church buildings, and bodies of believers who are mostly being underutilized in their Kingdom potential. I want to play a part in helping an older church see new life. I will begin knowing it will be harder work at times, but confident God is able to work His will in Immanuel through my leadership.
God has been at work at Immanuel for over 100 years. I feel unworthy, humbled and honored to join them in their history, look forward to their future, and celebrate with them what I believe could be their best years still to come.
Prayers appreciated. We will start officially at Immanuel in mid June, but first we want to finish well at Grace, sell a condo quickly and buy a place to live in Lexington. Will you say a prayer (or two) for us in this transition?
Do you have any examples to share of older, established churches that have been revitalized?