5 Years Ago Today

Five years ago today, my family of three was about to arrive in Tampa after a two day journey from Virginia. Five years ago today, Tampa became our new home. Today, my mind has been flooded with so many thoughts and emotions so I figured I’d share them in this post. Here they are in no particular order of relevance, completely random and completely candid. To be honest, they are all negative, but I promise it ends on a high note.

1. We were only 136 days removed from losing our second born son to SIDS. Read what I wrote 12 days after I buried him here.

2. Looking back, we should have waited to move to Tampa another 6 months. The move put my wife and I in sort of a shock. We still hadn’t properly grieved. It was too soon. We needed help and didn’t know where to look for it.

3. I didn’t really understand what I was in for upon moving to Tampa and planting a church. Had I known, I probably wouldn’t have moved. I’m really a coward when it comes down to it.

4. My thoughts about seeing Jesus redeem a city revolved around doing a little specific, intentional evangelism on a college campus and at various apartment complexes, and putting on a cool (relevant) worship service. I thought “If you build it, they will come”. Thanks for that one creepy voice guy in Field of Dreams. You were wrong dude…really wrong!

5. A great group of people joined me from Virginia to plant Aletheia Tampa, even though I had no idea how to lead them (I faked it pretty well and I’m a good salesman).

6. I had no idea what it meant to shepherd the church of Jesus…No freakin’ idea!

7. I had no idea how to shepherd my own family. Looking back, I elevated the ministry over my wife and son. I had no concept of what it looked like to pastor my first church (my family) before Jesus’ church (Aletheia).

8. My order of priorities looked like this: 1.my church plant; 2. myself; 3. my son; 4. my wife; 5. Jesus

9. Emotionally, I was a wreck, trying to deal with deep-rooted, unrepented-of idolatry issues that I never shared with anyone, only leading me to lash out in fits of anger and rage.

10. I was not fit in any way, shape, or form to shepherd the church of Jesus. My character should have disqualified me. My view of God was off. My perspective of the gospel was very limited. My view of Jesus’ church was very consumeristic.

But despite all of that, Jesus decided to let things run their course. Yes, I made a million mistakes as a young church planting pastor. Yes, I had to get beat down to a pulp a bunch of times. Yes, I failed horribly in so many ways. Yes, I shouldn’t have been pastoring a church plant. And yes, I deserved to lose everything in my life that was good. But over the course of the past 5 years, Jesus’ grace has changed my heart. The gospel’s power has sanctified me. I have grown to love Jesus above all. He has given me the desire to love and lead my wife and then my children as my first church. They are the priority. Next in line is the church. That is what Jesus has called me to lead secondarily to my family. It is not my identity, therefore, it’s success or lack thereof doesn’t determine my standing as a follower of Christ or even my standing as a pastor/planter.

In short, Jesus’ grace is all I have to fall back on when I look back at these five years. He has given me three beautiful children (two since we moved). He has given me a wife I don’t deserve, who has stuck with me during some dark times. He has allowed me to pastor a church that is full of people whose lives are being blown up by His grace. He has surrounded me with men who aren’t intimidated by my giftings and who will tell it to me straight. He continues to pursue me with His love and His grace, sanctifying me all the while.

He is a good God. These past five years are proof.

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