After thirty years of being in Gaithersburg, MD, Sovereign Grace Ministries, the family of churches that I serve, is relocating its offices. I’ve been here since 1997, so it’s understandably a bittersweet departure. But I’m filled with faith for what God has planned for the future.
The Lord has been kind to us in Gaithersburg. We’ve been able to co-labor with Covenant Life Church to put on conferences of all types (including WorshipGod), host the Sovereign Grace Pastors College, and serve other Sovereign Grace churches in our region. For ten of the past thirty years we’ve shared a facility with Covenant Life. I have countless memories of rich relationships, encounters with God, and fruitful ministry here. And many dear friends.
But a potential move has been on the radar for a while now and numerous factors have moved it to the forefront of discussion. The high cost-of-living in the DC suburbs has affected not only our staff, but the 15-20 men who move with their families to be trained in our Pastors College each year. In light of the economic downturn, decreased giving, and wanting to steward our resources wisely, it made sense to consider a less expensive location like Louisville. But Louisville has more to offer than low cost living. It’s home to Southern Seminary. Being close to Southern will enable us to beef up our academic offerings for the Pastors College and possibly offer credits toward a Masters degree. Add in the more central location and the thoughts I list below, and Louisville makes even more sense. (You can read more about the reasons for relocating here).
But relocating our offices isn’t the only reason I’m moving. I’m also going on a church plant. In fact, one of the aspects I’m most excited about is starting a church, led by CJ Mahaney, along with a group of people I know, love, and respect.
Planting a church at 57 is a little daunting (can you say crazy?), especially since the last time I did this was 21 years ago. But as I’ve thought and prayed about the benefits of this move, my faith has only grown. Here are some things I’m looking forward to:
1. Ministry in and from the church: Sovereign Grace Music is songs from the church for the church. For a while now, my role has been more Sovereign Grace, less day-to-day local church ministry (thanks to Ken Boer, who assumed my position at Covenant Life about six years ago). I’d like to once again be leading as an elder in a church while also serving as the musical theologian/director for Sovereign Grace Music. Participating in a church plant will bring those two worlds together again.
2. Pastoring: I pastored for 12 years before becoming Director of Sovereign Grace Music in 1997. While I remained part of a pastoral team for ten years after that, I was rarely involved in pastoring people in the church in an ongoing way, other than on Sunday mornings. Participating in a church plant will put me back in the place of doing what God has placed deep in my heart – caring for his people.
3. Co-laboring with CJ: Apart from books I’ve read, my primary mentor through the years has been CJ Mahaney. Even though he makes no claim to being a musician, he gets what’s supposed to be happening when we worship God in song. The idea of being able to serve with CJ in a new church is very appealing, as it will give me more hands on experiences to draw and learn from. And I can’t wait to hear CJ preach regularly again, something we’ve talked about for years.
4. Long-Term Training: One of my primary goals in recent years has been to focus more intentionally on the training of worship leaders, songwriters, musicians, and studio personnel. I’ve run an intern program the past two years with Ken Boer and it’s been very fruitful. But I’d like to increase the number of people we can serve and mentor, both inside and outside Sovereign Grace. Louisville would provide a low cost environment to make that happen. On the studio side, I’m grateful that Steve Cook will be moving with his family to Kentucky, and will oversee our album production from Louisville.
5. Boyce College/Southern Seminary: At the invitation of my dear friend, Chip Stam (now with the Lord), I participated in the Institute of Christian Worship at Southern Seminary for a number of years. Southern is now in the process of retooling their worship program and making some great changes. Being in Louisville will enable me not only to engage with the college and seminary more consistently, but could also provide interns in the future. The folks at Southern have already been incredibly welcoming.
6. Nashville: Louisville is 3 hours from Nashville, which brings a large and influential musical population much closer. We have great friends in Nashville, including Sal Oliveri, Keith & Kristyn Getty, and others. I think good fruit could come from hanging out there a little more often.
7. Sojourn Music: I’ve appreciated my friendship with Mike Cosper, worship pastor for Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, for a while now. Our musical styles and approaches are different (I’m much hipper), but our biblical and gospel foundations are the same. It will be a joy to benefit more consistently from the Sojourn Music and the Sojourn church network, as well as other gospel preaching churches in Louisville.
8. Fresh opportunities for faith. If you had asked me five years ago where I’d be in 2012, my answer wouldn’t have included Louisville. But in the wisdom and sovereignty of God, whose purposes can’t be thwarted (Job 42:2), that’s where we’re heading. I have no doubt my faith will be stretched, and that God will prove sufficient for every task and challenge. I’m grateful that I take with me countless memories of dear friends here in Maryland and expectations of making many more in Kentucky.
I’d appreciate your prayers for the following:
1. that my family, and all the other familes that are relocating, would experience peace, faith, and joy in the transition process
2. that the church plant would quickly be known as a gospel preaching, gospel singing, gospel living, gospel sharing community of believers
3. that we would develop meaningful and fruitful relationships with other gospel-proclaiming churches in Louisville
4. that God would enable us not only to train musicians and leaders for our church, but for other churches and future church plants
5. that this move would enable Sovereign Grace Music to produce Christ-exalting songs and training for the local church more effectively