One of the greatest joys of my life is being the pastor of a devoted, healthy, growing church. When the relationship with a pastor and church is strong, it is one of the best life experiences. The church feels gratitude because of the pastor’s work, sacrifices, teaching, and impact on lives. The church, because of this gratitude, responds with trust and follows the vision with faith. God begins to do things that are bigger than anyone imagined. The pastor feels overwhelming thanksgiving towards the church that has loved her or him. The pastor’s family is cared for, the pastor’s vision is supported with help and finances, and the pastor is allowed to be a real person. Because of gratitude, the pastor dreams bigger, cares more deeply, and pours out even more for the sake of the church that he or she loves.
This has been my experience at Covenant Grove Church. We are not a perfect church (and we constantly remind people of this fact), but we are willing to work through conflict and authentically love each other. This church has changed my life, and I am so thankful to God for the people who are in our church family. Covenant Grove has loved me when I was barely sure that I wanted to be a church planter. We started in the middle of the Great Recession, a time of great uncertainty, but this church believed in me, my vision, and my calling. Even when I would exasperatingly say, “I am not really sure I know what I am doing,” people would reply, “That’s OK. We believe in you.” Their faith in me helped me believe in myself. Their encouragement built me up, brick by brick.
Covenant Grove has loved my family. My kids are allowed to be normal kids (as “normal” as kids can be, and let’s be honest, since they are my kids they are not very normal). My wife was not expected to do typical “pastor’s wife ministry,” but was allowed to explore her gifts in many different areas. I have been provided for financially. When I asked to start a doctoral program, the church was not able to help me financially, but they provided additional days off for school. I have had many people ask about my family, care for my kids, pray for my spouse, and encourage me in school. Some people even want to hear my nerdy, academic rants about what I am studying. That is real love!
This church has unleashed God’s dreams for my life. I am a better person because of this church. I am more driven but more gentle. I give better advice yet listen more. I am willing to dream bigger while empowering others to be leaders. I love the person and leader I am becoming. I feel so much gratitude to Covenant Grove, and it only inspires me to do more and more for and with this church. I thank God for this church, this adventure of faith with such amazing people.
For all of you who have been on this journey, even if only in reading these words, thank you. I am so thankful for you. Happy Thanksgiving! I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us next.