“Go, therefore, and make disciples.” It is a phrase you have doubtless heard a thousand times if you are familiar with church. Yet, I have not quite felt the weight of those words like I do today.
In this season, what does the “therefore” mean? And where does the “go” mean?
When I was seven years old, I told my Mom and Dad I was going to be an astronaut preacher. My kiddish innocence was showing. I did not know that there were no pulpits on Mars, no pews on Jupiter. I was just a newly-adopted son of God with a tenacious plan to share the good news with the universe, aliens included. It was not because I was fascinated to find those extra-terrestrial beings; for I did not even know if they really existed. What drove my desire to become an astronaut preacher was my subconscious, elementary philosophy of ministry: we have good news, and it is our job to tell people about it.
For nearly twenty years, I did not know what it meant for me to go, therefore, and make disciples, though I knew I must do so. My understanding was shaped and formed over the years by a litany of conversations with family, sermons, part-time jobs, meetings with mentors, quiet times, classes, ministry groups, and lots of monotony in between. There were other events –– pivotal moments –– that led to where I stand today. A move to Maryville, a move to Murfreesboro, a John Piper sermon, a woman who became my wife, a mission trip, a couple of coffee shop appointments, a move to Knoxville, a Sunday at Fellowship Church.
All of these (and more) make up my therefore. The Potter molds the clay, sometimes with ease and sometimes with exertion. What has not changed is the fundamental truth I have known since I was seven: we have good news, and it is our job to tell people about it. To be a Christian is to figure out what our therefore is there for and to do something about it.
When I was fifteen years old, I watched out of the car window as our entire lives crossed the Louisiana state line with a no-return trip to Tennessee. I never thought I would leave Texas. It was home. Tennessee was outer space, for all I cared, and I wasn’t interested in meeting the aliens.
That sentiment didn’t last very long.
When I was twenty-six years old, my wife asked me, “At what point does a place you move become home?” I did not know how to answer that, but I did know that this Texan-Tennesseean found it too difficult to plant only one flag in the ground. It brought tears to my eyes.
Today, I can feel the spirit of my seven-year-old boyhood reviving. I have good news, and I want to tell you about it. I’m going to become an astronaut preacher, with less rockets but all the adventure. In some ways, it is time to leave home, and in other ways, time to go home.
My wife and I are excited to announce that I have accepted a position as Student Pastor of Northlake Church in Lago Vista, Texas. After months of searching, interviewing, praying, dreaming, and planning, we believe that in Northlake we have found a church family whose vision and values reflect our own, and we are excited to explore life in a new ministry context (student ministry) and in a new place (Central Texas). We are so grateful for Mike, elders, and staff, and their willingness to partner with us in the gospel.
The main reason we have chosen to embrace this new opportunity is because we believe, in these moments, that it is how we can obey that Great Commission most accurately. It is going to be really hard to say “goodbye” to Tennessee. Perhaps even harder for Hannah, who has never associated another state with “Home.” Yet, we desire to be faithful, even when it stings, and though there are tough days ahead, so there are also very sweet ones. We have good news, and it is our job to tell people about it. Sacrifice. Joy.
To all of you who have stuck with us along the way, encouraged us, affirmed us, poured into us, and shared in our sufferings with us, we owe you so much that we will be unable to repay; we only hope that you feel God’s warm smile on how you have impacted us. So many of you have been like “trail magic” to us, small but significant comforts and blessings along the way. Our families have been immensely supportive and steady in these decisions, and for that we are grateful. We would continue to covet your prayers as we have lots to do over the weeks and months to come.
We have made the decision to leave Tennessee, but that does not mean we leave it behind us. It will always be there, in some way. It is a part of us. It is “home” in many ways. It has shaped us in ways we are not even aware, and prepared us for the days ahead. And therefore, we go.