Why I’m stepping back for 10 weeks

Why I'm stepping back for 10 weeks

Today during my sermon I announced that I am stepping back from the church for ten weeks.

For those of you who weren’t there, let me explain why and how it will work.

But first, some background.

Over the past ten years there has been so much positive, spiritual and Christ-centred growth at Westminster. It’s been awesome.

We’ve had a number of outreaches, celebrated many baptisms, and rejoiced as many people professed their faith in Jesus. We’ve expanded kids and youth ministry, expanded ministries in general, adopted a new leadership structure and term service for eldership, crafted new mission and vision statements, hired a Youth Coordinator and a Coordinator of Congregational Life, and started a small groups program (Vine Groups) which has been instrumental in people’s spiritual growth.

And those are just some of the things.

Literally hundreds of people have spent literally thousands and thousands of hours volunteering or serving in some way.

Plus, the church has also experienced net numerical growth every year for the past ten years. Think about that for a second. The average worship attendance has grown by more than 100%. There are now about 400 people including children who call Westminster their church home. Because of modern schedules we’re never all in the building at the same time, but it means the church has more than tripled in size.

I firmly believe that the next ten years will be just as amazing—or even more amazing—than the past ten.

But a couple of things need to happen to continue this positive and faithful trajectory:

First, I need to totally step away from the church for ten weeks.

Starting today (February 3) I will totally disappear from Westminster for ten weeks. The reason for this is because, to be honest, I have become exhausted and overwhelmed. As I just mentioned, there are a lot more of us, and there are more demands and pressures. And the running of the church has become more complicated. We are now a larger church operating as a smaller church, when we need to be a larger church operating as a larger church. Plus, as we have grown spiritually, the teaching demands have become exceedingly intense.

So to help with this our denomination offers a 10-week “Inter-Mission.” It’s basically a mini-sabbatical to help leaders re-fill their tank and let their batteries recharge so they can continue pastoring in a strong and healthy way.

I need to be well to lead well. And this will help me do that.

I will not check email. I will not check voice mail. My blogs will stop. The daily devotional that I write called “Up!” will stop. I will not see any texts from you. I will not go on social media at all until April 22. I know, I know, I’ll probably go into withdrawal!

But let me clarify a few things. I am not leaving Westminster as the pastor. I continue to feel very strongly called by God to be the pastor here. So these ten weeks are simply a time away to refresh and renew. The future is going to be great! And during this 10-week period, the elders are going to work through some ideas about how we can be as effective and faithful as possible for a growing church, and in ways that are more balanced for me (and all of us) for this next chapter of our church’s life.

We are blessed that Cathy Clark and our Pastoral Care Team have agreed to cover over the pastoral care needs while I’m away. And Patrick Voo will be doing most of the preaching. There are a few weeks when he won’t be there; but when that happens, Allyson Voo will be filling in. They are all strong Christians who will lead us well.

Some of you may have questions about who to talk to about what, and whether or not certain things will continue. Those questions are answered in a handout that has been made available at the church as a part of our Annual Report. If you didn’t get one you can call the church at 705-728-0541 from Tuesday to Friday from 9am to noon. You can also email them at office [at] westminsterpc [dot] ca.

One of our elders, Wayne Hope, will be taking the lead for this ten week period at the elder level. And for the congregation in general, Steve Sainsbury will serve as the point person. He’s a part of our Human Resources Team here at the church. Both are prayerful, thoughtful, and a true blessing to our church.

So it’s going to be a great ten weeks. I’m going to experience some much-needed rest, and Westminster is going to rally together as God’s people, to continue—and even strengthen—our important ministry.

Let me end with something I shared in today’s sermon.

Churches who thrive are those who know what the Bible actually teaches about who we are and what we do. If we envision ourselves as a country club, or as a group of nice people who just so happen to kind of like Jesus, we’ll miss the mark.

But that’s not us. We are foot soldiers in God’s army of grace and truth.

More specifically, Ephesians 4 and 6 teaches us to acknowledge that there is a very real battle of spiritual warfare in our society and lives, and all of us are a part of it whether we like it or not. It teaches us that the church is not a place where consumerism or individualism reign: Instead, the church is the body of Christ where everyone is equipped for service, growing in knowledge and maturity in Jesus as a people of love. It also teaches us that the church is a community of mutual support and service.

Stephen Seamands, a professor at Asbury Theological Seminary, writes: “The most important thing a church can do, then, is simply to be the church, to truly live as a distinctive, salt-and-light community (Mt 5:13-16) under the Lordship of Christ, according to his purposes and design, without allowing itself to be seduced by the values of the principalities and powers.”

The church is not man-made—it is ordained by God as a part of his strategy to make all things new in the glorious image of Jesus. Who the church is and what the church does matters immensely. That’s why, with God’s help, we need to be strong, healthy and awesome.

We have been. We are. And we will continue to be.

[To hear the full sermon podcast click here.]

Peace be with you… and see you on Easter Sunday!

-Matthew

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