It has been a little over two years since we have moved from Southern California to Bellingham, Washington. We were a few hours away from the Mexico border and now we are just under an hour to the Canada border. The weather is different, the culture is different, the typography is different, even the church I pastor is different from where we came from.
The question I get asked the most is what brought you to Bellingham, Washington. I tend to even get a little bit more specific of a question, “What brought you from the big mega church to this small, somewhat rural church in the county?”
I want to explore this answer as best as I can. I have struggled with this answer because it isn’t always easy to answer. Yes, I usually give a very basic answer under the guise of God’s sovereignty, which is true. It’s that simple yet it is also a lot more complicated than that.
Leading us to move wasn’t easy. God had to do a lot to push me, push my wife, push my children, to trust him. I don’t think I knew the extent of it until I was away and saw some of the causalities that I experienced surface since we moved. See, I was afraid, and I was too comfortable. I had experienced trauma, and it was the only church I really knew.
I don’t want to overlook the fact that I gained so much experience from my previous church of almost 20 years. I did more funerals and weddings that the average pastor does in America. I was thrust into some situations for pastoral counseling and learned more on the job than through formal education. I know so many godly men and women who have impacted my life and my family so much. I did get to see God move and work with the impact of the gospel on a large scale.
I also want to be mindful about what I say because the church, good or bad is still the bride of Christ (Eph 5:23). Also, those in leadership, though by no means are perfect are still placed there by God. I do believe that God raises up people and brings them down in his perfect timing, he is sovereign (Dan 2:21).
I hope to share my personal struggles with the goal to show how God works in our lives.
First, I would point out to the ultimate reason and what I tell everyone—Because God Called Us
Ultimately, I rest on the fact that when I am asked what brought us to Washington, to RCBC, and moved us away from family, friends, away from a successful ministry would be God’s calling upon my life to lead a church.
I became a pastor at 24 years old. I was the youngest pastor at that time. And all I knew is that I had an intense desire to do the work of ministry. It is all I could think about, and I was given that opportunity. Charles Spurgeon encouraged those who went to his Pastor’s College to look at calling as, “An intense, all-absorbing desire for the work.” If you could do anything else than do it. I didn’t want to anything else. This was it for me!
Harvest Christian Fellowship asked me to come on staff and be the Jr. High Youth Pastor. That was my calling into ministry. But years later, I had another calling to lead a church. Probably around 2015 is when this desire to lead a church. I didn’t know what to do or who to talk to. I was comfortable and was told by other leaders at the church if I were to go anywhere else, I would see how good I got it (More about fear culture at another time). I was afraid of leaving because this was all I knew. I grew up in that city. We had family and some good friends in that city. I questioned if I could, and I did that questioning for several years until 2020.
I realize now that God needed to teach me a lot from that time until we moved. Some of it was my immaturity that needed to be addressed. Some of it was my understanding and deepening of what does Scripture say about being a pastor. I also needed to understand some deeper theological truths that I was wrestling with as well as a better understanding of what is the church. Bottom line, God needed to have me grow because I don’t think I was ready at that point.
In 2020 I honestly believe through some doors shutting and other doors opening that it was all about his calling which led us to come to RCBC.
Look for more to come as I unpack the complexities of ministry and God working in me and through me as I discuss how I grew in what pastoral ministry meant for me.
6 Replies to “The Most Asked Question I Get: Why did I leave the church I came From to go to a small rural church in Washington?”
Anxious to hear the rest. God placed a business move in my heart as well. I just moved from a home office to an office building. I am petrified. God leads but sometimes I lose trust.
Jonathan, Thank you for sharing your life and personal struggles on this blog. We are blessed by the Lord for what He has done and is doing here at RCBC .. since you became lead pastor. having been on the search committee I saw first-hand the Lord’s working in placing you and your family in our midst.. Thank you Lord..
Thank you for being honest and very transparent about your growth and your move to God’s calling on your life. I admire your courage and obedience to the Lord. Blessings on your family as you continue to minister to those in Washington.
Looking forward to reading the next installment. We are so thankful God called you way up here… I am also grateful for the “reality” (hope that makes sense) you bring to, and model for us all, your example of pursuing Christ in the world we live in. I
Growing up with you in the Jr. High ministry was a blessing. I learned so much from you and those that you mentored that your teachings still carry to today. Just recently I sat down with a friend and we told stories of the times where we laughed, sang, and cried at one of the church’s youth camps that you lead. I pray nothing but blessings upon you and your family.