An Open Door
Back in 2006, 16 years ago, Jen and I moved our family to Lafayette, Indiana to plant the church that would become Lafayette Community Church. We’ve invested our heart and soul (and money) in the ministry and in building relationships here in Lafayette, and we had no real intention to ever leave… until God opened an unexpected door.
A number of years ago, Jen was given the opportunity to go back to school and get a master’s degree while still working. Although it was challenging for our family for years, we all supported her, and she completed her Master of Computer Science in Cybersecurity through Purdue. Her job didn’t require a master’s degree, and we didn’t think it would lead to anything else, but it was an opportunity God was giving us, so we took it. Turns out, God was setting her up for something new.
Last Spring, my daughter heard through the grapevine that her University (Taylor University, in Upland, Indiana) was looking to hire a professor in Computer Science who specialized in Cybersecurity. She suggested to her mom that she apply.
Since Jen was deeply uncomfortable with some situations at her current job, I encouraged her to apply for the Taylor position mostly because I thought it could give her some negotiating power at her current job. We weren’t pushing for more income, but we both thought she deserved more respect. However, as the interview process progressed, we increasingly realized that the toxicity of her current job would not be changing anytime soon and that the Taylor environment would empower her to be her whole self in a way that no job before ever did. Not only would she be using her technical skills, but she would also be instrumental in developing the spiritual life of hundreds of hungry students while working with a loving and supportive faculty team!
Sure, there are questions we both have about this opportunity, but this will literally be the first job where Jen can be completely herself, technically, emotionally, and spiritually all at once. It’s an opportunity too interesting for either of us to let pass by, and a door we think God has opened for us.
We moved to Lafayette in 2006 for me to pursue my dream job of planting a church, but I now want to support Jen in this potential dream job for her.
What About Me?
The saddest part of this whole situation is that we need to leave Lafayette, and that means I will need to resign from my position as pastor of Lafayette Community Church. Being a pastor is a weird profession because there are really only three ways to get a pastor job. If you are in a multi-staff church, you can rise through the ranks and possibly eventually replace the current pastor. If you can raise support, you can start a church from scratch as the founding pastor. Or, you put your name into the national hat and then relocate to the town of whichever church hires you. It almost never works to move first and then find a pastoral ministry opportunity where you live. As a result, I’ll need to find some kind of employment for myself while I wait on God to reveal my next ministry step. Since I have a B.S. in Mathematics and a track record of freelance software development, I think I’ll be able to get a job in tech for the short term, but I also plan on pursuing writing and speaking as a long-term ministry goal. I may even use this time to go back to school, get my Ph.D., and become a professor myself.
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What About LCC?
The bottom line is that Jen and I both knew that I would never leave LCC unless God pushed me out somehow, and LCC would probably never have asked me to leave, so perhaps God is opening this door for Jen to take both LCC and me into a new phase of ministry for each of us.
I’m proud of the leadership at LCC. Even though Jen and I told the church about all this yesterday, the Elders and other leaders of LCC have known about our potential move since early summer. We have been making early transition plans and have been praying together about all of this for months, and I’ve seen the different leaders step up with motivation and enthusiasm. From the earliest moment I mentioned to them that Jen and I were considering moving, the other leaders said, “Jeff, we love you, but this church is more than you. We’ll keep going.”
Although the process for my transition away will seem quick (we are moving at the end of December), the process for the church to find my successor will seem slow. It’s the nature of the pastor profession that finding a new pastor takes time. However, LCC will not be doing it alone. They are hiring the consulting services of our church network (Converge) to help them identify and recruit candidates, and in the meantime, they have plans in place to handle all the regular operations of the church.
More details about their transition plans can be found here: Pastoral Transition FAQ.
My kids grew up in this house in this town with these people, and the idea of leaving Lafayette is hard for all of us in more ways than one. We will all of you and all of it, but that’s just the way transitions go. We are confident that God will continue to lead us and that God will continue to lead LCC. Although much of our future is uncertain, one thing is not: God will be with us. As I said yesterday at the end of our worship gathering. All we really need is Jesus. So long as we are walking with him, that’s all that matters.