9 months ago today, we landed in Seattle trying to catch our breath from having 5 weeks to move our lives from New York to the West Coast. Our good friend Shu welcomed us at Sea Tac Airport with open arms, took us to pick up keys to the apartment we had rented, yet never seen in person, and then to pick up the car we had purchased via FaceTime. As jet lag began to set in we found ourselves sitting on the floor of our unfurnished apartment asking ourselves, “What just happened?”
We had left New York with the blessing of our Liberty Church pastors, friends, family and community. Originally we had thought we would move in the Summer when our lease was up and Rocco had finished school. Yet all things aligned for the transition to happen sooner. Kindness, generosity and prayers had been poured out as we left, giving us the confidence it was God and the dream in our heart drawing us to Seattle months earlier than originally planned. That dream was to plant a new church.
Our plan was to rest, find work and seek accountable spiritual formation as we prepared our hearts for planting. A few days later our plans changed. The church that my husband had grown up in, where we had met and been married, where I had been on staff for almost 9 years, announced that their executive pastor had a moral failure. Two weeks later, Justin was asked to consider joining their pastoral team.
We prayed, sought counsel and wrestled with laying down the dream in our heart for the need we saw in front of us. Years ago when struggling to know God’s will, a mentor told us – “The Kingdom of God is within you. You must go where you believe you can advance His kingdom the most.” We looked at what we had – a dream, a name and web domains. Then we looked at what we were being invited to be a part of – a megachurch that had served the Seattle area for almost 40 years. We felt we would make the biggest impact by returning to the church where our journey began with the hope of advancing God’s Kingdom and making a difference. In our minds we were just laying down a name and a logo as we decided to partner with CFC.
We began laying the foundation for one of two new CFC Seattle campuses that would launch in 2018. We had dinner parties, community groups, outreaches – and so much fun! We loved connecting and building relationships. We began having gatherings discussing how we could engage our neighborhoods and actively serve Seattle. Yet as the weeks passed, there was a sense that what was in our hearts to build was different than what was in our hands to steward. (Kingdom side note: We do believe being faithful to what is placed in your hand and stewarding that well is essential to character and leadership development. We have found in our 20 years ministry, what others have asked us to steward actually has prepared us for seasons to come and lead us to the dream in our heart. When heart and hand do not align, one should ask if this is a season or vision issue, and have honoring, honest conversations with pastors and leaders.) At first we both dismissed these feelings as still grieving the move and the loss of our Brooklyn community. We pressed in more and I came on staff part time. Yet that sense of full alignment and agreement never came to fruition.
There was a lot we did not know when saying yes. We did not know how much we had changed since leaving Seattle 11 years ago. We did not know how significantly our time in LA, Africa and New York had reshaped our view of what it means to be the local church. We did not realize how much it meant for us to minister together. We have stewarded the ministries, dreams and visions of other men and women of God, but our hearts desperately want to birth something new together. The more we tried to suppress this desire and see ourselves at CFC for life – the more our peace waned.
We prayed, sought counsel, and had many conversations with our pastors. We realized there was still a church in our heart to plant, and our choice to continue on staff at CFC was more than just laying down a church name or logo. It came at the cost of our peace and purpose. So two weeks ago, with the love and support of Casey and Wendy, Justin resigned.
We are grateful for the last 9 months, the relationships we developed and hope to continue to cultivate. CFC will always hold a special place in our hearts. It is where we met, got married and were given our first leadership opportunities. It is where we learned what it means to be part of God’s family and the power of transformation by believing and living out God’s Word. We are grateful for Casey and Wendy – the kindness and generosity they have shown us since arriving in Seattle, all they have taught us about faith and how they have laid the groundwork for so many other churches and Christian movements in the Northwest – including the one in our heart.
So here we are. 9 months later, living out the unexpected, and back to our original plan. So we will take a few months to rest, work and seek spiritual formation and accountability as we prepare to plant a new church in Seattle in the year to come.