In January 2013, I became the pastor of Harvest International Center’s English-speaking congregation. How it happened was pretty crazy. To make a long story short:
- Accepted a job in Atlanta to work for one of my fave people, Leif Hetland.
- Started following the Hawks, Braves, and Falcons to acclimate. Cried.
- We decided to go, Leif wanted us there, we all really thought it was God.
- God said, “Just kidding…this was a test.” We didn’t move.
- The next day, I walked into Starbucks and happened to run into my friend Willy.
- He was sitting with his pastor Fred Hsu, and my now friend, Luke, both of whom I’d never met.
- They were meeting to talk about how to find a pastor, and had 4 copies of their core values sheet to discuss it.
- I guess I was the fourth person. I liked the sheet.
- A few weeks later I’m one of their pastors.
It’s been an amazing journey. People took ownership, our numbers tripled, and we took steps to merge the Chinese and English-speaking groups, bringing the total size of the church to over 100 people. For context, there were about 10 people at the first English service I attended. Our team was amazing.
Do we stay or go?
A few months ago, my wife Iris and I let our church know that we would step down March 31st. We could see why some might not understand. We made friends, fit the church’s DNA, and saw exponential results. We didn’t even have office hours! It was every pastor’s dream job. Seriously.
That was the issue though. We never felt our ultimate life’s call was to be lead pastors. We knew it was right for this season; no one could deny the way it came together. But from the start, we wrestled with whether I should take another vocational position. So I refused a salary (they eventually insisted because they are so nice) and told them they could release us at any time with no hard feelings if it wasn’t working out.
Should I go to business school?
Don’t get me wrong, we love church. But a few years ago, I felt a pull to help churches and nonprofits in a different way. When we ended up not moving to Atlanta, I prepared to go to business school for an MBA. God had other plans. I was offered a marketing position (out of the blue) that most MBAs would have loved for its scope, title, and responsibility. Even the salary was a dream number that Iris and I threw around in conversation. We never prayed about it. It was as if God eavesdropped and said, “You guys didn’t ask, but here you go.”
This blog started as a personal outlet. Little did I know it would be the seed to starting a consulting business. This was another unexpected turn of events, but through it I’ve consulted for missionaries, NPOs, church plants, authors, speakers, and businesses. So many people need help.
“I’ll bless whatever you decide.”
The favor in pastoring, consulting, and marketing was evident, but there was no way I could sustain the pace. I was routinely working 80+ hours a week. For the first time ever, I felt as if God said, “Do whatever you want. I’ll bless whatever you decide.”
If you know me at all, you’ll know I’m the least spiritual “spiritual person” there is. Ambiguous language and spiritual jargon frustrate me. But over the past few years, I have received prophecies that I would bring culture shifts in a number of organizations, impact businesses in many nations by being a pipeline, and pick up music ministry again later in life. I even had dreams I was working with major media outlets. Many of these words came to critical mass this past year, and even I had to consider it all.
I chose the path that had the most discomfort and unknowns. I also figured the church already has leadership and can prosper without me. Because of my unique blend of ministry, marketing, and business, I can do things few others can. To say yes to this, I had to say no to continuing in the pastorate.
Encouragers (and haters) said…
My friends have always offered advice, levity, and encouragement. But an important skill I developed was learning to view negative comments as sign I was headed the right direction:
- “You and Iris are more than capable of being lead pastors. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” – Pastor Josh Finley
- “There are plenty of people that want to be pastors. Maybe you’re sitting in someone else’s seat, and you were just called there to warm it up for them.” – Cindy Scott, life coach
- “Even I am amazed by all this favor. But whenever we pass a test God gives us, He always gives us more than the price we paid.” – Dr. Leif Hetland
- “I love you and Iris so much I would have your children if I could.” – Christopher Hopper, my dear friend
- “Where are the yellow New York City people with the dogs? We like them!” – Christopher Hopper’s children
- “You are a ******** and I hope God punishes you.” – hater
- “Are you selling out ministry for money?” – person who means well but doesn’t understand
Six things I personally learned that might help you:
- Blessing doesn’t guarantee an easy road, but it does give you the ability to make the road easier for others.
- The anointing I carried as a worship leader and preacher is the same in business and marketing. It’s just exercised differently.
- Preaching in the pulpit has equipped me to be a minister in the marketplace. Upset coworkers or customers don’t intimidate me. They should try pastoring crazy high school kids, or doing missions work in third-world villages that police are scared to go into.
- Just pass the next test. Passing tests mean you’ll automatically advance to the next grade.
- Don’t let burnout be the deciding factor in decision making. Know your limits, and plan accordingly.
- Haters suck, but no one that is successful in life would ever say or do the things haters do.
I’ve booked a few speaking engagements (both business and preaching), and even some worship leading dates. I continue to do consulting work. Iris and I don’t know where we’ll go to church, let alone what the future holds. We’ve learned to be ok with that.
If you’re from Harvest, we’re incredibly honored and thankful to have been a part of great things that happened. If you’re just a regular reader checking in on us, thanks for reading. Though this post is mostly about us, I hope you gained some insights to your own journey. Thanks for tuning in, and I’ll be back to my more regular content next time!