Saying Goodbye and God’s Direction

*Announcement made at FBC Crawford on March 24, 2018. 

God speaks.  We listen.  We strive to obey.  When we are faithful to this process we are moved into uncomfortable places.  We are stretched.  We cry out for wisdom, strength, and courage.  Our hearts our opened to our complete dependence upon God.

This process leads me to make a difficult announcement this morning.

With a heavy, but joyful heart, I have accepted the invitation to preach in view of a call at FBC Sulphur Springs, Texas next Sunday (March 31, 2019).   For those unfamiliar with the Baptist polity, allow me to clarify: I will spend next weekend with the congregation of FBC Sulphur Springs, and upon the conclusion of the Sunday evening service, they will vote to call me as pastor.  My first Sunday as pastor of FBC Sulphur Springs will be Easter morning (April 21, 2019).

I grieve saying goodbye to the people of FBC Crawford.  You have supported and loved me for a few months shy of a decade.  I thank God for your partnership in the gospel.  I first walked through these doors as a recent seminary graduate, newly married, and with lots to learn.  I prepare to walk out of these doors thankful that you took a chance on me and grateful for your patience.  I’m overwhelmed with appreciation for your love for me, my wife, and for helping to raise our two precious children.  Our family will always speak highly of this church and its people.

Allow me to stress: My decision is not based on a desire to leave but upon following God’s call to go.

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.   Acts 16:6-10

Paul attempts to make his way into Asia to preach the gospel but he’s denied.  Many people in this situation would

  1. Give up and head home
  2. Waste time attempting to walk through dead ends

Yet, Paul provides a third option.  He eventually hears from the Lord and changes course.  May we all be so responsive to the direction of God.  My decision to say goodbye to this wonderful place is a change of course in order to follow God’s direction.

While there may be some difficulties in the transition, God is equipping you for the next stage of ministry in the life of this church.  He has given you spiritual gifts to faithfully serve this church and community. Don’t give up.  Don’t loose heart or hope.  Don’t you dare walk away!  As God draws my time here to an end, he is preparing someone to shepherd this tremendous congregation.  I firmly believe FBC Crawford is positioned to thrive.  You can do this without me.  Remember, the church is not about the pastor. Church is about the Savior.  Fix your eyes on Jesus and you’ll never be let down.

God has great things in store for you and this church. Invest here and watch God’s work.

Pray for me as my family continues to pray for you.  You have poured into us.  Please send us out.  May you see our ministry in Sulphur Springs as an extension of the ministry of FBC Crawford.  With all sincerity, the Gravens family loves you.  May we all follow God’s direction.

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