Today our church announced that we’re hiring a new minister. David Wheatley will preach his first sermon as lead minister of Echo Church this Sunday.
If you’ve talked to me in the past couple of months, this isn’t a surprise. But since this is the first time it’s hit the digital realm, I thought I should explain how all of this came to fruition:
When we started Echo eleven years ago, I knew I was in for the long haul. It was my entrepreneurial spirit that led me to continually experiment in leading our little urban church. From the very beginning I was bi-vocational, working other jobs to supplement the small amount I was paid by the church; we kept a low overhead, and I kept other gigs so I didn’t have to go out and fundraise to finance the church. While I expanded my full-time responsibilities at Cincinnati Christian University, and the church had a couple of lower offering years, I declined being paid altogether. I took on the title of “teaching elder,” and we went without a lead minister. Functionally I filled the role in a volunteer capacity, and it worked OK.
Last year I finally realized that our church wasn’t maximizing our impact. Yes, Echo was doing some great things, but we had plateaued in attendance. Ultimately it was our leadership structure (specifically my role) that was one of the major roadblocks. While I still contend that not having a lead minister follows a biblical precedent, the American church tends to thrive when there is someone filling that position. Echo needed a lead minister. I also realized that it shouldn’t be me.
It’s not that I’m any less passionate about Echo or ministry. One of the things I learned about myself in recent years is that my ministry calling is complex. I still love the ministry. I love to preach and teach and disciple. But I’ve realized that my gifts are best used when I’m serving church leaders. My job allows me the opportunity to do just that, but it means that I’m out of town on some Sundays. It just doesn’t work with our church, who needs a consistent voice and presence.
Throughout last year, I prayed about the whole situation and our other leaders affirmed the idea. I’d remain an elder and continue to preach from time to time, but my role would be to support our staff and shepherd our people. Echo would seek to hire a new lead minister. When we presented this to the church, everyone was positive. Now all we had to do was find the right person to lead.
I met David through a former student of mine. She insisted that the two of us had to meet. We hit it off right away, and I tried to help him secure a ministry job. Ironically each opportunity kept falling through. Finally I suggested that we talk about him joining the staff of Echo. The more we explored the idea, and the more our church got to know him, the more we all felt that this was God providing the ideal opportunity for everyone involved.
In some later blog posts, I’ll explore some of the church and leadership issues surrounding this transition; I’ve learned quite a few lessons from this experience that could benefit others. Until then, there’s one more thing you need to know: I am so thankful that the Lord called David to Echo Church. I always call Echo my second child; we started it right before Kaelyn was born. Of course it’s not easy to just hand that over to anyone, but David has a heart for the Lord and his church. This is the right thing for the church, for David, and for me.
I really believe Echo’s best days are to come.