In the almost 20 years that I have been in the ministry, there is none that compares to 2020…especially in how intense have been the highs, lows, and frequent transitions between the two. Just a few months ago, Thom Rainer posted, “The vast majority of pastors with whom our team communicates are saying they are considering quitting their churches. It’s a trend I have not seen in my lifetime. Some are just weeks away from making an announcement. They are looking for work in the secular world. Some will move to bivocational ministry. Some will move to marketplace ministry. But many will move.”

It truly has been a move-you-to-the-core kind of year! Every pastor still engaged in the ministry at the close of 2020 owes more than a few thank you’s; none has a longer list than me. On the final day of the year, here are a few grateful shoutouts that I would be remiss to not offer:

  1. To my wife Heidi, thank you for being my emotional, spiritual equilibrium in the more-private spaces and moments of this year. (You truly have been my Christ-gifted rock to “pastor” me through this year!)
  2. To my sons Ian and Landon, thank you for being so flexible and resilient with all that you have missed/adjusted to in school, sports, church, etc.
  3. To my parents Max and Dedre, thank you for praying faithfully and investing several weeks of your life into helping our fledgling church afford to do some significant campus renovations.
  4. To my in-laws Moses and Cindy, thank you for moving closer and all the help you have already provided with our sons and ministry in the last few months.
  5. To my brothers Travis and Nathan, thank you for the fellowship both in person and over Zoom where we could just laugh together, commiserate together, and celebrate together what God is doing in each of our respective ministries in Wooster, Pittsburgh, and London.
  6. To my assistant pastors Nathan and Dave, thank you for giving me permission to feel and think out loud as we have processed the doubts, frustrations, and even confusion of leading in this ever-shifting climate…as well as learning new skills and technology to help North Life expand.
  7. To my deacons Nick, Nick, and Andrew, thank you for being so supportive, faith-filled, and flexible in a year filled with repeated challenges and pivots.
  8. To my dear church family, thank you for practicing deference toward one another in a year filled with a flood of polar-opposite opinions, consistently viewing online/attending in person when many around the world faded, sacrificially helping us have one the best years of giving ever, humbly serving others in so many creative and consistent ways, and just prayerfully giving our leadership team room to figure out how to do gospel ministry as we went.
  9. To my pastor friends, thank you for the thoughtful texts, phone calls, and intentional encouragement that only you who personally know the lows and highs of local church leadership can provide. (Each one, whether you realized it or not, truly was a life-line sent from God Himself at several crucial moments!)
  10. To my church-planting friends, thank you for exhibiting supernatural, sweet tenacity in all of the unique building, logistical, and financial challenges of the past twelve months.
  11. To my missionary friends, thank you for staying on mission and message despite all of the political tensions, natural disasters, and what-if’s that go with serving on the foreign field right now. (Observing these qualities in you has been one of the highlights of my year!)
  12. To my local first responders and medical personnel, thank you for keeping the peace and providing medical assistance during one of the most tumultuous, gut-wrenching years on record.
  13. To our local officials, thank you for giving each assembly room to practice religious liberty with God-led discernment tailored to the unique physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs of their congregation.
  14. To my fellow online-content generators, thank you for maintaining/modeling an edifying tone and gospel-centric approach in your blog posts, podcasts, and posts that kept me focused on Jesus and His call upon my life. (You may not realize it directly, but God truly used you in my heart and mind!)

Due the Lord’s grace and Spirit working through the above-listed individuals, I can truly join Paul valuing those who have served with me in the tough but worth-it ministry of the gospel:

Php 1:27-30 “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

Thank you, Lord, for using the people you hand-selected to be in my life to help see me through a long, difficult, glorious, and stretching year. Spiritual leader, would you join me in thanking “the village” that have strived and suffered with you through this year?

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash