In the summer of 2014, I was ready to quit. I was depleted and exhausted. I had been pastoring my church for seven years, and I was stuck. I had tried everything I knew to lead my church to grow and thrive, but we had hit a brick wall. There was no growth and no traction. It was like we were running on a treadmill. We were working hard, but we were not getting anywhere. I was crushed and had no answers to questions on how to turn things around.
The frustration was suffocating. Depression and anxiety were my closest friends, for in my own eyes, I had failed. On what was supposed to be a sabbatical, I sat in a coffee shop writing the seeds of a resignation letter. Tears streamed down my face and dripped onto the journal pages as I wrote.
In the middle of a loud public place filled with conversations and unfamiliar voices, a familiar voice spoke to me. All I heard at that moment from the Lord were two words, “Don’t quit.” He didn’t say it like a coach who was pushing me, but He spoke like a tender father who knew something I did not. I heard Him clearly, “Don’t quit. Not now. I have more.”
So right there, on that holy ground, I recommitted myself to a few things. I wrote in my journal something I had always believed. I would not give up. Instead I would give myself and lead our church to the only things we can control: We will love God, and we will help people. God guided me again to the simple things that were all that really mattered.
When I moved to Denver 12 years ago as a 31-year-old kid to pastor our church, I had dreams of grandeur and success. I had no idea how difficult the job would be. I had no idea that it would rock me to my soul and that the Lord would grind me down to my core in order to use me. He had to break me of false ideas about the church He loves and cut me loose from the trappings of the complexity that the church believes are so important.
It didn’t happen overnight, but the church I lead started to grow again. In the last 18 months, we’ve grown our average attendance from 500 people in our Sunday services to 1,500 in four services. Hundreds have gone from death to life in Christ and have been baptized. Lives and families are being restored. Dozens of new small groups are being established. Ministries to our community are being launched, and leaders are rising.
The growth of my church has neither come from fascination nor fixation on numbers. It has come from an unwavering faithfulness to one simple, all-consuming idea: to help people take their next step with Jesus. This is what General Conference 2019 is about — how we as pastors, leaders, and followers of Christ help others as they take their next steps with Jesus. If you’re hearing God’s tender voice to keep going, I encourage you to join us at GC19 to see what God has in store for you next. I look forward to seeing you at GC19 and sharing my journey with you.
Scotty Priest is the lead pastor of Journey Church in Castle Rock, Colorado. He will be a featured speaker at General Conference 2019 (gc19.org).0