Dear Grove Family,
One of the greatest joys of my life, as well as Penny and our sons, has been launching The Grove with you. Walking with people while they take their next step with God over the last seven and a half years has been more satisfying than I could have ever dreamed. I am humbled that God has allowed me to serve as your pastor and I am grateful that He has allowed me to consider you friends. Our desire in starting The Grove was to create a genuine community of friends and family, free of pretense, aware of our imperfections but not content to stay that way, pursuing what pleases the Lord, with a mission to see people come to know Christ and grow in him. That community has been present from the time we launched until now, created by the many people who have been part of The Grove’s story along the way.
I am grateful that God chose me to help plant The Grove and serve as pastor during the church’s foundational season. I have always known that there would come a time when The Grove would enter into a new season and that a new leader would be best suited to lead. I believe that time is now.
One year ago this month I shared with our leadership teams that within the next year I would transition as lead pastor. We began to seek the Lord together and believed that our first priority needed to be relocating The Grove from our portable environment at Halls Middle School to a more permanent location. We believed the best timing for pastoral transition would be after our relocation was complete. Our leadership teams spent most of 2016 identifying properties, meeting, praying, securing our current campus, and moving into our new home.
As we moved through 2016 the Lord continued to affirm to me that the most natural season for me to transition as pastor would be after our relocation was complete. I had many questions about what a healthy pastoral transition would look like for The Grove. Most pastoral transitions that I have witnessed have not been a healthy or positive experience. Unfortunately, most pastoral transitions tend to be abrupt, chaotic, confusing, and limit the momentum and effectiveness of advancing the church’s mission. I wanted the exact opposite for The Grove, a transition that would be transparent, intentional, prayerful, and one that connects The Grove to its future. I believed that if we could identify a new potential lead pastor with the proper gifts and passions that would fit The Grove’s next season of ministry, enter into a time of shared leadership with him, and provide time for people to build a relationship with him that we could experience a healthy transition. The picture that I had in my mind was a track relay team where one member hands off the baton to another smoothly with both runners advancing at their full potential.
Six months ago I met Josh Duncan who I think you will love getting to know and ultimately welcome as your next lead pastor. Josh and his wife Jennifer are from the Knoxville area originally. Josh planted and pastored a church in Knoxville for several years and most recently pastored a church in Michigan. He and Jennifer have two sons, Kaden (7) and Kolton (4). I have spent a great deal of time getting to know Josh and listening to him share his heart for God and people. I am eager for you to get to know Josh and witness his gifts, passions, and calling. Our leadership teams and I also look forward to you getting to know Jennifer and their boys who embrace and enjoy God’s call on them as a family.
Josh and I will be sharing leadership responsibilities, including preaching, throughout the spring and summer. Within the next couple of months our active members will have an opportunity to vote on Josh as The Grove’s next lead pastor. Enclosed with this letter is a brief bio of Josh and his family.
Naturally the question for me once I completely transition from The Grove’s staff is what I will do next professionally. God has not made that clear yet but He will. For the time being throughout the spring and summer I will be co-leading with Josh and my family will be attending and serving at The Grove as always.
I want to say thank you to the members of our leadership teams; Chris Anderson, Christie Brown, Craig Cantrell, Sandra Hall, Deborah Justice, and their spouses for their friendship over this past year as I have made preparations toward pastoral transition. They have labored hard and loved me, The Grove, and the Lord well. I am forever grateful for the freedom that I have had to be transparent about my journey and the encouragement and friendship they have given. Transparency and vulnerability come with risk and they have consistently pulled me closer and loved me more. I realize how rare that is for many people in my position and how incredibly fortunate I am to have friends like them.
The Grove is about to experience its best season of growth and health and I am excited for you to get to know Josh. Please join me in praying that this transition would please the Lord, unify us, and make us stronger and more effective in accomplishing His mission.