by Trevor Gavin
In preparing to plant, I spent time reading countless books and blogs on the subject of church planting. Along the way, most, if not all the material I read at some point dealt with the experience of losing a core team member. Each pastor recounts all the thoughts, feelings and emotions that are attached when someone leaves so early in the game.
I knew that one day this would happen to our church. I just had no idea it would be at the four-month marker.
As of this Saturday, a good friend and ministry partner will be heading back to sunny California. By the grace of God, he is leaving on good terms. He recently proposed to his fiancé and she said yes! We’re incredibly excited for both of them. Yet in the process as the lead planter, I now have felt to some degree the emotions the authors I read shared about in their books. Here are a few of my honest and raw thoughts as well as what I’ve learned.
I was a bit blindsided as I was checking in with our CTM [core team member] to hear him say that he was moving back to California in under a month. To be honest, my immediate thoughts and feelings were betrayal, like someone had just punched me in the stomach. I began thinking that this was in some respect a waste of time. We have a core team of four, and we just lost one. That’s losing a quarter of our team! Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling very pastor-like in the moment. However, like most of us, I conjured up a godly response and gave it to him.
That night and over the next few days, I spent time thinking and praying through what happened, and what my response should be. Asking questions like, “How do I even deal with this?” The following week we got together, just like we usually do to spend time talking about life, ministry, struggles, triumphs, etc.
We had a great talk that night. Both of us spent time being as open and honest as we could with each other. He shared with me areas where he felt distant from me, and shared from his perspective areas where I needed to grow. It also gave me the opportunity to share how I felt about it, and share my heart. The next night, our core team met just like we do every Tuesday to spend time praying, going through the scriptures, and casting vision. We spent most of that night praying for each other and having more open dialogue with the whole team. At the end of the night, as an act of worship and to keep unity we walked down the street to get malts and fries to the glory of God (see 1 Cor. 10:31).
Here is what God showed me and what I’m learning through this process, which by the way, I expect will happen again. I pray I’m better prepared to deal with it the next time.
1. People are God’s people; they do not belong to us. Part of the reason I felt betrayed was because I was acting as if some how he belonged to me and this church. He doesn’t. He belongs to Jesus and The church. We do far better when we remember that we don’t use people to build our little kingdom, but we serve alongside people for the mission of God.
2. Our job as pastors is to love, serve, and disciple those God puts under our care. The reason why I felt like it was a waste of time was because I had the thought that he isn’t going to help “our” church anymore. The ridiculousness in that is it isn’t about “our” little church. God raises up leaders to advance His kingdom wherever He calls them. Our job is to be faithful.
3. Unity doesn’t accidentally happen. It must be fought for and intentionally pursued. For the last four months, by God’s grace we are ending this season of life together on great terms. We have sought to live life together as much as we possibly could as a team–eating together, hanging out, going to church together, coffee, etc. We thus far have strived to live like the early church in Acts 2. Of course, we fail frequently. However, our desire is to faithfully represent Jesus well to each other and especially our city.
Looking at the situation now and how everything has unfolded, I’m so thankful for Jesus and our team for how it has played out. I’m thankful that when this team member leaves on Saturday, our friendships are intact and the team is doing well.
Over the last six years, Trevor Gavin served on staff at Calvary Nexus in Southern California, graduated from Calvary Chapel School of Ministry 1 and 2, as well as a yearlong churching planting intern training program. Early this year, he and his wife Julie left Southern California to plant Nexus Portland in Portland, Ore.