Hello, Immanuel family!

I'm sure - like me - you're really wishing we could be together during this Christmas season. Largely, Immanuel Church is a community of people living life with each other and with God, making it awfully hard not to be together in-person as a family. Technology is great, but not at everything, like handshakes and warm embraces. I assure you: we will be back together as soon as the Elders and I feel it is safe to do so. In the meantime, we'll all have to do our best with the limitations placed on us by the pandemic.

It has been about seven weeks since our Elders announced to all of you that, on an interim basis, I would be taking on most of the responsibilities of the senior pastor. I remain humbled by their confidence in me to meet those leadership and pastoral obligations. As long as I'm in this role, I'm committed to communicating with you regularly and effectively as we tackle the challenges that face us from the pandemic to replacing Josh.
In this update, I mainly want to focus on the work we have been doing to address the loss of our senior pastor. But a lot of other things have been going on, and I'll touch on some of those too.

At the end of October, we held our Annual Members' Meeting. Not only was the required business addressed in that meeting, like reaffirmation of elders and reviewing our budget, but some of the updates I'm sharing with you here were shared with our members at that time. Since that meeting, three of our current elders were reaffirmed to serve for another two-year term, and we approved our budget for Fiscal Year 2021.

Our ALL IN campaign remains very much in the forefront of our minds, even though we had to put it on hold when the pandemic shut things down in March. We're in the process of making some decisions about ALL IN, and this our ALL IN partners received an invitation to a meeting later this month where we'll be discussing more of our plans.

The Elders and I have met weekly since Josh announced his resignation in September. Early on, those meetings were focused on listening to people in other churches, ministries and business with experience in this type of leadership transition. We've learned a lot, both about what we want to do and things we want to avoid.

Perhaps one of the biggest takeaways was to go slow and be deliberate. It is easy to see the single problem of a missing leader and be tempted to try to address it quickly. But this change in leadership affords us the opportunity to take a fresh look at the ministries we offer, how we deliver them, and the best way to lead all of it. While we are confident that we've been going in the right direction at Immanuel, we know there are things that should and will change. As those things become clearer to us, I will share them with you. For now, rest assured that we are praying over the work we are doing, never losing sight of the fact that the true leader of our church has always been Jesus.

Going slowly so we can do this right may mean it will take 18 - 24 months before we have a new leadership structure in place. We're looking at different leadership (and teaching) models that could result in us not just replacing the senior pastor and moving forward as we always have. Getting our desired leadership model in place is critical to hiring the right leader(s) for our future.

We'll continue to listen to experts who can bring helpful insights, as well as to our staff who lead and deliver our ministries every day. We also want to hear from you. What do you want us to consider as we plan and build for our future? You can always feel free to reach out to me or any of the Elders with your thoughts. We have and will continue to take steps to encourage your input. We hope that when you get that opportunity, you will take the time to invest in our future in such an important way.

If this leadership transition could take up to 24 months, you may wonder what that means about teaching on Sunday mornings. As you have seen so far, we have used a combination of roundtables, in-house teachers, guest teachers, and teaching by speakers via video. You should expect some combination of these for the foreseeable future. Our commitment to you is that we will make sure we're a church that puts the Gospel front and center while remaining a church where you feel comfortable inviting your friends. We hope you will continue to invite people to join us, recognizing that while it is an important part of our Sunday morning service, teaching is just one element of our collective worship experience; it's the entire experience that is church and should draw people to know and be like Jesus.

Since I was clear that I was not going to take on the teaching role when I took on most of the senior pastor responsibilities (I know when I'm in over my head), we had to continue to provide for the teaching segment of our service without having one person to lean on like we did with Josh. To that end, I formed a team that is largely responsible for programming the Sunday morning service. They're responsible to provide you with theologically sound teaching, as well as an entire experience that is done with excellence and points us all to Jesus each week. In addition to myself, that team is made up of Bryan Bicket, Joanna Elrod, Jay Jenison and Diane Verratti.

Many things have made 2020 a particularly challenging year for our Immanuel family, not the least of which is the loss of Josh as our senior pastor. Many of us are still processing a lot of the emotions we have about Josh's leaving abruptly, from fear to anger. I want to say how incredibly proud I am of our church for how you have handled this loss. You've resisted the temptation to gossip or speculate on what happened internally and externally. This not only respects Josh and his family, but it also maintains the unity of our church. Thank you.

Coming off the Thanksgiving season and entering into the hope of Christmas, I'm thankful for the work of Immanuel both within and outside of our walls in Lake County, and I'm hopeful that the work that lies ahead of all of us will only grow our impact for Jesus.

Merry Christmas, everyone!