Pastor Skip interviewed me for a few minutes on Wednesday at Calvary, informing the church body that I’d be leaving to plant Awaken Church. It was fun and of course he had to add a slideshow with random pictures and the old Monkees song, Last Train to Clarksville. Here’s the video of the announcement…
On Wednesday, after Pastor Skip interviewed me about our move to Tennessee, they played this little slideshow. He had told me he’d play “Last Train to Clarksville” by the Monkees – I figured he actually would. I should’ve known they’d also have pictures to go with it…
That’s the question I’ve been getting a lot this week. It’s a good one. Most people in New Mexico only know Clarksville from the old Monkees song, Last Train to Clarksville, just like most people in Clarksville only know Albuquerque from where Bugs Bunny took a wrong turn. In fact, out here in the 505, most cities with “-ville” on the end of it don’t sound that appealing. So, I’ll try to keep this short. Here are a few reasons we’re going to Clarksville…
There are 15 Calvarys in the whole state of Tennessee and verse-by-verse expository preaching is very hard to come by.
The statistic that floats around about Montgomery County is that 80% of the population is unchurched. I’ve never seen that stat online or on paper, but I could easily see it being true. Let’s take a much more conservative percentage and say that 50% of Montgomery County is unchurched. That leaves over 67,000 people who are not currently attending church! Yikes. And that’s only 50%.
2 1/2 years ago, we knew where Tennessee was on the map, but that was about it. We had never been there until I flew out to Nashville to speak at a winter retreat in February of 2007. We stayed with Jenn’s family in Paris, TN, and we began to see the need for a good Bible-teaching church. I also realized the limited resources that many churches out there had. I was so encouraged to see churches from 5 states assembling for a huge youth retreat! It was awesome. This is when God began directing us to TN.
Over the next 2 years, I would have many more interactions with Tennessee. We even flew out there for Christmas of 2007 and someone told us she had had a dream that we were starting a church there. We had planned on just vacationing, but that opened our eyes to other possibilities.
We recognized the need like never before that Christmas and ended up flying back in February of 2008 to scout out 2 potential towns – Jackson and Clarksville. We had heard of Clarksville, but never been there. We thought for sure Jackson was the place, but figured we’d swing by Clarksville while we were out there. We drove into Jackson and knew from the moment we go there that that was not the place for us. So we changed plans and headed into Clarksville for the night. We loved it. We knew we were on the right path.
We prayed A LOT about this. A LOT. I don’t know how planting a church can be done from selfish motives, but I imagine that it can be done. I wanted to constantly be searching my motives to know if this was just my next “big idea” of if God was behind it. He was. There’s no way I could list the many ways God confirmed to us that we were in the right spot, but here are a few…
- meeting our realtor, Verlon, while wandering through the only mall in Clarksville (he just so happened to be a retired Baptist preacher who enjoys finding houses and building for new “preachers” that want to start a church!)
- getting a job interview with Frank, a local business owner, for a graphic design job. The job ended up not working out, but God used the interview to remind me that we were headed in the right direction
- we attended church at a little Calvary in Dickson while we were out there in Feb 2008, and the pastor was so excited to hear about our potential plans that he called us up right as he started the Bible study to pray for us and announce to the congregation that we were moving to Clarksville to start a church! I wasn’t even fully convinced that we were doing that at that time!
- by the time we got home, we knew where we were supposed to go, the only question left was when
- we prayed a lot about it and on Sat, Oct 16, we finally decided that we had to just go – there would always be an excuse to stay – the next day, I happened to see the pastor of Calvary Nashville in our sanctuary at Calvary! WHAT!? He said his wife had gotten sick and they had to close down the church – one less Calvary in TN
- we booked flights and flew back to TN in February of ’09 (just 2 months ago) which was another trip filled with confirmation (including one Calvary pastor telling us that at a Men’s Rally they had back on October 16-17, they had been praying for someone to start a church in Clarksville!)
Little did they know that God answered their prayers immediately 1200 miles away in New Mexico.
Little did we know that our decision to go to TN was actually God answering prayers from 1200 miles away!
I’ve always prayed that when it was it was my time to go, I’d have a Joshua-type figure that would take my spot. I thought I might have that guy, but within a day of us being back from our trip in Feb of 2008, that guy told me he was quitting working with me to work elsewhere. Plans ended up falling through and he ended up coming on full time with me, but it answered our prayers – we knew where, but now was not the time. So, we made plans. I mapped out how I’d teach through Revelation August 2008-May 2009 and Jenn committed to 2 semesters of women’s ministry. We knew that we’d be in Albuquerque till at least the end of May, when our commitments were up. As I said, on October 16, we decided that there would always be reasons to stay – we just needed to go. The time had come.
It’s been years in planning, and the time is finally here. 70 more days from today is the day we pull out – exactly 10 weeks. 5 months from Sunday is the date of our first official church service – Sat, Sept 12. It’s very surreal and super exciting. Can’t wait to see what the next few years holds.
So I didn’t do a good job at keeping it short, but hopefully this helps to answer some wondering minds.
When Nathanael first heard about Phillip leaving everything behind to follow this Jesus of Nazareth character, his question was, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” It was obscure and out of the way, kind of like Clarksville used to seem to us. A similar question has come to my mind before – “Can anything good come from Clarksville.” I believe so. If God is behind it, success is guaranteed!
“When a man is his own ruler, he has all the responsibility of what he does — but when he implicitly obeys Christ’s command, he is not responsible for the result of his actions — that rests with Him who gave the command.”
~ Charles Spurgeon
Dr. Charles Stanley, while being interviewed recently about his wisdom from over 40 years of ministry on how to lay a godly foundation for a fledgling ministry, said, “Seek the Lord in prayer for guidance and direction. Don’t force anything. Allow God to open and shut the doors of opportunity. Your part is simply to obey. If He has planted this idea in your heart and is behind what you’re doing, He is obligated by his own character to see it through. Remember this: God is responsible for all the consequences of your obedience. You are responsible for all the consequences of your disobedience.”
So true. I love the boldness and the peace that comes with stepping out in faith knowing that this is GOD’S idea, not mine. If it were my idea, who knows what would happen! Since it’s His idea, success is guaranteed!
It’s officially out in the open. Finally. The Miller family is moving to Clarksville, TN to start a church! We announced it to the Velocity leaders on Friday, to all 3 services today, and Skip will be interviewing me in front of the church on Wednesday night!
It’s been 5 great years of ministry at Calvary and God has done some incredible things. And now, at a time where the economy is the worst it’s been in my 25 years and ministry is the best it’s been, God has led us to pack up our stuff and step out in faith. We’ll be moving 1200 miles away to start a Calvary from scratch. It’s a bit intimidating considering that I’ve never done this, and I’ll actually have to find a real adult job that won’t pay me to go to summer camp anymore. However, there’s so much peace in knowing that this is God’s idea, not ours!
The name, Awaken Church, captures our vision of Awakening people to the relevance of God’s Word and equipping them for His service. It’s an exciting endeavor that leaves a lot of questions in the air, but we know God will do above all that we ask and think!
We have 7 more weeks with Velocity as we finish out Revelation. Our last weekend will be Saturday and Sunday, May 23-24. We’ll still be around for 3 more weeks, though, and I’ll do AJ (the guy who will take my spot as Youth Pastor) and his fiancee Lisa’s wedding on June 14. On Wednesday, June 17, the adventure officially begins! Nate and Jenn Witiuk and Denver Miller will also be joining us in the beginning of July.
If you’re interested in keeping in touch, you can check the new church website (still under construction and expansion) at awakenchurch.org. We’d love your prayers!
It's official. We announced the news to the leaders tonight and will
tell the students tomorrow. Crazy. It was a rough day for me- very
hard to focus. I didn't eat a thing all day- I was just too nervous. I
finally got to share with them about Luke 5 (see previous blog) and
the vision for Awaken. AJ shared for a few moments as well. It was
hard but great to finally have it out in the open.
This weekend is Revelation 19 in Velocity and I have a full study day
ahead of me. Should be interesting.
Sent from my iPhone