Two weeks ago, I made a big announcement to the NewHeart family. You can click here and go to the October 26 message and listen as I shared my heart with the congregation. The letter I refer to is below.
October 26, 2014
Dear NewHeart Family,
I’ve never had to do this before, so please excuse me if what I’m writing sounds like dribble to you! I’ve fretted about writing this very letter for many, many years. I’ve literally hoped the time would never come, so I wouldn’t have to face it. But here it is. The time has indeed come.
I have been asked by our denomination, The Foursquare Church, to enter a new season of life and ministry service by serving as the next (and first full-time) Director of Center for Spiritual Renewal East in Christiansburg, Virginia. After considerable prayer and discussion, Colleen and I have determined that the timing is right and that this is the Lord’s will for us.
29 years of being a part of this incredible church family called NewHeart! It all started with my then-fiancé, Colleen Flanagan. The Lord led me to start coming here instead of remaining at the church I had served for a little over 2 years. My first Sunday was December 1, 1985, and I vividly remember where I was sitting in the sanctuary that day.
We had an elementary school at the time. I started as part-time before/after school daycare monitor while attending Bible College during the day. After almost a year, I became full-time janitor for the school and church and volunteer Youth Pastor. I’ll never forget meeting with Pete & Kathy Vigliotta to ask them to become our first Youth Workers. Pete is our Youth Pastor today.
When I graduated Bible College in 1987, I became full-time Secretary and continued as volunteer Youth Pastor for about six months. Then, I became full-time Youth Pastor and Worship Leader until 1993, when I transitioned to Associate Pastor while continuing with Worship leading. (Back then, we didn’t call the position Worship Pastor, but that’s what I would have been in today’s vernacular.)
In 1995, Colleen and I saw the birth and adoption of our two sons, Joshua in February and Jonathan in December, and you embraced them as part of the Kuzma clan. I served in the Associate/Worship roles until 1997, when I became the Senior Pastor.
When I graduated from Bible College, I asked God to let me stay in one place of ministry for a long time. He granted that request beyond my wildest imagination of what that would look like.
Today, October 26, I mark 17 years of serving as Senior Pastor of NewHeart. I spoke in my message this morning about the significance of the length of my tenure. I encourage you to listen at our website if you weren’t able to be there.
My role was not sought after, and I do not take it lightly. It has always been a responsibility that causes me to regularly shiver in my boots (or my Birkenstocks!)
We don’t make a big deal of either date, and I like it that way. That’s just me. I’m a plodder, just trying to live out a long obedience in the same direction. Hopefully, that direction is God’s, not just mine.
I know for many of you, this isn’t surprising. Some of you have even been blunt enough to say you saw this coming. I held that “we’ll see”, knowing that leaving NewHeart would be one of the most significant challenges of my life.
My mentor, Chuck Shoemake (Director of CARE Ministries for Foursquare pastors and their families for 20 years and concurrently the last eight years as the Founder & Director of Center for Spiritual Renewal East), invited me into this work a few years ago. He saw things in me that I haven’t seen on my own, and he encouraged me to pursue a degree in Counseling that would possibly open doors for me to follow in his footsteps. I accomplished that in the Fall of 2012.
When I originally spoke to the Council in 2011 about making 3-4 trips a year to Virginia for this purpose, one Council Member observed that many pastors take regular missions trips internationally. The Council together back then decided that this would be NewHeart’s way of sending their pastor into the mission field, albeit domestically versus internationally. That’s the way we’ve seen the arrangement ever since.
We have ALWAYS been a sending church. Ever since I’ve been a part of this church family, we have been involved in giving young leaders opportunities to spread their wings and hone their skills, eventually sending them to their next place of life and ministry.
Now, the time has come for NewHeart to launch Colleen and I into our next season of ministry service, and I humbly ask you to view our transition this way with me. I believe with all of my heart that is exactly what is happening!
When the word “RISK” was dropped in my heart for our church family for 2014, I had no idea it would apply to my own life in this manner. I figured God would do something to make sure I was leading the way, as He usually does. I just didn’t think it would be Abrahamic. You know, pack up all your stuff and move to a land far away kind of Abrahamic!
We covet your support as we move into this new season. That’s one reason I’m asking you to see this through those eyes. You are sending us into a land that is in need of workers, and our Foursquare leadership has seen some of the work we’ve been able to do to help pastors in need.
Now, they are answering that call as well, expanding the field of workers in this area. They have asked us to serve, and I am humbly honored, sensing God’s call to do so.
They don’t come right out and ask this, but they ARE asking NewHeart to send us with your love, prayer covering, and blessing of support. This is a significant thing not just for Colleen and I, but for NewHeart as well!
Our church is now 65 years old. I’m the ninth pastor in her history. As we’ve heard stories of history, this will be the first positive succession and sending out of a Senior Pastor in over 50 years! In addition, it will be the first one since we occupied this property in 1963!
As far as I have been able to recount from stories, the last five pastoral successions have been painful and negative. I believe with all my heart that together, we have changed the course of history for this congregation and therefore, this community!
This succession isn’t happening quickly, and doesn’t need to. We still have Kingdom work and mission to accomplish together, and I’m glad for it. I wouldn’t want a hasty succession to take place.
We plan to be at NewHeart through the end of February. I would be honored if you would allow me to continue to be your Pastor for these next four months. (By the way, in case you’re wondering, that means I’ll get to complete 30 Christmas seasons with NewHeart!)
Details on who will serve in this role next are in the hands of our District Supervisor, Dennis Easter. He has been very gracious to Colleen and I, and unbeknownst, to you as well, desiring that this not be a hasty transition. He has communicated that the process of selection will be considerate of the work God has done thus far in our church family.
I trust Dennis’ leadership and wisdom, and he will be working with our Church Council toward a fruitful transition. He and I have a shared desire that the next Senior Pastor be able, if at all possible, to serve among us for as much time as we can garner before my last Sunday. That’s all in Jesus’ hands, and He does know what the future holds. We will continue to trust in Him.
If you have any questions, concerns or just want to talk, please let me know!
We deeply love you each and every one of you!
Paul & Colleen