“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word”
2 Timothy 4:1-2
Preaching is such a lofty work! Paul can’t just say, “preach the word.” It’s a work conceived and commissioned by God himself. It’s a work as needed as Christ’s judgment is universal. It’s a work as life-giving as his return is glorious. It’s as sure as his kingdom is strong. It’s an old work, and it’s as relevant as life and death.
It is for this work of preaching that the Lord is reassigning the Hunter family to Greer, South Carolina, a city in the Greenville area.
As a friend put it a few weeks back, “it’s getting real.” Today it did.
This morning the saints at Heritage Bible Church agreed together in the Lord to invite me to come as their Pastor for Preaching and Teaching. They did so happily, overwhelmingly, and clearly—exactly how so many have prayed. In the simplest terms, here’s how they describe the role: “the Pastor for Preaching and Teaching is responsible to bring the Word of God to bear upon the congregation.” That sounded great to us. So we’re in!
To some, you’ve been praying with us about this. To others, this is a big surprise. Kristi and I want to bring all of you in on the story of what our Lord has done.
The Road from Albuquerque to Greenville
Heading into seminary back in 2005, I imagined myself long term in an executive pastor type role. Heading out of seminary, my sights were on the pulpit—the flux capacitor of God’s Work in the church and the world. As my grasp of Scripture sharpened, so did my vision of Christ, and with that a conviction that preaching Christ would be my life’s work. When the Lord directed us to Albuquerque in 2010, I had preached only a handful of sermons. Almost 7 years and 71 sermons later, I have a little shelf full (I stubbornly don’t keep a filing cabinet). That little pile of words represents a labor of love for God’s people, and God’s labor of love in me.
Happy in Albuquerque yet watching the horizon, we’ve talked with a number of churches over the years. A few conversations got serious, and in each case it became clear to one of us that another man would serve those congregations better. Our roots went deeper in Albuquerque, and that blessed us tremendously. In some cases it was even a relief. It was always right.
Then a friend connected us with Heritage Bible Church.
From the start, this one was different. Our first impression came through Danny Brooks’ announcement that he would be leaving his post after 25 years to plant a church in Salt Lake City. We listened to Danny pray and preach, and we wondered what kind of church this must be, having been led like this for so many years. We were intrigued.
Like dating to marriage, the process has had its steady progression. An email in September led to a call, then a questionnaire, then a video conference, and then in December, a visit with elders and their wives. The more questions we asked one another, the more this fit seemed realistic, then right, then exciting. In a memorable January meeting, and much to their own amazement, Heritage’s team of elders were unanimous in their agreement to narrow their search to us. In January we visited again, this time to meet deacons and their wives, and to prep this video. More recently, in February they announced us to the congregation, and then flew our family out for a week. I preached, the kids got grass stains, and we we made a whole lot of new friends.
Here’s most of the staff and their spouses. These are lovely people.
In so many ways, these people remind us of the saints at Desert Springs Church. The staff are energetic, focused, and talented. The elders are patient, deliberate, ever prayerful, laboring to lead together as they are led by the Bible. The congregation receives the Word and us with joy. At a variety of theology and ministry philosophy points, we were just together. At the bottom of it all, the Bible is in the middle of this church’s name because the God of Scripture—indeed, the Christ of Scripture—is at the center of her life, just as it is at Desert Springs Church. You can see it as they serve one another and you can hear it as they sing. Even recent trial has yielded the precious fruit of steadfastness that speaks to Christ’s loving work among them.
Okay, so what kind of timeline are we talking about here? Here’s the roadmap for the next few months with where I’ll be training my attention:
- March. Help make preparations for the search and the transition for my replacement, begin looking for a house, and finish a book project.
- April. Lead DSC’s staff to the The Gospel Coalition’s National Conference one last time, preach at Heritage over Easter weekend, and wrap up family and church transitions.
- May. Move to Greenville the first week to settle into new ministry partnerships with staff, elders, etc., and start laying plans for the preaching calendar for the months ahead. The kids will finish school and I’ll fly home to move the family at the end of the month.
- June. Begin preaching the Word at Heritage.
Grace Looking Back, Grace Looking Forward
Yeah, we’re going to miss Albuquerque pretty bad: the terrain, the color palate, the premium ethnic blend, the menus flowing with huevos rancheros and green chile cheeseburgers, biking in the foothills and along Rio Grande, the balloons at sunrise and electric skies at sunset—all of it. New Mexicans, please blow up our Facebook feeds with these things forever.
The best gifts from God, of course, are you.
Desert Springs Church, we gave you our hearts and you stole all five of them. We love singing with you each Lord’s Day. We love pulling up to your homes during the week for Community Group. We cherish how you love our children and rejoice in support of our adoptions. As a husband, I am blessed for how many sweet friends my wife has and will keep from among you. She has flourished here, as has my whole family. We treasure our dinners and coffees, Christmas parties and weddings, and your kids coming home from the hospital or foreign lands. Even the hard stuff—funerals and crisis counseling—have knit our hearts together. Thank you for bringing us in so close. All of this is God’s work in you, and it is beautiful to us.
Then, for me specifically, there are the teams and our meetings—elders, deacons, and staff—where we have worked way too hard, had way too much fun, and had way too many breakfast burritos from Vic’s Daily Cafe. To the elders and Ryan specifically, thank you for your trust. You’ve given me a lot of room to fly around and even bang into stuff from time to time. This has been a sacred partnership.
We’ve done a lot of sending together, friends—North Africa, Guatemala, the Reservations, and two church plants. We’re honored now to be on the going side.
It is not hard for us to go to Heritage Bible Church. This is the Lord’s assignment and these are his beautiful people. But please know that it is hard for us to leave you. We love you dearly.
Now to the saints at Heritage Bible Church—wow! You welcomed us so warmly in the Lord over these last months, and now you’ve invited us to come with such unity and energy. Your elders have prayed hard and led well. The Lord has answered. Let’s do this. May Christ be exalted among us. May his glorious gospel go out from Heritage for salvation in Greer, and may it go out from Greer to the ends of the earth. Bring on your BBQ, your confusing streets, your smiling faces, and all that the Lord will do among us for his glory. We can’t wait to serve and to sing with you.
We need the Lord’s help in all of life, and transitions make us to know it. The Lord has been kind to answer so many of our prayers—prayers of the saints at Desert Springs and at Heritage. Let’s thank him and depend on him all the more.
Here are four ways you can pray:
- Pray for Heritage Bible Church. This is a massive transition for a church who has had just two preaching pastors in her forty years history. May the Lord bless us with unity of spirit and mission, as we seek to reflect his glory in Greenville and see the gospel take greater root there.
- Pray for Desert Springs Church. The church has seen more leadership transitions in the last year than we’ve seen in my six and a half years combined. May this transition for the gospel strengthen her all the more for her gospel work here in Albuquerque.
- Pray for the Hunters. Imagine what’s involved in moving for a young family—for Kristi, for the kids—and pray for us to grow through that. Pray also for our coming adoption, as our profile is being shown to mothers in crisis for what we hope will be the addition of two more children to our family.
- Pray for me. Ask the Lord for soundness of mind as I lead in several spheres: my family, at DSC, and in my new role at Heritage. Pray also for efficiency and insight as I complete a book, co-authored with Steve Wellum. This has been in the works for years, and we’re on the home stretch. It’s due on April 1 for release in April ’18. The title describes its aim: Christ from Beginning to End: How the Full Story of Scripture Reveals the Full Glory of Christ (Zondervan, 2018). Most important of all, pray that I would be faithful to the charge Paul himself gave to Timothy, to “preach the word, in season and out of season.”
Preaching needs to be done because we need the Word preached. We need the Word preached because we need the Word. We need the Word because we need the Lord. In the Word, we hear the voice of our shepherd, and we follow. To our friends in this city and the next, keep listening to his voice and keep following.
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” —Hebrews 13:20
—Trent and Kristi, with Carson, Madalyn, and Shae