My move to Cape May County happened 24 years ago, in summer 1997, and for me, it was also my return home to the Garden State.
Although I was born and raised in North Jersey, I always felt a holy pull to this portion of the state, and I just knew that someday, God would allow me the chance to fulfill that calling. It all became reality when the leadership of The Lighthouse Church contacted me when I was serving as a pastor in Omaha, Nebraska.
They asked me if I was interested in coming to join what they sensed the Lord was doing in this area and become their minister. I knew the moment I first met in person and got to share ideas with Gerald Stout, Art Hall, Paul Brant and Jim Carpinelli that this was a very special invitation from God with my name upon it. I saw in my heart the clear vision of where He was going to take our church before any of it had ever happened.
I wasn’t even sure if this group of people could pay me, but it was a clear no-brainer for me to tell my family to fasten their seatbelts because we were all heading east.
I was on the Wildwoods Boardwalk when the Lord shared John 11:40 with me: “Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Those words made me leave a big, wonderful church family in Omaha to come to a place that not only didn’t have a building, but didn’t even own a copy machine.
As we prepare to celebrate The Lighthouse Church's 30th birthday next weekend, I can assure God has kept His promise. We have seen His glory and power in our midst, and as the lyrics of the classic Andrea Crouch songs sings, “If there be any praise, let It go to Calvary.”
What God has done before, God will renew and redeem it in an even better way in the times to come. It is just that the Lord will use another senior pastor, as I believe it is time to pass the baton to a younger man.
Last week, Kelvin Walker, the district superintendent of our denomination, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and his assistant, Bryan, came to meet with me first and then stayed for our regular elder board meeting. The simplest way to summarize the day was that we all concluded that it is time.
I have always known in the back of my heart and mind that this day would eventually come. I truly anticipated it to be an impassioned decision, and it is.
I have dedicated my life's amplest years to being the church's senior pastor, as I was 37 years old when I came, and will be 61 years young as I depart. I never doubted that God had my name on this precious work, and it has been an honor and privilege to be not only the pastor of Lighthouse, but also a pastor of Cape May County.
My goal has always been to take Jesus' love beyond any man-made walls, and I have loved everything about serving our precious Savior by showing them Jesus, whether you were church bound or not. I believe God has blessed us all beyond what we could have ever hoped, dreamt or imagined when I returned to New Jersey from Omaha years ago.
I am humbly grateful for the many ways the Lord has appeared for all of us through the years, as we have experienced together the miracle that has become this unique body of Christ that still allows no perfect people to join. We have all tasted of countless adventures and God moments that we will have all of eternity to celebrate and cherish these memories together with Him.
As many know, I have desired to be attentive and sensitive to the Lord to know when it was time for me to move on and faithfully let go for our God to continue building this anointed work His way in His will for the days to come.
Through 2020, as we all experienced the chaotic pandemic and now, in 2021, as I am presently battling prostate cancer, it has certainly left a mark. In these changing times we are living in, it has become apparent to me that many more adjustments and creativity in how to pastor this church in the strategic days still lie ahead are needed.
The Lighthouse Church needs an anointed man in his prime with a sold-out heart to Jesus to answer the call for such a time as this. I need to be realistic about what I know God wants me to do and what I need to let go of and trust God with.
After much prayer and soul searching, I believe that now is the time to begin the important transition for the future. I truly thought I could be part of the process to turn it over to the new senior pastor, but the Lord has challenged me that I can better serve everyone by getting out of the way and trust God to do what He does best. I maintain that my hanging on would only be holding the Lighthouse back, and I won’t do that.
For me, I am far from done in ministry, but I believe I must adjust my responsibilities because while I expect to win this battle against cancer, my high blood pressure is a sincere threat. I am already seeking the Lord to show me a church and community like Lighthouse was when I first arrived, in 1997 - a church that wants to reach its community and may have experienced some hard times, but believes that it is not over.
You wouldn't believe how many churches there are like that in the C&MA in Pennsylvania alone. Yes, I will be relocating, but I am hoping to minister somewhere in between our kids here and my son, Rudy, and his family, in western Pennsylvania.
I have peace and am not worried about it, for God knows, and it is His presence and power we must follow obediently.
For Lighthouse, the Metropolitan District will be searching for a new senior pastor. The C&MA already has a tried-and-true structure in place for this, and they have given me their word that Cape May County will be a priority for such a time as this.
I tried everything I could to find a way I could stay. I want to move now like I want a hole in the head, but God has made it clear, and it has been affirmed by our district leadership and our elders that it is time.
Pray, please. I will never do anything that would hurt God's work here. It is not about me or you, but it is all about Jesus. Lighthouse is His Church.
Thank you for everything. I love you all. As Barry Manilow sings, “Letting go is just another way to say I’ll always love you so.”
We are not home yet, and there are still many people who need to experience God's amazing grace and Jesus' transformational love. There are more adventures to come, so we look up before we look out because we know the best is yet to come. For now, it is just, “I’ll see you later.”
ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House.