Dear Forestpark Family,
We have all been through a lot this year. We have experienced situations and difficulties that we never have before. At the same time, we are also going through an unprecedented change at our church. The timing has not been ideal, as it has been difficult for us to connect over the past few months. But I wanted to take this opportunity to reach out to you and assure you of what will not change as we transition into a new time at our church.
Yes, it’s true. Since our launch in 1992, Forestpark has never changed pastors. We have never made this transition before, but that’s not a bad thing. The fact that Ronnie has been the pastor for almost 30 years is a sign of stability in our church. In a country where the average tenure of a pastor is less than 4 years, instability and confusion are the reality for many churches. Ronnie has been a staple as the main leader of our church, providing clear and consistent leadership. His impact on Forestpark is immensely important. However, the stability and success of our church going forward does not depend on him or any one human being.
People don’t come to a healthy church for the pastor; they come to be a part of a clear and inspiring vision. A church that totally depends on the personality and ability of its pastor to sustain it will be in for all kinds of trouble. No one person can or should be the lifeline of a church community, unless that person’s name is Jesus.
Don’t get me wrong; the pastor matters. This time of transition in our church will be a challenge, but it will be far less challenging if we understand this: the pastor of our church is called to establish the vision and equip the church to carry it out; the pastor himself is not the vision.
Yes, we are transitioning from one pastor to another, and this will mean some change. Ronnie has been a senior pastor for 30 years; I haven’t even been one for 30 days. Ronnie grew up in the 70s; I grew up in the 90s. Ronnie went to seminary in Tulsa; I went to seminary in Louisville. Ronnie preaches with one style; I preach with another. Ronnie rides motorcycles; I play basketball. Ronnie is a Louisville fan; I’m a Kentucky fan. Ronnie doesn’t wear socks; I usually wear socks. Ronnie and I have many differences and they do hold some importance, but what we have in common is far more important: We both know and love this church and we are committed to her vision.
I want to begin my time as your pastor by highlighting our vision as the driving force of our church and breaking down how we will continue to carry it out together. I want you to know from the beginning what you can expect from me and how I’m going to lead our church.
Forestpark Community Church exists to reach lost and disconnected people in order to help them become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
The statement above has been our vision from the beginning, and we are confident in it because we believe it falls in line with the New Testament’s vision for the Church as a whole. But what does this vision look like in action? Every vision requires a mission. The mission of our church is how we carry out our vision. Since the beginning, we have broken down our mission into four categories: exaltation, equipping, evangelism, and extension.
In everything that our church does, whether it is congregational singing, studying the bible together, going to a community group, going to youth camp, going on a mission trip, or serving the community, the ultimate goal is to glorify Jesus and bring honor to him. When this fails to become our main motivation for doing ministry, then we are out of step with our vision. Our church is Jesus’s church.
It does not belong to Ronnie or me or the elders or anyone else. As the Apostle Paul states in Ephesians 1:22-23, “And he (God the Father) put all things under his (Jesus’s) feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Our church is first and foremost about Jesus. We want to know and worship him above all else.
At Forestpark, we not only want to point you to Jesus, we want to point you to other Christians. Faith in Jesus greatly benefits from friendship. We need friends who can pray for us, counsel us, teach us new things, encourage us and convict us. Our church is a place where you can grow in your faith in the context of community.
We also want to equip our members to know their bibles well. Unlike any other book, the bible is the Word of God, which makes it worthy of studying for our entire lives. At our church, you will hear preaching and teaching from qualified leaders. You will get to be a part of community groups and bible studies that meditate on God’s Word together. You will get to talk with leaders and friends in the church about your doubts and questions. We want Forestpark to be an environment of learning and growth, where “Bible believing Christians” are also “Bible knowing Christians.”
Lastly, we want to hold each other accountable to living out our faith by serving in the church. Church is not a place where you simply come to consume. As a community of Christians, we must all figure out how we can best contribute. At Forestpark, we want to help our members discover and cultivate their unique spiritual gifts.
We all have the ability and responsibility to serve one another. Whether it’s teaching, generosity, encouragement, discernment or the ability to command a room of 5 year olds, we need to be there for each other. In many churches, 20% of the people do 80% of what needs to be done. This is a trend that we do not want to be a part of. As a community of Jesus followers, we must all learn to humbly serve others, just as he did.
The final step of equipping followers of Jesus at Forestpark is to send them out, so they can equip more followers of Jesus. This is why we are committed to reaching the lost and unchurched. If we do not prioritize outreach, then we fail to be genuine followers of Jesus and our church will fail to go on. Jesus has called us to make disciples of all nations.
Whether it’s going on a mission trip to Asia or talking to your co-worker or classmate, we must seek out opportunities to proclaim Jesus and connect people to the life he gives.
In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus instructs his disciples to ask God, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Based on this prayer, Forestpark seeks to be an extension of God’s kingdom. This means that we desire to see the values of God’s kingdom also become the values of our church.
As we develop the values of God’s Kingdom (humility, love, forgiveness, unity, patience, selflessness, joy, peace, kindness, etc.), we aim to impact those around us. From our families, schools, teams and organizations, work places and all the communities around us, we want to play our role in making these places on earth “as it is in heaven.”
Whether you have been a part of Forestpark for 20 years or 20 days, I hope you are excited to be a part of this vision and to see new people continue to join us as well.
There may be some change coming to Forestpark, but we will continue to worship Jesus, grow as faithful disciples, reach the lost and disconnected, and extend the kingdom of God where we are.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or need anything at all.