July 27, 2017
Dearest Forefront Family,
This summer, we’ve been exploring the Gospel of Mark. I love Mark because it doesn’t waste any time with explaining what’s happening, the story just takes off from the start. John the Baptist warns his followers to prepare themselves for something life changing, something that will transform the way they live, and think about everything, and then Jesus shows up and starts blowing minds.
I love it.
Jesus calls people into the unknown, and reorients an entire community around a new way to see God by healing the sick and forgotten, inviting outcasts to the dinner table, and preaching a message of radical, barrier crushing, love for all people. Jesus does it all through the most unlikely people, in the most unlikely places, at the most unlikely time.
That is just how Jesus works. He ignites our imaginations, softens our hearts, and broadens our shoulders, in ways we could never anticipate, and in ways that if we knew beforehand we would probably want no part of.
The beginning of Jesus’ story in Mark is haunted with uncertainty, and the ending of Jesus’ story in Mark is marred by sorrow, but the magic- the beauty of Jesus’ story in Mark is all that unfolds between a scary beginning and a sad end.
All the miracles, all the hope, all the plans, all the expectations ignited in the imaginations of Jesus’ followers evaporate with his final breath on the cross.
Then something else happens. A new beginning.
A friend of mine sent me a poem last week that ended with this…
“The end is a stone’s throw away, and it is pregnant.”
Eric Hovis from our Leadership Team and I have made announcements the past few Sundays about changes taking place in the structure and setting of our community. It has felt like an action-packed, at time shocking, and challenging summer as we face transitions. But, we are so hopeful and encouraged as Forefront continues to follow in the movement of Jesus.
If you have not attended on Sunday or watched the livestream, here is a recap of important announcements.
#1: Ryan Phipps resigned as Lead Pastor, and I, Travis Eades am stepping into that role.
Ryan took a sabbatical starting in July to focus on his family and to take some time before coming back to lead the church. While travelling to visit family, friends, and other congregations, Ryan accepted a position at a church closer to his wife and kids.
We are grateful for the seven years Ryan invested in Forefront Church. He has led our community faithfully, and we wish him well on the way.
I am thankful for all of your support and encouragement as I’ve jumped more deeply into the work of teaching and pastoring.
#2 Due to our ongoing financial difficulties, Forefront Manhattan will leave the Gramercy Theater. Our last Sunday at the Gramercy will be this week, July 30th.
Our Leadership Team is committed to establishing greater financial transparency and stewardship. Our current giving is not enough to cover our current expenses. The Gramercy Theater represented over 20% of our budget. And, we have heard from many of you that the Gramercy lacks many qualities of a space that could better cultivate community. So it was an easy decision to look elsewhere.
Last week, we hosted a Wednesday night meeting to explain the state of our budget and our strategy moving forward. If you have questions about finances at Forefront, please reach out to Laura Herrod.
We are beginning again, and beginnings can be scary. And beginnings can be hard. However, I take courage in the story of Jesus and his church. I take courage in each of you. I take courage in the collective power of community. And I take courage in the Spirit of God that dwells in us.
Following Jesus is a practice in faith. It’s an exercise in courage. It’s an invitation into an incredibly exciting and moving story about how strangers can become family, and how families can change the course of history.
We have something that most churches long for. We have a potent collective of incredible, image bearing children of God. Every movement in history has happened because of people, not places or things. Jesus’ followers faithfully walked with him into the unknown because of who they were walking with, and they changed the world.
I’ll walk anywhere with you.