Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up;
do you not behold it?
Isaiah 43: 18-19
Dear Grace Chapel family,
I recently came across my first newsletter column as Senior Pastor of Grace Chapel, from September of 2000. I shared my love for this verse, and my excitement about the new thing God was doing in bringing us together for whatever He had in mind. It turned out he had a lot of new things in mind, and it’s been a joy for Karen and me to experience them with all of you these past 23 years.
And now we’re sensing God doing something new again – in our lives, and in the life of Grace Chapel. After much prayer and deliberation, I’ve let the elders know that the next ministry year will be my final year in the Senior Pastor role at Grace Chapel, finishing up in May of 2024. It’s not been an easy or hasty decision, nor one I have made in isolation. The elders and I have discussed succession planning for several years now, as a responsible board should, and Karen and I have, as always, been seeking God’s guidance for our ministry and family life.
Serving Grace has been a great joy and honor, and this past year, in particular, has been especially meaningful and rewarding. There are no dark reasons behind the decision – on my part personally, or in relation to the elders, staff, or congregation. It’s simply a settled conviction that the time is right for such a transition, for reasons I will share below. And Lord willing, I won’t be leaving Grace Chapel, as the elders have extended an offer to continue serving the church in an active Pastor Emeritus role going forward.
As mentioned above, I believe the Lord is doing a new thing – three of them, actually. (You could see that coming, right?)
First, I believe He’s calling me to a new chapter of ministry. I’ve had the joy of serving as the senior pastor of two wonderful churches for nearly 40 years. It’s been a great privilege to shepherd God’s people in this way, but also a weighty responsibility. I have brought my best energy, passion, and gifts to this work every day, and God has blessed in ways we never could have imagined. However, at this point in life, I sense God calling me to steward those gifts and experiences in new ways and settings, serving both Grace Chapel and the wider church. I don’t have any particular plans in place yet, but hope to focus on preaching and teaching, coaching and developing leaders, and writing.
Secondly, I believe the Lord is doing a new thing at Grace Chapel. On the other side of the pandemic, we are experiencing new energy, engaging new people, and discovering new ways of being the church. The staff is serving with joy and effectiveness, the elders are united and engaged, and financially we are stable and gaining strength each year. For all these reasons, the church is set up well for a new leader with fresh energy and vision for the next decade and beyond. It has always been my intention and hope, when God called me out of senior leadership, to leave the church thriving and in a position of strength to ensure success and health going forward. After navigating the changes and challenges of the past few years, this feels like such a time.
Thirdly, I sense the Lord is doing a new thing in the life of our family. As our widely scattered kids find themselves in the most demanding season of parenthood and careers, we would like to be more available to come alongside them, and to invest in our grandchildren while we have the energy and they have the interest. While the passing of my parents has not been a significant factor in this decision, it has reminded me of the powerful influence parents and grandparents can have on the generations that follow. I want to be available to them in ways I have not always been able to, given the demands of ministry.
Again, this has not been an easy decision, especially after a year in which we have experienced joyful and fruitful ministry, and in which Karen and I have sensed the love and support of this congregation in deeply personal ways. It’s not easy to step away from a work and a congregation that we love so deeply. But the world is changing, and Grace needs a leader who can lead the team in discerning and pursuing a compelling vision for the next chapter of Grace Chapel’s ministry. I continue to believe that Grace Chapel is a special congregation, with unique and strategic influence, and I will do everything in my strength to serve and support the church going forward.
Now, I’m not done yet! I’m looking forward to preaching and leading with strength this next year as we build on our momentum and continue to pursue our mission of helping people Discover Life with God for the Good of the World. Executive Pastor Mark MacDonald has been a great partner these past four years, and I’m confident in his ability to guide the capable staff through this transition and into the future.
The letter from the elders below will explain a bit more about the transitional season to come, as well as the search for our next senior leader. The elders have invited me to participate in the search process, but the decision on a final candidate resides with the elders and the congregation.
I’ll be sharing a bit more on all of this in my sermon this coming Sunday, May 21, and will look forward to many personal conversations with all of you in the months to come. As it turns out, 2024 will mark my 40th year in pastoral ministry, and it feels like there’s something biblical about that! I have no doubt it will be as rich, and joyful, and fruitful as the first 39 years have been!
Gratefully yours in Christ,
A message from the Board of Elders
As Bryan has explained, we (elders) have been preparing for this transition for some time by engaging in ongoing conversations and respecting Bryan’s decision. But it does come with mixed emotions as we have seen Bryan continue to lead and preach as effectively as ever. His willingness to serve in the Pastor Emeritus role, with responsibilities to be determined, will be helpful in the days to come.
The good news is that Grace has navigated several senior leader transitions over the years, and we have continued to grow and thrive. The Elders have a Transition Team in place and will be forming a Search Committee to manage the process ahead. We recognize the importance of this decision, and we have engaged a leading church search firm to partner with us in the year (or months) to come.
At our June 4 services, our Search Committee Chairperson will share more about the process ahead. We have plans to create a landing page on our website that will add transparency and ongoing updates to the Grace Chapel community. We will honor Bryan in a variety of ways throughout the year ahead, including providing the church he served so well with the person who will continue this great work.
Let’s enter into this season with gratitude and expectancy as we pray for Bryan and Karen, our staff, and our congregation as we discern God’s will and the opportunities that lie ahead for Grace Chapel.
Grace Chapel Elders
Eric Bergstrom Keith Cerci Andrea Dacayanan Matthew Doremus
Cynthia Fantasia Rebecca Li Mark MacDonald Tim Min Daniel Mitchell
Priscilla Seuss Sandy Shen Rob Stutzman Carrie Tibbles