Change Is Gonna Do Ya Good

Last week I spent a couple of days making final "official" visits to some of our homebound members. Many of them had questions about Oak Lawn's future because of recent changes. I said, more than once, that Oak Lawn has great days ahead. "Really?" I was asked more than once. Absolutely. There is a ton of change the church has to deal with this summer: new financial realities, new faces, saying goodbye to familiar ones. Really, none of these changes would be very surprising to any who had access to announcements, attended meetings, or had conversations with others who were informed. One mantra we've bounced around fairly regularly since last December, when many of these changes first began to be considered, is "People do not dislike change. People dislike the grief that comes with change." Your leaders in the church have done an exceptional job making themselves available to the congregation's questions, concerns, and opinions. Decisions were made that were not popular, and some reacted in ways they probably regret today. Some decided their best way to show their displeasure was to leave the church or withhold financial support. We can only pray that God will heal their broken hearts and either restore them to fellowship at Oak Lawn, or another community of faith. Unfortunately, most folk who leave churches do not worship elsewhere.

But I can answer the questions about Oak Lawn's future with an emphatic, "Absolutely" because I know God has a deeper purpose and vision for this community at the corner of Oak Lawn and Cedar Springs. During just my tenure here-two years-I have seen tremendous change, almost all of it better for the short and long-term status of the church. During those two years we said goodbye to some wonderful Oak Lawn saints; in their stead we have raised new, faithful leaders who have pushed the church out into the neighborhood in wonderful ways that I know will bear fruit over time. And the intense development and transformation of the neighborhood-on both sides of Turtle Creek-will have a major impact on the church for the next couple of decades.

I am thrilled that Bishop McKee and the appointive cabinet saw fit to appoint Anna Hosemann Butler as your new Senior Pastor. I have been in constant contact with her since the announcement was made in May. She has wonderful gifts, skills, and passion. But it is not Anna's responsibility to carry the church's mission and vision forward, just as it was not mine to establish a vision. The God we serve is faithful, and is as much at work in the life of Oak Lawn today as over the last 138 years. Pastor Anna will shepherd you-be your spiritual guide-but it will be the layfolk of the church who determine its future health and well being. Oak Lawn is blessed with tremendously smart, talented, gifted individuals who have said 'yes' to the challenge of leadership. It's my earnest prayer that they will know the love and support of everyone-from the newest member to our longest-tenured members.

The other day I broke the boys' hearts: I shaved. I loved having a full beard for the first time, and it will certainly come back someday, but after 6-7 weeks it was time for it to go. Miles, James, and Linus had dreams of the beard looking like Professor Dumbledore's in the Harry Potter books or the guys from Duck Dynasty. I was accused of betrayal. After a few days their sorrow has turned to joy (John 16:20)-well, maybe that's a stretch but at least their anger has subsided. The grief and other emotions many are feeling at Oak Lawn will heal over time, and it will take every person to participate in that healing in ways that build up both the individual and the community. Allow the Spirit of God to bless and work in your midst!

This week I have split time between Oak Lawn and Custer Road, moving offices, meeting CR staff, taking the boys to Vacation Bible School there. As we made the curve on Spring Creek and the church steeple came into view, Miles (8) from the back seat cried, "DANG!" The boys were also impressed that Plano police guided kids and parents across the street, and of course the size of the building and numbers of children and youth are beyond anything we've experienced. The staff has been very gracious- Rev Tim Morrison, Music Director, said, "We'll take good care of you, because we need you to care for us." This would be a wonderful sentiment to share with Pastor Anna.

It's a surreal move, this one, because unlike all others we will not move house or the boys' school. We are very grateful and excited for this new opportunity, and we are thankful for our ministry at Oak Lawn. Our family has been a part of this church family since 1998, and those relationships will continue, but unofficially-you've heard me say before: "No one ever really leaves Oak Lawn." Thank you for the privilege of being one of your pastors. I am grateful for the wonderful staff's love and support, the way people like Pastor Kerry, Tiffany, Byron, Stena, and others worked extra hard to form a youth group, and those who played significant roles in our boys' spiritual development through teaching and encouragement. Thank you for the feedback and appreciation of my sermons and leadership. May you continue to be bold, unafraid of failure or risk, ready to embrace one of the most dynamic, exciting, vibrant communities in North Texas. We'll be watching and praying!