In early 2003, Kyle and I met with the leadership of a new church. We talked with them about our mutual love for Jesus and convictions about what a local body of Christ should be. Soon after that night, we were thrilled to begin pouring into The Austin Stone. Kyle began serving as an elder, I was teaching, mentoring, and working on the website, and Torey was graciously filling the role of the only ‘youth’ in the church with as much of the requisite middle school awkwardness as she could manage. We had a lot of fun especially in those crazy earliest days.
There are many things to love about The Stone. The worship draws people to honor Christ. The Word is passionately preached and a sincere desire to faithfully convey its teachings is evident. People are being sent to proclaim the Gospel all over the world. Others are reaching out to the city by mentoring, serving, and living among the needy. We were honored to be a part of what God was doing during our time there and know His work continues in our absence.
All of us who were part of the foundation of The Stone wanted God to form a different kind of church through us. We were committed to things like all believers being equipped and empowered to use their gifts, to being a church planting church, to having elders as shepherds rather than being staff led, and to living in community because we saw these things in the Scriptures. We also valued plurality in leadership and shared servanthood among staff and laity, men and women, married and unmarried, young and old, seminary trained and self-taught. We wanted God to build a church that looked more like a family. Over the years, we realized that while everyone agreed on these values, we had a very different vision of what the result should look like. And we also saw some of those values drift and be replaced by other goals in the face of the very rapid growth that God allowed. Some of this drift was necessary and helpful and some has been less so.
It is hard to believe it was two years ago that Kyle resigned from service on our family’s behalf. It was a decision made with heavy hearts but with confidence and peace that it was the right thing to do. But one thing that has always saddened me is that I didn’t have an opportunity to say goodbye myself to the many people I loved and served alongside during our time at The Stone. I have had a few years now to think and pray and process while living through the season of storms God has allowed. And while I have more peace and a little more understanding, that sadness remains.
And that’s why I’m writing–to extend a belated and heartfelt farewell. Please know that my family and I loved you all as well as we could but certainly not as well as was possible. Speaking for myself, I know I have a lot of growing left to do. There are many things I would do differently if I could go back in time with more grace and maturity and truth.
I bless my brothers and sisters at the Austin Stone and pray that God will move in greater and deeper ways within you and among the Body of Christ at large in this city. I pray that we will all be able to echo Paul’s encouragement to the Philippians to one another, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel…” (Philippians 1:27).
With great love,