Personal Update

Below is a letter that I sent to the church I serve to update them on some exciting (and sad) news. Thank you in advance for reading and for your interest in what's going on with us.


Dear Sojourn,


If you know me well, you know that I'm an avid movie-goer. I hate nothing more than someone ruining the ending of a story. I will love you if you spoil the end, but I will not enjoy the experience.


However, some moments are best if we cut to the chase.


Rachel and I sense God leading me out of Sojourn's lead pastor role and into a new season of ministry.


I realize this news is shocking and generates a multitude of emotions. It also fills us with excitement for the future and sadness at the end of a significant season of our life.


Now that I ruined the ending, let me start at the beginning.


In 2019, I thought for the first time that perhaps I'm not supposed to be a lead pastor for the rest of my life. This thought disoriented me because my dream was to start a church and pastor her for the duration of my vocational life.


I began processing with Rachel, our elder team, and a few close friends — If I'm not a lead pastor, what would I do? A growing desire for a broader ministry of spiritual direction began to take shape.


You might wonder: What is spiritual direction?


It's a fair question because people are still becoming more aware of this style of ministry.


Spiritual direction is a helping ministry much like counseling. However, rather than focusing on overcoming people's problems, spiritual direction focuses on helping people experience deeper intimacy with God despite their difficulties. Spiritual direction helps people grow in discernment — discerning God's nearness as they process life struggles, vocational decisions, or a desire to know God more personally.


I started receiving spiritual direction in 2019, and my director has been crucial in discerning God's leading in my vocational decision.


Since 2019, my desire for this next phase of ministry has grown, and my desire to pastor has decreased. To be clear — my affection and love for you have not decreased. Even with all the difficulties of 2020, I have grown in admiration for you and gratitude to pastor you.


Speaking of 2020, Rachel and I have asked ourselves (and our counselors) if this decision is motivated by the difficulties of pastoring. It is not. While it has been challenging, God has grown and sustained us. Our elder team and wise counselors all agree this is the right move for our family. This communal affirmation of what we sense God doing means the world to us, and I count myself a blessed man to have such wise friends — friends whose greatest desire for us is that we glorify God with our lives in the specifics of how Jesus has made us.


Jesus clearly called us to plant this church ten years ago. And now, I clearly see that my interests have been shifting toward mental health issues over the years. You've seen it too — in my preaching, discipleship, vision casting, and structuring of our church.


My growing conviction is that men, women, and ministry leaders desperately need to be more grounded in Jesus and grow in emotional and spiritual health.


I believe God created me to help with that, and moving toward a broader helping ministry will free me to meet the world's needs more pointedly. I've been thinking a lot about a quote from Frederick Buechner.


Buechner writes, "Vocation is the place where your deep gladness meets the world's deep need."


Rachel, the pastors, and I believe our deep gladness to plant this church met a deep need in the world. We also trust our willingness to pursue a broader helping ministry will meet another deep need.


With this said, the elder team has been praying and wisely sees the time is right for me to transition. My last day as Sojourn's lead pastor will be August 31. It took courage for Rachel and me to move to Chattanooga to start Sojourn. Now, we are taking another leap of faith as I start a ministry to provide spiritual direction and other services that help people grow in spiritual and emotional health.


Along with our transition, Sojourn is about to experience some change. Sojourn's Elders — along with the help of a team of key leaders — have begun to search for my replacement. Pray for them, the process, and Sojourn’s future pastor.


We know this type of change can multiply questions about what this means for Sojourn. News like this can also create all kinds of emotions in you, and that's okay. Pastor Marc and pastor Nick are available. Shoot them an email, and they'll be happy to connect with you (nick@sojournchattanooga.com and marc@sojournchattanooga.com). Also, Rachel and I don't plan to move at this time. We love Chattanooga, and we love you. We are available and would love to see our friendship continue.


Sojourn, I'm hopeful for your future. We've always said this church is not personality-driven. Now is the time to make that a reality. As humbled as I am that God used me to build such a beautiful, relational, grace-filled church, I also believe there is another man out there who is a perfect fit for Sojourn's next season. I'm praying for him, and I'm praying for you — for a season of greater faith, health, beauty, and Kingdom expansion in Chattanooga. Pray with me. Believe with me that Sojourn's best days are ahead of her.


Last but certainly not least, I want to say on behalf of Rachel and me — Thank you. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for trusting us. Thank you for giving me the honor of pastoring you.


We will forever hold you in our hearts,

Pastor Rusty

On behalf of the Elder Team


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