As a leadership team, we had about 10 days notice that our pastor was going to step down. We considered many options and played out many scenarios, none of them were real appealing. We had calls into several places, including a few local churches like Hope Community and Vintage21, and the Acts29 Network (to which V21 belongs). But it looked pretty bleak. I even had charts made up with pictures and graphs that argued for closing the doors and trying to find some synergy and join forces with other churches. I was looking forward to being done with it, and moving on to an established church and plugging in (after recuperating for a long time, of course).
Dan, one of our leaders, had talked on the phone with Tyler Jones at V21 on Thursday before Memorial Day, and he said that the conversation was pretty encouraging. The Friday before Memorial Day... literally at 5:30pm... we met with Tyler at his home right in the middle of downtown Raleigh... ok a few blocks east... right near the Raleigh Rescue Mission. I am not kidding... I went with Dan and another leader, 100% convinced that we were closing the doors after the coming Sunday. Within 60 seconds, Tyler spoke words that completely changed my heart and mind. He put wind back in my sails that I had not felt in years. He was encouraging, positive, biblical, humble, confident, firm, and gracious all at the same time. It was absolutely amazing.
Our theory was that there was not a market in Cary for another church like Hope Community, or Crosspointe, or Hope Chapel. Tyler disagreed... He said that there are a million people in the Triangle who don't know Jesus, and that it is NOT true that we have enough churches. We need all the churches we can get. We need churches in every neighborhood across the Triangle.... The local church is the best way to reach our communities and neighbors and friends for Christ. It was so refreshing to hear a leader who is convinced of their mission, and is non-compromising about executing it.
As it turned out, Tyler was in the midst of his first 3-week vacation in years, and had the coming Sunday off from preaching. (I believe this was God's providence.) So he agreed to come to West Cary on his day off, on a holiday weekend, the day that our pastor resigned. Our pastor gave his talk. Then I talked a bit, and then Tyler came up and breathed the same level of excitement and encouragement into what he said to our congregation. He recognized and affirmed our pastor for his service and courage to heed God's calling to step down. And he talked of the mission of the local church. After he was done, people were SOOOO pumped up and excited! So, on what was intended by the enemy to be a day of defeat for the kingdom, I truly believe was a major day of victory!!! I strongly encourage you to listen to this audio 5/27... You will readily hear the humility and the passion and the biblical leader qualities that we heard... http://thejourneycommunity.net/html/sermons_online.html
So we started out with this try-and-see relationship with Vintage21. From that point forward, Tyler and Vintage21 changed their schedule such that he preaches service #1 downtown, then drives to WCMS, then preaches at The Journey, then drives right back downtown to preach service #2 there. Then he preaches in the evening there, too. The Vintage21 elders were always very humble and seemed to be such passionate followers and imitators of Christ, we could not help but think God was at work.
During that time, we met with Hope Community. While I would say that The Journey had a lot more in common with Hope Community, and they agreed to help us in some ways, there was not a sense of us being a part of a larger kingdom vision with them. There wasn't the same level of urgency and vision about keeping The Journey open that we experienced at Vintage21. I think the proximity of The Journey at West Cary was too close to Hope (I think it's 8 miles) and I also think they were already busy with another church plant.
During all this time, the V21 elders were fasting and praying about our situation. They came to us with a proposal: Let's merge!!! We would remain in Cary, and Tyler would continue to preach for us. They would staff a site pastor who would serve to care for the families at the Cary site. So after much discussion, The Journey partners overwhelmingly voted for the merger in late July. We have a site pastor, Robert Greene, who is currently commuting from Richmond to Cary 2x per week to be with us. He has a long-standing relationship with Vintage21 and Acts29 and has been hoping to formally get into those organizations.
One thing we're surely missing is a youth group. We have, literally, a handful of youth. And that is important to parents who have youth. Tyler challenged our folks and said, "When you're 13, you are old enough to labor with us and build the youth ministry from the ground up!" He really believes in people taking ownership in the kingdom and not just being served. AMEN!!!! Despite all the hurdles like these, I am convinced that we are in God's will, and that He is going to work out something super great in the end.