8 years ago this past week, I was away with a traveling baseball team in Phoenix, Arizona. It was on this trip that I broke bones in both arms resulting in being locked up in two casts for three months. It was a painful and humiliating experience but it also was not the only life-changing experience that I would come away with on this trip. My freshman year of college happened to be less than a month away and I had no idea where I was headed. I had taken the ACT one time and had scored under what any college would even consider accepting in a registrant. I was living in Oklahoma City fresh out of high school and found myself with the common feelings of “cabin fever” in the city that watched me grow. I never saw myself venturing too far from my parents but I went from having no idea of where to go, to within a matter of minutes, knowing that Conway, Arkansas was the place I needed to be.
Just as soon as I had made my decision about going to Central Baptist College, I made my decision of what church I would connect with. I also knew that I wouldn’t make this move without two of my best friends. One was already committed and the other I had to convince that we’d be unable to live without each other. We were flatteringly referred to for many years as “the Oklahoma boys”. I also made all of my first impressions with two broken arms, including my first impression to the beautiful greeter at church who would one day become my wife.
Conway fit me. Conway welcomed me. I am the proud alumni of Central Baptist College and still run into people who know me by no other name than “broken arms kid” or “Oklahoma boy”.
But I have also been shaped by the church that I have been with for all 8 years(aside from a 6 month stint). As Charles Spurgeon refers to the local church as “the dearest place on earth”, so Antioch has been for me over the past near decade. The friendships I have today I owe to the ministry of Antioch. The hands on experience I have in ministry, I owe to Antioch. After being involved with the life and ministry of Antioch for 4 years, I received a call in June of 2012 that shifted the trajectory of my life and ministry as I was invited to be part of the staff. Over these 4 years of ministry at Antioch, I have found life through being part of home groups and by walking with high school students.
Antioch is the place where it felt like nearly half of the congregation cheered on my pursuit of a girl named Lynzie Lamb. Lynzie was brought to faith in Christ through the ministry of Antioch Baptist Church and today leads our home and our family of 6 in a way that brings joy to our home and glory to her King.
Through the faithfulness of Jesus, we owe everything to Antioch..
Including our next step.
As many great things as I have had to say about Antioch, we have known that God was preparing us for something beyond her. For the past 5 years, we have had a love and an ear open to the city that I left disgruntled in 2008- Oklahoma City. While being all in where God has us in Conway, we have attempted to remain open handed in where we may be called. While pouring hours and energy into being involved in our amazing community through becoming foster parents, adopting two of our children and investing back into this local organization by training families to become foster families as well as serving on the board at the local and state level, we knew that we had to continue living with an open-handed mindset.
In January of this year, Lynzie and I became intentional about praying for a clear opportunity to take this step if it be what we were supposed to do. Expecting and planning for it to be more of a 2017 thing, we have been given the opportunity for this to be like a next month thing.
We are excited for the opportunity to partner with and learn under the ministry of Grace Hills Church in Bentonville, AR. What we anticipate just as much is the fact that after a time with them, we will be sent into the OKC Metro area to meet and build relationships with people far from God and invite them into what we dream will become their “dearest place on earth” as we plant a church for people to meet and follow Jesus through church planting. It has been amazing to experience what God has done in our hearts to give us this vision. I obviously have so much more that I could share about our past, present and future.
We have no doubt that God has led us to this place. We have no doubt that conversations we have had over the last 5 years have brought us to this point of preparing to do something we feel so inadequate to do. We have no doubt that God has begun a good work and has invited us to be part of it.