Search Process Status
The pastor search advisory team (PSAT) has passed along the screened candidates. You may recall that screening was intended to provide a preliminary screen on the individual’s beliefs for alignment with Harvest Decatur and secondly to serves as a measure of the persons fit within the congregation. At the end of their screening efforts, they were to pass along candidates to the elders for further screening and theological review. At this point, the past has completed those tasks, and assuming that in the elder screening things progress well, their services will be concluded. We pray that is the case. As elders, we are in the process of interviewing the candidates. We are entering a second round of focused interviews with all the candidates and expect to have those interviews completed by Labor Day. I don’t expect our deliberation will be completed by then. Lord willing a clear direction will emerge during the next two weeks as the Holy Spirit works in our hearts and on our minds…. Please be in fervent prayer with us for that to occur.
At the end of June, the Pastor Search Advisory Team completed their review of resumes, preliminary screening for theological alignment with harvest Decatur’s scriptural beliefs, and interviews with the candidates who remained following the screening processes. God has been faithful through the screening so far and we believe He is bringing us closer to the point in time where a new pastor will be called to serve the local church here at Harvest Decatur. The final step the PSAT is taking is to consolidate their interview notes and provide a recommendation of the top candidates for the elders to consider. We are expecting the interview notes to be reviewed within the next two weeks. With the pool of possible pastors being winnowed down, the elders will begin performing final interviews, screens, and sermon reviews and seeking the Lord to provide a clear path forward. We ask all of you to commit a portion of your personal daily prayer time asking for Gods direction for Harvest Decatur. He has been faithful and will continue to be so as we seek His leading.
We want to remind all of us, myself included, this effort Is much more than simply looking for a pastor. It’s a time for us to trust in God‘s faithfulness and ways that some of us may have not done before. It seems like a straightforward process…a position needs to be filled, advertise it, interview, Hire and move on down the road. Unlike most positions that are advertised by employers, this position has eternal consequences. The person hired will likely be the pastor who dedicates your next child, or performs the next baptisms, administers the next wedding ceremony, or sits beside you as you watch a loved one leave this side of eternity. Yes, this position is different, and we approach it differently. You may recall in our last family chat I mentioned the ongoing formation of the pastor search advisory team? ( I called them the PSAT)! Some of the members have been contacted and some had not at that point in time. I wanted you to know that that team is now formed and has had their first organizing meeting and is preparing to have their second. Members that are on the PSAT are: Becky Arndt, Chris Frankovich, Amy Golz, Brad Herman, MaryGrace Hjort, Andy Hynds, Brandon Jelks, Sarah Lux, and Linda Reining. When you have a chance, please thank them for their willingness to step into this role. It will take their time to perform the screening that needs to be done and fervent prayer as they approach each encounter with the various candidates they will be asked to screen. The position of Senior Pastor was posted on March 1st and was noted at that time that the beginning of resume reviews would begin May 1st. Seven days from today is May 1st. We have received some resumes and directed a few of the candidates to the website to complete the application that is posted there. The number of candidates hasn’t been overwhelming, but we should remain optimistic because we aren’t hiring a team of pastors, we are only hiring one…and God already knows who that one… This journey is us seeing Gods plan unfold before our eyes. We are asking each of you to continue to pray alongside us for wisdom and discernment along the way. Specifically, we would ask that you be an encouragement to those on the Pastor search advisory team. Lord willing, their efforts will be short lived, however, God’s mind is not ours and therefore their efforts may be much longer in duration…either way blessed be the name of the Lord. In either circumstance, their efforts will have eternal consequences…pray for their strength, stamina, wisdom, and for protection from spiritual attack…. And while you are praying, don’t forget to pray for your friends, family, coworkers and neighbors who desperately need a love relationship with the Almighty Lord of All Creation…Church you are loved and you are sent.
The last family chat we had we announced a survey that we were asking all of you to complete. we said we were going to take a short two weeks to complete the survey and review the results of it at our last elder meeting. The survey has been completed and last week we did review the results of the survey at the elder meeting.
We don’t need to go question by question over the results, but I did want to give you a couple of overarching takeaways from the survey.
The survey posed two questions that I want to tie together.
1. Which pillar is best demonstrated at Harvest?
2. What pillar most influenced your joining Harvest?
The response to these two questions were almost identical and overwhelming… over 90% of the respondents said that Unapologetic Preaching was the answer best suited for them.
The second area I wanted to address is in the area of discipleship. The survey posed the question by asking for a response of agree, neutral, or disagree to the statement of:
1. I have grown as a disciple here at harvest Decatur. Over 80 percent of the respondents agreed with that statement. In addition to the strength of the positive response we’re the comments that were received. many of the comments directly linked participation in their small groups as vital to their spiritual growth. Many of you already know we had also posed a separate question in the survey regarding that small group topic. Specifically, trying to understand how people are perceiving small groups role in their spiritual growth.. to which over 70 percent of respondents affirmed the importance of small groups in spurring deeper thought, helping an individuals gain deeper insight, and softening our hearts for the Holy Spirit to have more fertile soil in which to cause growth.
Another key thing that I’ve are looking at is the question that asked what pillar does Harvest need the most growth in… 67% of the respondents said that more growth could be happening in the pillar of Unafraid Witnessing. We evaluated the responses to questions:
1. Local community impact
2. Neighborhood missions
3. church planting
These three broad categories were the questions that seems to illicit the least positive responses (mid 20s on avg). Not that the responses were negative, but simply demonstrated that these areas are in need of attention as a church.
I want to remind us all, that God knows who the next Pastor is going to be. As a church, as an elder board, we are taking the steps necessary to discover what God already knows. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the path we were going down was unfolding and it still is, but The path forward is becoming more clear. The next update, in a couple of weeks, i will try to outline the process and timeline we have as elders established for a target goal.
We need to be praying as a church… in one accord… asking God to provide wisdom and direction. Wisdom on how best to incorporate these survey results into the ministry of Harvest Decatur. How to rightly apply the survey to bring Him glory. How to best to finalize the job description so it is ready to be made public. And frankly, that God would begin preparing the individuals in the church who will be asked to commit to serve on the screening teams. So please…take time to pray for us as elders and for continued blessing and unity within our church…and don’t forget to be praying for the friend, neighbor, family member, or coworker who is in desperate need of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
The first thing I want to make you aware of is in relation to the elder board. A couple of weeks ago we made you aware that the elders had appointed George Bennett and Maurice Bagley as temporary elders with their primary focus being on the effort required to obtain a new pastor. This week, we wanted to let you all know that Tom Alworth has completed the application and interviewing process required by the bylaws to become a permanent member of elder board here at Harvest. In the screening process, the plurality of church elders review a candidates doctrinal alignment Harvest Decatur and the candidates alignment with the biblical requirements of being an elder as found in Titus 1:6-9. We have found that Tom meets all the requirements of being and elder. In accordance with the bylaws, we are presenting the Tom to the congregation 30 days in advance of seating him as a permanent elder to allow all relational issues that might be present to be addressed. We would ask that if anyone is aware of any disqualifying issues with Tom that those be addressed directly with him. If the matter is not resolved then we ask that either the candidate or the member bring the issue forth for the elders to review and then make final judgement before proceeding with the appointment.
Our last family chat, I mentioned that Pastor Ryan was going to be filling the Interim Pastor role and he and Paul Roberts (along with others) will be filling the preaching roles on Sunday morning. Over the last couple of weeks, some additional ministry items have been addressed and I wanted to bring those to your attention today. God has blessed Harvest Decatur with many gifted individuals with various talents. I wanted to confirm today that as Ryan’s preaching will require that he will lead worship much less, Brandon Jelks has confirmed a willingness to cover worship as the church needs. Additionally, Pastor Ryan has led Harvest Students on Wednesday evenings. His role as interim pastor will not allow him to be available on Wednesdays near as much either. Those of you with Harvest Student age kids know that Brad Hermann has been assisting Ryan on Wednesdays for some time. Brad has agreed be the lead teacher on Wednesdays and will coordinate that ministry work as needed in the days ahead. I am so grateful that these individuals are stepping into the roles and amazed at how God puts His people in the right place at the right time… it is without a doubt a marvel to watch God at work.
I also want to remind us all, that God knows who the next Pastor is going to be. As a church, as an elder board, we are taking the steps necessary to discover what God already knows. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the path we were going to was unfolding and it still is, but I wanted to make you aware of the next step. We know the analogy of the church body being made of many members. (1 Cor 12).
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[e] yet one body.
Scripture makes it clear that the Holy Spirit speaks to us individually through his word and through prayer and collectively, we as members make up the church. Therefore, the next step involves all of you. The step is an assessment of where the church is at both strengths and weaknesses. There is a church wide survey on the church website (“pastoral transition” tab) we are asking each of you to take to help us assess the needs of the church. It is not a long survey but will require some thoughtfulness as you fill it out. It should be uploaded to the church website later today that you can fill out right there online. It’s roughly 15 questions. Most of the questions give you the opportunity to “Explain” the reasoning to your answer. We anticipate the reasoning comments to be very beneficial to assessing the needs of the church so we would ask you to briefly comment where you are able to on the survey.
We anticipate that the results of the survey will help us as elders determine what final adjustments to make to the Job Description and will assist the pastor screening efforts in the days ahead. The survey will be on the website for only two weeks, so there is a limited time window to complete the survey. There will be a reminder about it next week in the bulletin, but we anticipate reviewing the results in two weeks and one day from now.
This survey is a serious step in the search for a new pastor and we are needing everyone to participate in it. Please take time to pray before taking it and continue to pray for us as elders for wisdom in assessing the results, for God to show us the next steps to take, for continued blessing and unity within our church…and don’t forget to be praying for the friend, neighbor, family member, or coworker who is in desperate need of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Blessing to you all….
There are some changes taking place on the elder board that we want you to know about. George Bennet who has served as elder chair, has ended a second term as elder. In accordance with the church bylaws, elder terms are 3-year terms and elders cannot serve more than 2 consecutive terms without taking a break from serving as an elder here at Harvest Decatur. George has served the church well the last 6-years, so when you see him be sure to thank him for his faithful service.
George leaving the role of permanent elder leaves the position of elder chair to be filled. The elders agree that I will assume the role of elder chair, which is why I am before you now. Over the last year, I have served as the elder working directly with the deacons. By way of reminder, Deacons serve here at Harvest the primary responsibilities of taking care of the Facilities, Finance, and Benevolence. Whereas Elders serve with a primary focus on Doctrine, Discipline and Direction. With George leaving the role of permanent elder status, and Pastor Tony heading to San Antonio that leave Pastor Ryan, Paul Roberts, and myself as permanent Elders.
When we wrote the church bylaws, we did not specifically address a procedure that must be followed in the eventuality that a Senior Pastor would leave and Harvest Decatur would be faced with needing to replace him. We did provide the ability for the elders to appoint what I will call “temporary” elders.
The elder meeting prior to Pastor Tony announcing his leaving, the elders determined it best to seek the Lord’s guidance and ask the Holy Spirit to provide wisdom as we navigate through the journey of finding the next Sr Pastor of Harvest Decatur. Specifically, we desired direction from the Lord for our next step in the Journey, knowing full well that God has already determined who that Pastor will be. I wanted to inform you where we are at and where we are heading as best we can… the picture is not complete, but it is forming.
We have considered many options for moving forward and feel the Lord leading us to a full scale senior pastor search. With only three permanent elders, the elders recognize the need for additional support in the search effort and are appointing “temporary” elders to lead the screening efforts for our next senior pastor. We have asked George Bennet and Maurice Bagley, both men have previously and faithfully served as elders at Harvest in the past. George, I have already spoken of, and Maurice was instrumental in the search efforts of Harvest-Arthur to bring Tony, Sanja, and Alastair to central Illinois.
We expect their effort will included:
Communicating the need for a Senior Pastor at Harvest Decatur
Screening of Candidates
Doctrinal alignment with Harvest Decatur
Candidate views of social issues
A cross section of men and women of various age groups to meet with and interview candidates with a goal of determining if the candidate would “mesh” with the church.
Recommendation to Elders for Consideration
Want to mention here that the screening activity will be kind of a “silo” activity apart from the permanent elder activity. This would be like going a firm that specializes in placing pastors. They would perform all the screening for the church and then pass along “acceptable” candidates for elder consideration.
Let me transition just a bit here to address some potential questions about the interim time between now and when a new Sr Pastor is installed. The Lord has blessed Harvest Decatur with a number of talented people in all aspects of worship, teaching, and leading. We are trusting the Lord in His provision to make this interim period as smooth as possible. Ryan will be taking on most of the coordinating activities that Pastor Tony has traditionally tended, and Ryan and Paul Roberts will be handling much of the preaching on Sunday morning.
12/19/2021 Announcement from pastor Tony
It could be that Abraham, when God called him to leave his homeland and go to a place that God would show him, felt many of the feelings we have experienced with the news of our pastor of 14 years expressing God's desire for Tony to minister to our brothers and sisters in Christ in Texas. In that there are a mix of feelings of shock and sadness, maybe even some anger and fear.
In Psalm 126:5-6, we read, "Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him."
Although this is a big change for our church, one thing is certain, our mission will not change. We will continue to glorify God by making mature disciples who worship, walk, and work for Christ. We are also thankful for God's guidance in allowing Harvest Decatur to be a church with a plurality of leadership. This way, no single person is indispensable to the church. And as long as the Spirit of our Lord is here with us, we can be confident in our future.
For many years now I have been praying about the prospect of moving back to Texas to be closer to my family. This has been a deep struggle in my heart as I’ve seen my parents age. And yet at the same time, I still feel called to serve Christ in the local church as a pastor and to preach and teach God’s Word.
An opportunity has become available for me to do this in Texas close to where my parents live. In January of this year, the senior pastor of a church called Verse by Verse Fellowship in San Antonio, Texas, passed away from COVID-19. In the summer of 2021, the church began searching for his replacement and reached out to me as a potential candidate. This last week they formally extended me an offer to become the next Senior Pastor of Verse by Verse Fellowship, and I have accepted. I sense God’s direction in this and believe God is providing me a way to return home and also to continue pastoring in a local church.
It was a little over fourteen years ago that I first ventured down to central Illinois. I came to Arthur, Illinois and interviewed with a group of elders for the position here at Harvest—what used to be called “Harvest Arthur.” Alastair was about nine months old at the time. This church and the people that make up Harvest Decatur are the only church he’s ever known. There have been a lot of changes over the years as we’ve moved from Arthur to a movie theater in Decatur (after the church merger in 2010) to our current location on Lost Bridge Road, and we’ve seen people come and go. But this church has been our home and our family for the last decade and a half.
I shared yesterday that outside of my wife and my son and my LORD, Harvest Decatur has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. We dearly love this church and specifically the people who make her up. And I’m so proud of the work that we’ve accomplished together and the relationships that have been forged over the years. It’s difficult for me to put into words how much affection I have for the people that make up Harvest Decatur. Sanja, Alastair, and I dearly love this church.
And yet, at the same time, I feel that it’s time to let someone else lead Harvest Decatur to better days ahead. It’s time to pass on the baton of leadership. I truly believe that no person (other than the Holy Spirit) is indispensable to the church. And I know that God loves this church more than I do, and God will take care of her.
I’m sure this news may come as a surprise to many of you. Please forgive me for waiting until now to disclose all this. It’s taken Sanja and me a long time to process this and to really discern what God would have us do in the next stage of life. If any of you have questions, please feel free to contact us. Also our elders likewise want to make themselves available for questions that you might have during this time of transition. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you would like to speak with any of us.
The plan for us now is to begin transitioning in late February or early March of 2022. If you would, please pray for us as we walk through this transition together. Pray that God will give us help as we say goodbye and as the church moves forward without us. Pray for Holy Spirit power and Holy Spirit comfort as we embark on this journey.
You are loved, Harvest Decatur! Thank you for being such a wonderful church family to us for the last fourteen years.
grace & peace