Beginning empty-handed and alone, frightens the best of men. It also speaks volumes of just how sure they are God is with them. – A Tale of Three Kings
*Update – The above sermon was preached on my last Sunday at New Life Fellowship, April 17th. I shared how painful, but hopeful, it’s been for me to leave.
As many of you know, this week is my last week at New Life Fellowship. I’ve been a part of the staff team for the past ten years, and it’s been quite a remarkable journey.
Here’s a timeline of my roles there:
2001-2002 – Intern
*2002-2004 – Outreach Director
*2004-2005 – Young Adult Pastor
2005-2008 – Community Pastor
2008-2010 – Associate Pastor/Teaching Pastor
2010-2011 – Senior Associate Pastor/Teaching Pastor
*I was also in seminary during this time.
I’m so grateful for so many of the people I’ve met and served with along the way – everyone from former and current staff, elders, deacons, volunteers, and small groups folks. You guys are heroes to me. As with any church, it’s not really about the building, it’s the people. And at New Life, it’s full of incredible people – children, youth, young adults, families, marrieds, singles, and the elderly. It makes me tear up just to think about how meaningful these relationships have been for me.
As an attempt to clarify what’s happening. I wanted to write this post to answer many questions I’ve fielded over the past few weeks. Please keep in mind these are my responses alone – I simply wanted to share from my perspective. If you have any other questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments below!
1. Why are you leaving?
Ultimately, Tina and I felt like this was the right time to leave as God was stirring something new in us. The NLF staff team is more than capable (along with some tremendous volunteers that include our elder board), and we felt like God was stirring us to move forward in other ventures.
In some respects, this decision doesn’t make a whole lot of sense – I’ll be unemployed and I’ll be leaving an incredible team and church. However, I think this decision-making process over the past year has been a result of really trying to discern and follow God’s lead. It’s crazy enough that it must be God (or, at least I sure hope so)!
Here’s a timeline of our decision making process:
May 2010 – I first mention to Tina the possibility of moving on. We begin praying.
Sep 2010 – I first mention to Pete Scazzero the possibility of us moving on.
Jan 2011 – Meeting/speaking with different coaches, consultants, therapists, and mentors about this pending decision.
Mid-Late Jan 2011 – I meet with elders to share with them how Tina and I are leaning toward leaving.
Feb 15, 2011 – I give my final decision to the elders and lay out a timeline for informing folks about my departure.
2. Where will you be going?
We’re not entirely sure just yet, but we’ll definitely be in NYC in the Fall. I hope to visit and learn from other churches.
From May-June we’ll be in Korea, and from July-August we’ll likely be outside of NYC as well (likely Houston).
We hope to use this summer as a time of discernment, rest, and prayer. There are a couple of opportunities before us in Fall 2011, and we want to prayerfully consider what to do next.
3. Why leave when you are uncertain about your future? Why not wait until you figured that out first?
I must admit, this was largely due the advice we received from different consultants at the time (around January). Now that we’re leaving, we can see the wisdom in leaving earlier rather than later.
First, on a personal level, since God was working in me and allowing me to dream about other possibilities, I would not have brought my best energy to our team and our church if I hung around any longer. Now that I’ve been in this “goodbye” period, I really see how this is the case!
Second, on an organizational level, the longer I stick around, the more awkward and difficult it is for others to move forward and step into leadership. The sooner I leave, the earlier people can step into all that they’re called to do and lead.
I originally thought May would be a good time to leave and hand things over, but logistically, Tina and I had already planned a trip the first week of May to Asia, and so we thought it would be weird to go on vacation, come back, and still be saying “goodbye”.
We wanted to go through this season of Lent at NLF though, a very appropriate time for grieving. Easter could have been our last Sunday, but as silly as this sounds to me (because this departure can in no way “take away” from the unsurpassing power and joy of resurrection), we did not want to be a distraction on Easter.
4. Are you starting a church somewhere?
No, not yet. Although we’ve given church planting some serious thought and it sounds really exciting (and part of our future someday by supporting at the very least), it would take some time before it was actually launched.
You will certainly hear about it if we decided to start a church.
5. What’s happening at New Life to fill the void?
The leadership team (elders and staff) are going through their next steps right now. I’ve given recommendations, but now that I’m leaving, I haven’t been a part of some of these larger decisions. It’s been difficult for me to dis-engage, but I know it’s best for the organization.
You can trust that many committed and godly people will continue to serve New Life Fellowship. If you’d like to find out what’s happening next, I believe Rich, Jackie, or Pete would be the best ones to contact.
6. Did the leadership team have anything to do with your departure?
No and yes.
No, in that this was our decision alone. Everyone else wanted us to stay.
Yes in that leadership was part of the discernment process… I had been talking it through with key folks since September, and these discussions helped me process what God was doing in us.
7. You seemed so excited about the future of New Life. What happened?
I’m still excited about many of the good things happening at New Life. It’s actually quite painful to grieve that I won’t be part of it this next season.
In some respects, I’m proud that I was able to really pour myself out the last year while we were pondering this decision. We care so much about the church, and I’m glad that that shone through to others.
Again, this is a big faith step for us, and we’re trying to listen to God’s call as closely as possible.
8. Can we still keep in touch?
Yes! You can hit me up on facebook (www.facebook.com/drewhyun) or twitter (www.twitter.com/drewhyun). I will be taking a break from social media for the summer (May-July), but you can still add/follow me there and on this blog.
Some have asked if I even have an email address not associated with New Life, and to be quite honest, I’m not sure yet which one I’m going to use.
When it comes to pastoral stuff like weddings, funerals, counseling sessions, visitations, and the like, I’m taking an indefinite break from those types of things. I’m not sure how long the break will be (because those are elements of being a pastor that give me life), but yeah, for now you can contact New Life for those things.
9. Will you be preaching anywhere?
I’ve gotten this question from a few folks, and the short answer is that I will be preaching and speaking at different venues, but not at a regular place for now.
I’ve turned down a lot of engagements over the years because of Sunday commitments, but I’m much more open to accepting some of those requests now (I’ve already accepted one engagement in DC in August and then another in the Ithaca area in September).
Tina and I are coming up with some expectations and boundaries when it comes to speaking at different places, so it will likely be in moderation. And, as usual, we’re partial to anything in the NYC area (or Hawaii – lol).
We are looking forward to visiting other churches around NYC, though.
10. How’s Tina doing?
At the risk of speaking for my wife, she’s doing quite well, considering I’ll be jobless and we’ve had lengthy discussions about kids in the near future.
She’s excited about this new season for us, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the strength, courage, and faith that Tina has modeled and demonstrated to me over these past few months.
She is as lovely as ever, and that’s a hard thing to say considering she’s been as lovely as lovely can be the past three years that we’ve been married.