Monday, April 22, 2013

Stepping Down and Moving On in Faith

Nearly every Sunday for the past four and a half years, we’d wake the kids up early, throw breakfast down their throats, and wrestle them in their clothes that we (my wife) set out the night before. It was an art form really. A streamlined chaos. And nearly every Sunday for the past four and a half years we would make the drive 45 minutes into the city. The landscape changed as we travelled, from crops and cattle and horses, to car dealerships and industrial buildings and upscale coffee shops. And nearly every Sunday for the past four and a half years we would begin our trek to church with a prayer. For our travel, for the worship service, for the leaders and teachers. And nearly every Sunday for the past four and a half years we would pray that God would help our unbelief, that he would increase our faith, that he would cause us to greatly depend on him and to trust in him continually.

God has been good to me and my family. He has kept us safe in our travels to and from church. He has blessed our church’s worship and teaching. And he has increased our faith. And God continues to answer prayer as he had revealed to us in increasing measure that the time was coming to step down from serving at Wornall Road Baptist Church. And, in his timing, God has closed that chapter in our lives. Yesterday was my last Sunday serving as Worship Pastor for Wornall Road Baptist Church.

The decision was hard and easy at the same time. It was hard for two reasons. The first was regarding discernment, battling a deceitful heart ever looking to increase my pride, my status, my glory, and praying that decisions would be made from faith and not from vanity. God, in his mercy and grace, provided a dear friend who helped me clarify these things which gave me a greater boldness to act in faith.

The second reason why the decision was hard was simply because of the love we have for the people at Wornall Road Baptist Church. There are real and genuine friendships founded in the blood of Christ. To leave, to not regularly be in a week-in week-out relationship with these friends, would be hard. But despite the pain, because these relationships are founded in the blood of Christ, we know that they cannot be sundered. Different and changed a bit on this temporal plain, yes, but not separated, not destroyed. We knew that to stay, to disobey, for the sake of friendships would only result in disaster. “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” To be obedient and follow God in faith, and to still retain these amazing friendships, is a grace beyond measure to us!

I tasted that pain yesterday. I felt it in my heart and soul. If it’s true that the eyes are the windows to the soul then I saw some sad souls. My heart beats, even now, a blue rhythm for them. Yesterday evening God allowed us to spend time with our Gospel Community Group, our church’s version of small groups, and the pain was felt deepest here. But the pain is a good pain because it is evidence of deep roots. They prayed for us and God continued to humble me with their words of encouragement. It was the most fitting ending to a day of goodbyes. (Praise God that they are only temporary goodbyes!)

Below is an edited letter that I sent to the elders that I pray gives a little insight into some of the factors at play when I decided to step down.

My Dear Brothers,

It is a comfort knowing that Christ is Lord over all and that God's sovereign hand touches everything. When I came to Wornall in the fall of 2008 it was in response to a help wanted ad I found on Midwestern's site about 6 pages in. The ad said help was needed with music ministry until about the summer of 2009. 

When I walked in to meet with John Mark and Kumar I saw the architecture and almost immediately assumed I wouldn't fit. Obviously I was dead wrong. Nearly the moment John Mark, Kumar, and I began to talk I was almost taken aback at how easy and right it felt. We clicked instantly. After I was on board for a while we joined up with Ryan and April's pre-Gospel Community, Gospel Community Group. I don't think I've expressed the deep gratitude for the love and the healing that God granted to us through the group through Ryan and April and Brian and Sarah and everyone else. That more than anything else, the almost immediate closeness and genuine feel of Christian brotherhood, was an indication to us that God had planned this for our good and his glory.

And then, only a handful of months after we arrived, we miscarried our twins. Again, God used Wornall to pour out love and grace on us. The following year is difficult to express how hard things were and at the same time how blessed we were. Arwen was born. We knew of her disability before she was born and it was the love outpoured and a heaping healthy dose of the truth of God's sovereignty preached from the pulpit at Wornall that sustained us in faith. Literally.

And so we grew, or rather God grew us, and God grew me in and with the congregation and under John Mark, in numerous ways, spirituality, theologically, musically, and an ever deepening love and knowledge of the gospel. And then to be a part of a team of leaders who are passionate for the gospel and a love for the church has only increased that growth in an exponential way. My love for you and for the church is deep, and in a real way eternal, for love in and through Christ is never transitory.

And so brothers, it pierces my heart—in a good way, a holy pain—when I say that my time at Wornall Road Baptist Church has come to an end. Over the last 6 months or so, I believe God has been preparing me for this. Many factors are at play, and I praise God with the greatest rejoicing that none of these factors involve sin or scandal. Many small things make the whole, and for me and my family, these things include; the time I’m able/unable to commit, the distance we travel, the increased care for my children, a real and weighty sense of a need to examine my calling in the ministry and what that looks like. There are other small reasons of the same sort, but these are in the main. And because of these things, not only do I think God is leading me to this decision for the good of myself and my family, but also for the good of Wornall Road.

This does not mean, whatsoever, that we desire to end any relationship! We love all of you and want to remain in a deep, loving, albeit now different, Christian friendships. We still want to do dinners! We still want to have our kids play together whenever possible. We will still be praying and rooting for Wornall Road.

As we make this transition we are stepping out in faith. I have no real foresight as to what lies ahead. What church we’ll go to, what ministry I’ll be involved in, etc. So I ask for your prayers in that.

I love you guys, I have been honored and privileged and count it among the highest blessings that God has allowed me to serve at Wornall Road and alongside all of you. May God richly bless His people at Wornall Road.

Through Christ, with the deepest love and affection,
Your brother,

Rich Tuttle

We got home late last night and put the anxious dog outside and the kids to bed. The house was quiet and the feeling of my soul is hard to describe. It felt like it had been just washed with a spring rain. That after-rain smell. That’s the feeling. A type of mournful rejoicing. I’m still a bit hung-over with it today. I went out to get the dog in the cool night, which afforded me the opportunity to look at the bright stars shining through the flimsy clouds and to take a breath and recall the day and the past four and a half years. God is good.

Me and John Mark (My pastor, my brother, my friend)

Me and Ernesto (My right-hand man! I've never seen a more gifted and humble musician)

The last rehearsal. Sad and sweet.