It is with great joy and gratitude to the Lord that I tell you today about the next big thing in our lives! I have been called to be the Senior Pastor at Mandarin Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, Florida!
I know what you’re thinking, “Mandarin? But Matt doesn’t speak Chinese!” Well, this is exactly what I thought at first and, but it turns out it is named after the Mandarin Orange that used to grow in that part of Jacksonville, now the neighborhood is named Mandarin! So, thankfully, no language lessons are necessary for this move!
A bit about the church:
Mandarin Presbyterian (www.Mandarinpres.com) has about 1400 members and an average adult attendance of 700 with a 24 person staff. It has active youth, children’s, and mission programs, a very large preschool, a food pantry, and is deeply involved in a wider outreach/discipleship experience called “The Great Banquet.” There are four amazing associate pastors that I get to work with, and get this: they are comprised of two clergy couples! Apparently, this bit is intimidating for some, but for me it sounds like a lot of fun! I took some classes with one of the associates, Jeff Arnold, back in 2006 at Fuller and have many happy memories of laughing together over the joys of Presbyterian polity. Trust me, if you can enjoy yourself studying this, you can do anything! Mandarin Presbyterian Church is part of ECO (Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians), a relatively new denomination that includes many of the Presbyterian churches I grew up in an around (CPC Merced, Menlo, etc.). You can read the church profile here: Mandarin Presbyterian Church Profile.
One thing that is striking and encouraging about the church is the longevity of their pastors. They have only had two senior pastors in the last 50 years!!! Two of the associates, the Arnolds, have already been there 12 years and plan to stay much longer. The retiring pastor has been there 26 years. This is a very encouraging sign to us that Mandarin Pres is a place that loves their pastors well, such that they don’t want to leave!
The transition plan is a sort of inverse of the traditional interim/transition pastor model. In the traditional model, the current pastor retires and the church brings on an interim pastor for a year or two while it looks for a new senior pastor. Following some advice from the denomination and Auxano, a church consulting organization, Mandarin adopted a different approach. Kevin Pound, the current senior pastor of 26 years, gave the church long-term notice (a couple years ago) of his intent to retire and asked a search team to begin the process of finding his replacement. This was a huge gift to the church to give them such long notice and also flexibility on his retirement date. Not many pastors are able or interested in doing this. He has agreed to stay on for several months of overlap time with me to help me get oriented to the job, get to know the congregation, and make a smooth transition for the church. Joy and I are so grateful for this. Getting to know Kevin and his wife Patti, has been a real highlight of this whole process for us. Here is a married couple who has done it well! They’ve set good boundaries, lived a manageable pace of life, run the long race, and finished well. It is so encouraging. They are also absolutely hilarious, delightful, and wise. We greatly look forward to more time with them in the coming months.
I also really enjoyed getting to know the Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC). These are nine very capable and interesting people who have been working hard for 18 months to find their next pastor. They said one of their criteria (of many) was to find someone they wouldn’t mind sitting next to on a cross-country flight. I think they may have underestimated my shoulder width! I’m nobody’s choice on a long flight! But truly, I would love to fly next to each member of this search team. I greatly look forward to being their pastor!
The final step in the call process was the congregational meeting in which I was presented and voted on by the congregation. I’m told it was unanimous. I’ve included the video below of the presentation and vote. It was really touching for me to watch. I invite you to watch as well, if you have the time and interest.
Thank you all for your prayers for us through this amazing journey the last few years. We could not have done any of this without you! Please continue to pray for us as we make this major transition. Of particular prayer interest: Please pray that somehow we can quickly and efficiently gather up all our belongings from storage and homes of friends and family and make this move to Florida! Please pray also for the kids and their transition (and enrollment!) back to public schools from homeschool.
We love you all!
Matt, Joy, Hannah, Peter, and Abigail