Monday, April 30, 2012

She's with me

I love my wife, Sara.  In 24 days we celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary.  I've heard a lot of people talk about how challenging marriage is and has been.  That hasn't been my experience.  Marriage has been wonderful and relatively easy.  And I know it's almost completely because I am so blessed and lucky to have married such a wonderful woman.  

I, on the other had, have been a handful at times.  I've been impulsive, arrogant, immature and overly-emotional. There have been seasons where I've put her through more than anyone should have to endure.  But she's always been with me.  Always.

The lyrics to this song below make me think of how she's stood with me no matter what challenges we have faced together and no matter what challenges I've create all on my own.  She's with me.  

You and me me and you
Where you go i'll go too
I'm with you i'm with you
'til your heart finds a home
I won't let you feel alone
I'm with you i'm with you with you

Thank you Sara.  I'm with you.  Always.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

My Next Move

So, I'm coming off of over a decade in the world of church leadership, and as I gain some new perspective through time, coaching and learning, I'm struck by the attempts we make at developing ourselves as leaders and as we attempt to develop new leaders.

We read books. We take classes. We go to conferences. We join “coaching groups” (most of which contain no coaching, just a person selling a product - usually a methodology). But we have very few, if any, significant relationships. We receive very little actual coaching. By the way, coaching is the art of drawing out the best from a person, not teaching them to do it the way the coach desires. We hardly ever acknowledge, much less spend any significant time, exploring how God has wired us to make our greatest contribution to His Kingdom.

What if we took the money we spent on the last big conference where we just sat and downloaded a methodology, and next time, spend that money on someone spending time with us who can help us see how God has wired us from birth? Someone who is not only gifted that way, but also has a plan to draw out the best in us so we could share it with others? If you're able to casually nod your head to this notion, you don't fully grasp the impact it could make on your life. It's not the same as reading a great book or attending an inspiring conference. A mentor of mine often says, “What I discover, I own. What I own, I'm committed to.” He's right, but we rarely make discoveries at conferences or through reading books. We listen to speakers and authors tell stories about their discoveries. That's not the same thing.

Please understand, this is not an allegation agains books and conferences. They have their value and I've benefitted from them before. This is me processing an epiphany. What kind of pain and frustration could this have saved me over the last decade? Hard to tell. Maybe none. There is a good chance that I needed the pain and some perceived failure in my life to be ready to embrace what I'm embracing now. And, I don't doubt the truth found in Romans 8:28, so I look forward to using the stories and empathy my own pain can generate to help others in the future.

Right now, as I begin a new chapter in my life, I am asking God to guide me in doing what I am made to do, not just for my sake, but also for the sake of those I can help the most. I'm beginning to see a picture of how God has uniquely gifted me to facilitate small groups and personally coach leaders to find the unique abilities God has given them to make their greatest contribution to His Kingdom. I'm not talking about consulting. Consulting is an “ expert” telling someone else how to do it. That creates clones, not leaders. I'm talking about your life-story and unique abilities (that you discover over time) setting the agenda for our work. This week, I will begin building some plans, as I continue to learn, to mobilize myself to help build God's Kingdom the ways He has wired me to.

Maybe someday I'll help you discover your greatest Kingdom contribution. I look forward to that.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The biggest move I've made since moving to Tulsa

Dear Friends,

As you may know, late last year I experienced a breakdown related to unmet expectations and the pressures those brought. The result of that period was a new and deeper love for God and a dependence on Him above all else. I bring up that time period to say that where I am today is not related to disappointment, frustration or desperation. Rather, I believe God has shown me a clear picture of who I am and a move I need to begin making.

Over the last several months, I've spent a lot of time praying and working through a process of figuring out who God has made me to be. It's been eye-opening, to say the least. It was also quite shocking to me when I began to realize that the way God has made me and the things I can do to add the greatest value to His Kingdom don't line up very closely at all with being the senior pastor of a church. Now, this is not to say that I was not wired to plant a church. I think my gifts, etc line up pretty well with what it takes to get a church started. But, as you know, starting a church and maintaining & growing it are two different things. I guess you might disagree with me on that, but it wouldn't be a point worth arguing as I believe it with all my heart.

So, I guess I will cut to the chase. I feel like it's time for me to transition out of the role of Lead Pastor at Freedom Valley Tulsa. If you would have told me a year ago (or two or three) that I would be writing this, I would have laughed. But, through much prayer, counsel and conversation with Sara, we both feel like this is the right move.

I'm not suggesting that the church close. I think that would be a terrible move. It is a solid group of people with a lot of vision to reach our city for Jesus. Around the same time God was helping me see that my role needs to change, He was helping Josh Ploch see that his role needs to change as well. We've talked and prayed about it over the last week and we are feeling ready to have Josh assume the role of lead pastor at Freedom Valley Tulsa. Josh has been my right-hand man every second of the way and has some gifts that will help him in this new role - some gifts I was lacking.

I can't tell you exactly what our plans after Freedom Valley are, because I don't know yet.  We won't stay at Freedom Valley because I believe it would be impossible for Pastor Josh to adequately lead the church with me still hanging around.  We won't leave Tulsa, because we love this city and this is our home.  We won't leave ministry because ministry is my calling.  It's only my direction, not my calling, that is changing.  Sara and I both recognize our value in high-level support roles.  We both add so much value when we can function as a #2 or #3 kind of player on a team. I'm also praying about finding or creating a role coaching church planters – perhaps in conjunction with multiple churches. But to say I know our next step beyond stepping down from pastoring at Freedom Valley would be inaccurate.

Sara and I will be at Freedom Valley for the next two Sundays (April 22 & 29) to say our goodbyes and to answer any specific questions you might have.  Beyond that, we will look forward to Freedom Valley in Tulsa growing and continuing to impact Tulsa under Josh's leadership. 

I hope and pray that you'll receive this news well and see it as a positive move.  Although it is painful in some ways, I believe it is a move that will bring greater health and fulfillment to my family and greater health and momentum to Freedom Valley in Tulsa.

Jason Fitch

Thursday, April 12, 2012

My favorite parenting moment to date

1 Corinthians 13:1-2 - If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.

        Tuesday night our pool was finally open and ready to swim.  The only problem?  The water is freezing and air is not all that warm either.  Does that matter to little boys?  Absolutely not.  So, when I got home from work on Tuesday all the boys were in bathing suits ready to jump into the icy water.  
        As they all began swimming, I noticed a sheet of paper had blown off the table and had settled on the bottom of the pool.  Since the boys were in the pool anyway, I asked one of the older ones (Colin or Liam) to please go down and get it. It was in about 3 feet of water - no big deal . . . or so I thought.
        For whatever reason, they freaked out.  Even though they were already in the water, they refused to get the paper.  I could not then, nor can I now, understand why.  Bottom line, they just threw a huge fit about getting the paper.  That was a problem.  But the bigger problem was that I did too.  Their behavior mad me so angry, that I sat outside with them for nearly an hour ramping up their punishments til they would finally go get the paper off the bottom of the pool,  as they cried and pleaded with me to stop.  In my mind, I was teaching them an important principle of authority and responsibility.  In reality, I was treating my first-born sons (twins) worse than I would treat any stranger.  
        They finally figured how to get it out with the pool net and I sent them to bed worn out from their trauma each grounded for three days.  As Sara and I reflected on it, we both agreed that the person who acted the least mature of all was me.  We decided that I would go to the boys and apologize, ask for forgiveness, lift their punishment and then let them devise a punishment for me.  They absolutely loved it.  They also came up with a creative punishment only 8-year-olds could think of.  
        So, last night, after returning from Vison Night at church, I dressed in one of Sara's old bathing suits (Colin told me I looked like a cave-man - chest hair sticking out from the top of the suit :).  When the boys counted to three, I jumped into the icy pool (and it was like 60 degrees outside) while the twins shot me with cold water from the hose.  
        That water was colder than I had imagined.  It felt very similar to the one time I polar bear plunged into an outdoor pool in January.  But, at the end of the night, I was freezing and my sons were delighted with their dad.  We sat together and watched a movie and I gave them kisses as we went to bed.  I don't think I've ever felt closer to my two oldest boys.  

I believe I'm entering a season of my life where things will be lighter and much more fun.  What better way to start!  I am such a blessed man and love my family so much.  

*Sorry, there are no pictures available :)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

It Doesn't Have To Be This Way

If you are bored, feeling out of control, wandering aimlessly, frustrated, hopeless, angry, or trapped, IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY! Jesus taught about a life that overcomes, changes the world, and makes a huge difference! 

Tomorrow, at Freedom Valley, we start to unpack this HUGE concept.  Don't miss tomorrow.  It's Easter Sunday, after all :)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The prayers I pray

I'm about to go and spend some time in prayer this morning (yeah, I'm so spiritual - actually, just running late :)  But I would love for you to join me in these prayers today and this week.
  • Discovering who I am - I've been in a process over the last few months, working with a personal coach, to discover how God has made me and gifted me.  I'm learning a lot of things about myself and some of my frustrating tendencies are not as frustrating anymore now that I'm discovering some more things about me.  I'm just asking God to show me more and more of this picture of myself so I can know what my maximum contributions to God's Kingdom can be.  I believe He's in the process of showing me and I'm continuing to pray that He does.
  • BIG Easter Sunday - Our team at Freedom Valley has worked very hard to reach our goal of seeing 50 new guests at church this Sunday.  We've renovated, served, outreached and invited.  We're just asking God to bring the increase and change to people's lives that only He can bring.  
  • More work - God has blessed Engle Landscaping a lot.  We are at the point of giving me and my partner, Andy, about three full days of work each week.  We both are looking for 5.  Could you pray that our # of customers increases to give us (and even some more people) the work they need.  
Thank you so much for your prayers.  I asked you to pray for great weather and a big turnout for last Saturday's Easter Egg Hunt.  The weather was perfect and we had over 600 people come out!  You guys are good pray-ers!  Thank you.