Jenny and I grew up near Venice, Florida, a small beach town just south of Tampa. We were both raised in church; Jenny professed faith in Christ at age five and I at age nine. At sixteen, God drew me to pursue Him more deeply, launching me on a trajectory toward vocational ministry. I was discipled in a great youth ministry and then went to Moody Bible Institute, anticipating becoming a pastor. After finishing college and getting married in 1998, we moved home in hopes that I might be raised up in ministry through our home church. And that’s where my story picks up; 1999-2009 is “Decade 1” of my post-collegiate, adult life.
In 2001 the Lord fulfilled that hope when, after several years of preparation, Venice Bible Church called me as their youth pastor.
Over the next eight years, I served in three churches that were all connected. My ministry at Venice Bible Church ended when the church split in 2004. I went on to become the associate pastor of Grace Community Bible Church, which started as a result of that split. Ministry was both fruitful and challenging at GCBC, as can often be the case following a church split. From inception, the plan was for the church to send us out as church planters after a few years. In 2007 we were sent out to plant a daughter church in North Port, a smaller but quickly growing, town nearby.
We began North Port Bible Church as the impact of the subprime mortgage crisis and resulting housing collapse began to be felt. North Port was substantially impacted, having been a boom town with artificially high home prices. The financial losses that hit families as home values plummeted devastated the area. Construction and service industry jobs were the primary employment base and both dried up almost overnight. By early 2008, 75% of our church family was facing some form of unemployment, potential home foreclosure, or both. As a result, the church was unable to become financially self-sustaining, and we decided to close in 2009.