A story is continuing to unfold and I want to capture this story by tracking its development in my blog. It’s the story of the GO Center and I think now is the time to begin documenting its emergence as a truly self-guided entity.
Pinpointing the GO Center’s origin presents a challenge as there are several moments or seasons that might qualify. We could go back to the summer of 1975 when I first sensed God’s call to ministry. We could go back to 1985 when I first entered local church ministry as part of a ministry staff that planted a church in Encinitas, CA. Another possibility would be August of 1990 when I enrolled in the Master of Divinity degree program at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) in Orlando, FL, engaging concurrently with serving on another church planting staff that planted a church in Lake Mary on the northern rim of metro Orlando.
One logical place to mark the origin of the GO Center would be when I moved from serving under contract with the EPC Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic (PMA) to going on staff. We dubbed this ministry the GO Center at that time, somewhere in the neighborhood of early 2012, though at that time the GO Center was simply the designation of a line item in the PMA budget. Perhaps the origin should be traced to the GO Center’s debut as a national ministry. During the EPC General Assembly in June 2014, the notion was first advanced that the ministry of the GO Center should be “nationalized,” expanding to serve the entire denomination. Plans in the fall led to the launch of the GO Center as a national ministry in January 2015. Still, though, it was just a name under the umbrella of one of the EPC’s strategic initiatives, Church Revitalization.
As the reader can see, someone making a movie about the birth of the GO Center would be in good stead to select either of these possible origins, but the time, place and circumstance that I want to identify as the original spark that eventually brought the GO Center to its newly minted status was during a phone call. It happened in my rented house in Orlando in late December of 1992, a phone call with Bill Malick during which Bill posed a daring and provocative question. He asked, “Can you say for certain, right now, that God is not calling you to this ministry in Phoenix?”
Seriously?! I had just completed the first semester of my third and final year at RTS and our family of six was enjoying the Christmas break. I had actively been seeking a ministry call to follow closely on the heels of graduation the following May. When you’re forty-two years old with four children, you don’t wait until graduation to secure a job and I was determined that, by the grace of God, I would graduate and step right back into full-time ministry without missing a beat. The search for that call, however, had been spiced with a couple of surprises and unanticipated challenges, such that I found myself on the phone with Bill, a regional leader in a denomination much different than my own, though we shared a passion for planting churches and growing the kingdom of God through outreach and evangelism.
Bill’s question left me no choice but to admit that I couldn’t possibly rule out God’s call to this eighty-seven-year old church in Phoenix. I had only heard about it that night and, though it seemed truly far-fetched, God’s been known to move in proverbial mysterious ways, so I couldn’t in good conscience give it thumbs down. My wife and I committed to traveling to Phoenix in January to investigate, and, guess what? God clearly moved in our hearts and minds and soon after graduation, we were living in Phoenix, AZ. I was pastor of a congregation of thirteen adults in need of a total revitalization. It’s wild to realize that our move to Phoenix in June of 1993 was twenty-five years ago this week, and I’m still ministering in partnership with my friend, Bill.
More to come . . .