PERSONALLY SPEAKING, I AM ALL IN

Beginning our ALL IN Campaign is a matter of great excitement and anticipation for me. I don’t need the campaign to urge me to commit to God’s purposes through NewPointe. I have been living all in for what God wants to do through us for a long, long time. You have to know a little bit of my personal story to understand that.

I was at Malone College planning to be a teacher and coach when God broke into my life with the challenge to dive all the way into the water with Him and surrender my life to be a pastor. Truthfully, I couldn’t picture it. It scared me to death. I had stuttered badly when I was young, knew I “murdered the King’s English,” and couldn’t picture speaking to larger groups of people my age and older as a way of life. Teaching and basketball I knew I could handle. I struggled for a semester, and at the very last minute, just as a new semester was about to start, I went all in with God’s call on my life. I transferred to another school and made ministerial training my major.

As I was a senior in college, I accepted the position as youth pastor at Cornerstone Church in Akron. I thrived on working with the kids and assisting in other ways, and anticipated staying there for some time after graduation. I actually bought a house in Akron as a young single guy, intent on making my life as stable as I could. I had just gotten it painted and fixed up, and was feeling pretty satisfied and happy with my progress so far when God threw me another curve. The group of churches with which we were associated in Ohio had had a crisis which required a shakeup of some of the pastoral assignments. It was mid-year, and they needed someone who could move quickly to a little town about 45 minutes away, the town of Sugarcreek. The conference leadership told me it would only be a temporary move, so I could rest easy. They were confident that by the time of the annual meetings, they would have someone experienced and ready to take over. As for me, the young single guy, of course I would be better placed back as a youth pastor when my short service was completed.

As green as I was, that didn’t feel right to me. As I prayed about it, I felt God impress me that the only way I could go there and make the difference that needed to happen was to be all in, no safety net to catch me if I fell. So, I responded that I would go, but not just until annual meetings. I needed to be all in, and if I went I wanted to be assigned for at least a full year and then see how things were. Because they were in real need of someone, they agreed.

When I got to that church in Sugarcreek, I feel in love with the church, the town, and the people. I was quickly dreaming of what could happen if the little group of us actually became all in, together. I knew I had to lead the way, and I did all I knew. One of the first things I remember doing was borrowing money personally to pay for microphones and a sound system so we could actually have more attractive and relevant music. I was so committed, it never occurred to me that it was even a sacrifice.

As time went by quickly, people joined in. We were all in together, and we had to add on to the building. By the way, no one was talking about replacing me as pastor anymore. When you are all in, you become identified positively with the cause for which you are fighting and sacrificing. I married Patty during those early years, and her heart was just like mine. Fully committed. Together we found joy and strength in our marriage, growing exponentially as we were committed to all the things God showed us He could and would do if we worked together.

You probably know most of the story from there. We built on to the church several times, and each time required an upgrade of our commitment to truly be all in. We were not alone. So many incredible, heroic people, many of them enjoying their eternal reward in heaven, joined us and made sacrifices, committing it all. Then the day came when to continue to grow in obedience, we had to REALLY go all in and change locations, making financial commitments that seemed almost scary to say aloud—without God, that is. That’s how we got the beautiful Dover Campus (and the additions on it as well).

Shortly into all of that we had to decide how “all in” we were to the vision God had given us, and how firmly we would stand on our call to plant churches up and down the I-77 corridor, as well as continue our international missions impact. In order to do so, we took the brave step to leave our denomination and become NewPointe Community Church. (I will add, that was an all in commitment from me personally. I was leaving the only church I had ever known.)

God blessed our commitment: Our influence and opportunities continued to grow, and we became a multisite church, with people coming to Jesus and becoming devoted followers in several different cities. Because this kind of commitment is widespread at NewPointe, the blessings to the people we serve in these locations, the dramatic differences because of our missions giving—well, it can’t be humanly calculated.

The overwhelming benefits to all of us are immeasurable as well. Let me just speak for my family. God blessed us with four children over these years of repeatedly choosing to go all in, and upping our commitment again and again. They joined us in the sacrificial choices, and now as adults they are all in themselves. Their dreams for NewPointe and its mission are as big as mine. My heart is full.

So, that’s where I am . . . I can’t wait to do it again. I know God is going to do it again. You might wonder what it means to be ALL IN for the mission of Jesus Christ? Mark Batterson says it like this:

"It (the gospel) doesn't cost anything, but it demands everything. It demands that we go 'all in,' a term that simply means placing all that you have into God's hands. Pushing it all in. And that's where we get stuck—spiritual no man's land. We're afraid that if we go all in that we might miss out on what this life has to offer. It's not true. The only thing you'll miss out on is everything God has to offer. And the good news is this: God won't hold out on you."

I am a witness. I am ALL IN.

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