FROM BRIDGE ELDERS
We wanted to fill you in on something that brings us hope-filled sadness as soon as we could. Last week, our pastor and friend of 10 years, Josh Howerton, let us know that he and Jana were being called away to another ministry. It was sad for us because of how deeply we love Josh and how greatly God has used him in the life of our church. But it was hope-filled because we now see how God has been preparing us for this. We believe more than ever that the Lord is in control and anointing both the Howertons and The Bridge for the next season.
This Sunday, both we and Josh and Jana will address the church body, share more of the story, and commission them for their next assignment. For now, we simply wanted to update you as quickly as possible, as we’ve always strived to communicate with the people we love and lead in a transparent and straightforward way.
Below is a message from Josh and some FAQ’s. We love you so much, and have an overwhelming sense that there is more for The Bridge Church.
– Bridge Church Elders
FROM PASTOR JOSH
With tears as I type, I’m writing this letter to officially resign as both an elder and as Senior Pastor of The Bridge, as it’s become clear to Jana and me that what’s always been unthinkable to us is true: God is calling us away from The Bridge. I can’t stop the tears, because the last 10 years of my life have been the best 10 years of my life. I’ll share the story in services this Sunday, but for now there are some things I want to say to my beloved church:
From the time God called me to ministry Jim Cymbala had given words to what I most wanted in life: “I despaired the thought that I should die and not see God work mightily on my behalf.” And now 22 years later I feel like Simeon even though I’m only 35: after what I’ve seen at The Bridge, “Now I can die in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation.” Apart from my family, from a human perspective it has been the single greatest honor of my life to serve here, and I am so very thankful for all of you. You’re collectively the best people I’ve ever known. Several of you have bled with me (and at times FOR me) with more selflessness than I ever could’ve imagined, and there aren’t words in the English language to express how thankful I am for you. Thank you for loving me so well for so long and through so many mistakes. I’ll ALWAYS be The Bridge’s loudest cheerleader.
A few things I want to make clear:
1) First, it’s so important to me for you to know I did not seek out this opportunity. When I’ve said for the last 10 years that “unless we hear like an audible voice, you’re stuck with me until I retire, the elders fire me, or I die,” we meant that with our whole hearts as our hope before the Lord. Throughout this short process, we said we did not want to leave The Bridge, and the people who are closest to us will attest to how much pain and how many tears came even at the thought of it.
2) We simply began to see what felt to us as earth-shattering signs of calling. I have a journal with all of them in one place, but a recent example: our biggest fear has been telling our girls. Probably because of their adoption trauma, they have a unique response to any change. We replaced our stove last month, and Eliana cried for two days. Because of all that, we have never discussed anything with them or in front of them. So, late in the process we began praying that if this is what God was doing, he would do a miracle in their hearts. The next day Eliana woke up, came downstairs and without context asked Jana, “Can we move to Texas?” Jana was stunned and said, “What makes you ask that, Eliana?” To which she replied, “I had a dream last night that daddy moved to Texas to be a pastor and that Hudson [the son we’re waiting to adopt] was there, not here, and that’s why we haven’t gotten him yet.” We’ve simply had two months of things like that happening that seemed like compiled, non-ignorable signs of calling to the point we’d be resisting the Spirit if we didn’t take this step.
3) I want you to know the agony that this is for us, because I want you to know how much I love you and how much I love this church. I’ve cried in front of grown men more times than I can count in the past week. I’m crying again writing this paragraph. It’s important that you know we did not want to leave The Bridge. We love this church and while we have a holy anticipation for the next chapter of our ministry, the transition out will be one of the most difficult seasons of our life.
4) Jesus promised, “I will build my church,” and he keeps his promises. When my Dad chose to step down as pastor 11 years ago I remember he and mom thought The Bridge wouldn’t make it. But The Bridge is where she is today. Not because of a human leader, but because of Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever. THE MAN WHO MADE THE BRIDGE WHAT IT IS IS NOT LEAVING. There is already an otherworldly sense among the staff and elders that The Bridge’s best days are ahead, and we all believe that with our whole hearts. One older pastor during this process warned me, “Josh, if God is truly calling you away, if you try to stay you’ll mess everything up, because there is some man out there that God has been preparing for years to be his chosen instrument in this moment. That’s no longer you, and who are you to stand in the way of the living God?” Jesus will build his church. Imagine a church that discovered and believed its power wasn’t in a pastor or his sermons, but in the Spirit of the living God.
I love you all and I look forward to seeing you this Sunday.
Why is Pastor Josh leaving The Bridge Church?
There is a reason James 4 commands Christians not to boast about what we’ll do tomorrow, because God is in control of our tomorrows and moves us as he pleases. Pastor Josh and his family simply began to sense what they described as “earth-shattering signs of calling.” Here’s but one of many examples in Pastor Josh’s own words:
Late in process we began praying that if this is what God was doing, he would do a miracle in their hearts. The next day Eliana woke up, came downstairs and without context asked Jana, “Can we move to Texas?” Jana was stunned and said, “What makes you ask that, Eliana?” To which she replied, “I had a dream last night that daddy moved to Texas to be a pastor and that Hudson [the son we’re waiting to adopt] was there, not here, and that’s why we haven’t gotten him yet.” We’ve simply had two months of things like that happening that seemed like compiled, non- ignorable signs of calling
Did Pastor Josh seek this an opportunity to leave?
No. One of Pastor Josh’s longtime pastoral mentors sought Josh out for this role and has asked him to be his successor. Josh communicated this to some of our elders and resisted the possibility; however, the Spirit began to soften Pastor Josh and Jana’s hearts toward a God-given calling, and they have said yes to a ministry they did not seek or initially want to consider.
Was there any relational conflict that led to this decision?
Absolutely not! In fact, Pastor Josh said of our Elders, “You’re collectively the best men I’ve ever known, leading the best church I’ve ever seen, and have bled with me with more selflessness than I ever could’ve imagined.” Of the staff, he said simply, “This is the best team that I have ever been on.”
Who will lead the Bridge Church moving forward?
The Bridge will continue to be guided by the staff and guarded by the elders. During this season, the Elders have charged Pastor Craig McKown with leading the staff and Pastor Kris Dolberry with leading the interim teaching team.
Will The Bridge Church look for a permanent Senior Pastor?
Yes. In accordance with our bylaws, the elders will prayerfully assemble a search team and begin the search for The Bridge’s next Senior Pastor.
Will The Bridge Church continue the Spring Hill Campus expansion?
Yes. No More Fatherless wasn’t Josh’s idea. It was God’s idea, and He’s not going anywhere! The Bridge is in good shape financially, and the mission God has called us to remains the same. Your involvement is more important than ever before.
When is Pastor Josh’s last Sunday?
When there is a genuine call of God, the Bible tells us to “hasten and do not delay to obey God’s commands.” While we would love to have Josh around for a long time, we want to honor the Lord, sending Josh out to this calling as quickly as possible. Pastor Josh’s last Sunday as Lead Pastor at The Bridge will be Sunday, December 9.
Will I get to say goodbye to Pastor Josh and Jana?
We will have a drop-in reception to honor the Howertons and Pastor Josh’s ministry at The Bridge on Tuesday, December 11 at The Spring Hill Campus from 6-8pm.
Is the No More Fatherless Offering still happening?
Even though we just received Josh’s resignation on Thursday, November 29th, our Elders and leaders felt that it was extremely important to share this news BEFORE we receive the No More Fatherless offering. We ALWAYS want to lead with honesty and transparency. We would rather be a church with a higher character and lower offering than with a higher offering and lower character. Therefore, our No More Fatherless Offering will be moved to Sunday December 16. No More Fatherless is still the heartbeat of our church and we will continue pressing into this movement.
Will this hurt The Bridge Church?
We celebrate the numerous lives touched by the gospel during Pastor Josh’s 10 years as our Senior Pastor. He, Jana, and their family are deeply loved and will be greatly missed. As for The Bridge, make no mistake, Jesus Christ will continue to build His Church. By grace through faith, lost people will be found, broken people will be made whole, and the hardest of hearts will be softened because Jesus is a friend of sinners and He loves our church more than any of us ever will. In the days ahead, The Cross of Christ will be center focus. The scriptures will be taught and remain the arbiter of truth in our church. God’s Spirit will envelop our worship with power. To God alone be the glory.
If you have any additional questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org