11.1.20

Awaken Church,

Eleven years ago, as young, naïve, faith-filled twenty-five year olds, Jenn and I moved across the country to a city we had never lived in to do something we had never done: plant a church. Come hell or high water, we were ready to do whatever it took to follow the vision and calling God placed on our hearts. Long before we knew which city God would move us to or had met any of the amazing people God would bring into our lives, Jenn and I prayed and fought for you. As we look back over the first eleven years of Awaken, it has been so great, and so hard. There have been huge mountaintop experiences and low, dark valleys filled with literal flood waters. We’ve poured blood, sweat, and tears into Awaken, and what an adventure it has been! Following Jesus is the best life, and we want nothing else for ourselves or for you.

In March of this year, Jenn and I began to sense the Holy Spirit leading us to pray not just for Awaken, but for something beyond Awaken. At first, praying in that way felt foreign. When we moved from Albuquerque to Clarksville in 2009, we never looked back. Our assumption was that we would build a life, raise our family, and expand our ministry through Awaken Church for decades to come. We never viewed Clarksville or Awaken as a stepping stone to something else. As far as we were concerned, we had arrived. However, as we began praying about our future, we increasingly began to sense God telling us that our assignment at Awaken was coming to an end. As if a global pandemic hadn’t forced us into enough upheaval, we slowly began to come to terms with the fact that our future, lives, and ministry as we knew it may all be changing as well.

If you know Jenn and me, you know we are pioneers by nature. I think it’s a prerequisite to church planting. However, our prayers in March did not begin with us looking for a new adventure. We are so happy with life and ministry in this season. There have been times we wanted to quit, but I can assure you this is not one of them! From the outside looking in, this is not the time to leave, it’s the time to build on the firm foundation that’s in place. The church finances are strong, the staff is amazing and streamlined, renovation is about to begin (finally!), and the church is poised for greater impact than ever. Jenn and I tried so hard to shake this unrest we were sensing, but not only did it stay with us, it kept growing. We have spent months praying and fasting, seeking godly counsel, and digging into and meditating on Scripture. From every angle, the recurring theme is that our assignment at Awaken is coming to a close and we are to return to where we grew up and moved from over eleven years ago, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

With no job and no income lined up, we committed to move back to Albuquerque, trusting God to provide financially and open doors for ministry. There are so many unknowns, but we know God will provide as we obediently follow. God has already rewarded our step of faith, as He promises to do. Through a series of events that only God could orchestrate, I was offered and have accepted a position as an Executive Pastor at Calvary Church Albuquerque, where I will oversee ministries across the church. I am excited to move into a new season of ministry and learn from a new perspective under my pastor!

We are excited, but we are also deeply saddened.

Our hearts have been so saddened over the last few months as God’s new direction for our lives has become increasingly clear. God used us to birth Awaken Church, so launching out from Awaken feels like leaving part of ourselves behind.

However, we are excited because we are walking in confidence, knowing we are doing exactly what God wants us to do. Our faith-filled confidence comes through living by the three words I’ve taught you for years: prayerful, faithful, and available. The hardest of the three is remaining available, because God likes to shake things up, as He is doing now. As my pastor reminded me recently, a step of faith is never a step backward — it’s always a step forward!

Through the years as your pastor, I’ve told you many times that Awaken Church does not belong to Jenn and me; it belongs to Jesus. God is now asking us to prove that we believe what we’ve taught you and let go, surrendering the church from our hearts back into His hands, where it has always firmly rested.

Not only will Awaken Church always be in Jesus’ hands, He makes sure it is led by capable human leaders in each season and through each transition.

It is with great joy and full confidence that I hand over the reins of leadership to Pastor Nate Witiuk and his wife, Jenn. They have been with us from the beginning — planting, plowing, and pouring their lives into the people and ministry of Awaken. They are loyal, hard-working, faith-filled co-laborers in the gospel, as well as some of our closest friends. We firmly believe God has been preparing them for this new season, even though none of us saw this coming at this time. Leading the church is nothing new for Nate — he has been doing it since Awaken began, facilitating ministry, building teams, hiring staff, and persevering through the hardest seasons we have faced. He loves Jesus, God’s Word, and you. He has led you well and will continue to do so in this new season as Lead Pastor of Awaken Church, beginning January 1, 2021! In addition to Pastor Nate, Awaken has a phenomenal team of servant-hearted pastors, leaders, and staff that will continue to lead the way and help to facilitate ministry. I trust you will honor Paul’s words to the Thessalonians and “...respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 5:12).

We love you so dearly and have prayed for and fought for you relentlessly. What a joy it is to have served as your leaders for the past eleven years! As amazing as these years have been, we really believe what we say all the time: the best is yet to come!

“We thank God in all our remembrance of you, always in every prayer of ours for you making our prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And we are sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:3-6, ESV, personalized).

We love you!