from our lead pastor - lorenzo smith
Hey church family,
If you're reading this, you've likely already read the letter from Pastor Casey announcing that he will be stepping down as the Teaching Pastor at Collective Church.
Casey and I have been friends and partners in the gospel for several years now. Our story started in 2011 when he was living in Arizona, and oddly enough, reached out to me on Facebook.
When he moved to LA, a friendship quickly formed between us and we had no idea at the time what God had planned for us. The Lord began shaping our hearts and aligning our ministry callings in a way that would eventually result in Collective Church being planted on the Westside of LA in 2015.
Planting and leading this church community with him has been the greatest highlight in my 21 years of ministry.
I am obviously sad that he will no longer be part of Collective Church and I will miss him, but I’m also excited that he has this opportunity to continue to be loved and pursued by Jesus without the pressure, weight, and distraction that often comes with ministry.
While a call TO pastoral ministry is something that gets talked about a lot, a call OUT of pastoral ministry is a concept we’re less familiar with and I am proud of Casey that he would heed this call.
Preaching can often feed one’s flesh with the attention and affirmation it brings, and ministry itself can be fulfilling and make you feel like you’re doing something important. Sadly, because of this, many pastors fall into the trap of finding their identity in ministry and it becomes a snare they can’t break free from.
So it takes guts to step away from rewarding ministry as Casey is doing, but the decision itself becomes crystal clear when you know your greatest reward is Jesus. It requires simple faith and obedience, believing that God will take care of all the unknowns as you follow him. Even in this decision, Casey is modeling for us what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
So where do we go from here?
We simply stay the course.
While our ministry efforts will continue to develop as we seek to be faithful to God’s commission and mission, we will not change direction or shift our focus away from seeking to reach people and make disciples on the Westside.
The Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, remind us of our place in God’s work. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”
So it’s our responsibility to faithfully “plant” and “water”, nothing more and nothing less, and then trust God with all the rest.
That involves things like the “Profile of a Disciple” that we recently introduced that will guide our discipleship direction for many years to come, and help to create a culture of maturing believers who are responsible followers of Jesus, responsible family members, responsible stewards, and responsible discipleship-makers. It also involves the comprehensive strategy we’re rolling out this month to help connect people to meaningful community, care, and discipleship, that was in development for over a year.
When it comes to the stuff that really matters, we’ve never been better positioned to see people come to know Jesus and grow in their relationship with Him. That’s what we’re all about.
So who will be the new teaching pastor?
After exhausting the options in our own networks, the pastors and I, along with the board, have decided to retain the services of the premier pastoral search firm in the country. We’re not messing around, and seeking out professional help is one of our values, especially when we’re in over our heads. Their reach and expertise in this field is unparalleled and far surpasses our ability to conduct an effective search ourselves.
Pastor Isaac and I are working closely with them so they can gain a deep understanding of the mission, vision, and values of Collective Church and help us find the right candidates to prayerfully consider. While of course we want to find someone that is a great preacher, our deeper desire is to find the right preaching pastor for the unique community that is Collective Church. You deserve that.
I have been familiar with this firm for several years and I personally know other pastors and churches that have worked with them. While they have a stellar reputation and are total pros at what they do, I want to make something abundantly clear…our hope is in Jesus, not a search firm.
Scripture reveals King David led an army and fought many battles, but it was not chariots and horses that he trusted in. He placed his trust in God where it belonged. (Psalm 20:7)
Casey will continue serving as a pastor until early June, as mentioned in his letter, and we are anticipating that it will be 3 or 4 months before a new teaching pastor is appointed.
As for me and my family, this whole situation has caused Isabelle and I to have some deep conversations about our future here. Not only are we not going anywhere, but we’re doubling down. Our sincere desire is that God would allow us to continue to raise our kids here on the Westside, participate in His mission by continuing to build relationships with our neighbors, and lead the amazing Collective Church community as Jesus leads us.
As much as we all feel personal sadness and loss as the Fritz family moves on to what God has for them next, we are looking forward to the future and can’t wait to see how God provides and glorifies Himself through all of this.
The unshakable reality is that the church belongs to Jesus. That means we can trust Him, come what may.
I would ask you to be fervent in prayer as we enter into this next chapter and that you continue to exemplify what it means to be responsible followers of Jesus, family members, stewards, and disciple-makers for the glory and mission of God.
The best is yet to come.
Love you, church family!