"Ask God to burden you with something worth risking your career for." - Andy Stanley
This is something I've asked a time or two throughout the years. I'm not trying to beat my own drum or make myself seem more spiritual than I am—those of you who know me really well, know this is definitely not the case. The fact is however, I have asked God for this a few times throughout the years.
I want to cut to the chase. I explain the full story in the rest of this blog post. It is unusual for me to write such long blog post, but I wanted to give you— my readers as much of the full story as possible. BUT for those of you who just want to know the current status of what is going on in the Puentes family, I will tell you up front...
This past year I have asked God that question, "God give me a burden worth risking my career for..." No, not necessarily in those words, but nevertheless with the same heart, meaning and intention—and He answered.
We are moving to Oregon! I have accepted a position as the new lead pastor of Ascent Christian Church in Prineville, OR. The Ascent is a four year old church plant, planted by the OCEF. There are some good things happening at The Ascent, and I am very grateful for the people, who have from the beginning, made Ascent Christian Church the best church for the city of Prineville.
We are super excited for this new opportunity to serve God in a new and different way! While this is a great opportunity with many positives, there will be some challenges. In many ways, The Ascent is still a church in it's infancy.
Since it is still a "new church," the church meets in a high school auditorium, there is still many ministry opportunities that need to happen, directional leadership and organization clarity need to take place, and the people need discipling and pastoring.
I will be the only paid pastor on staff, and since the church is not yet financially self-sustaining, Fina and I will have to raise a portion of our salary—which is a challenge for us because we're newbies at this... But we will trust God and follow His lead.
Our desire for The Ascent is to reach the city of Prineville, OR for the gospel of Jesus Christ! To allow the Holy Spirit to use the church to bring hope to hopeless, healing to the hurting, belonging to the marginalized, and grace to all. As a church we want to be disciples of Jesus who reflect our passion and mission to "becoming more like Jesus... together."
Our dream is that Ascent Christian Church will be a reproducible church and plant churches both locally and globally for the advancement of the gospel and the exponential movement of the kingdom of God.
We would be honored to have you to partner with us by investing in us and in what God is doing through Ascent Christian Church for the city of Prineville, Oregon. We'd humbly appreciate your prayer and financial support. You can follow along with us on this journey, know how to pray for us, and hear about all that God is doing, by receiving email or snail mail updates.
Click here "Contact Page" and then click on the mail icon to send me an email. Once you send me an email, I'll add you to an email or snail mailing list—your choice, which will be sent out in January and then monthly after that. You can always call me too if you have my phone number...
ALSO... You can partner with us financially. Yep. I got to pay the bills and feed the kids, and that takes money—unfortunately... Our commitment to the church is to raise support for two years (That's $1800 a month for two years—a total of $43,200...). Any way you can help us financially would be great!
You can send financial contributions to:
Ascent Christian Church
P O Box 2117
Prineville, OR 97754
Make checks payable to Ascent Christian Church... Please indicate on the check "Puentes Missions" so we can apply it to the correct account. (Your contribution is a tax deductible donation).
The church website is still being developed. However, online giving is available: http://www.ascentcc.com/giving/ (Be sure to check the box - I would like to designate this donation to a specific fund AND select: “Help Pastor Joe Puentes & Family”).
December 15th will be my last day on staff at LifeBridge Christian Church, and we will be moving to Oregon in January 2014. We will make a quick stop-off in California for Christmas (It's been 13 years since we last spent Christmas with our family. Yep, December of 2000 was the last time...) We hope you do decide to partner with us on this journey. I'm sure you will get a glimpse of what is happening in either this blog, Facebook, or on Twitter...
If you want to read more about the journey that led up to this decision, please continue reading this blog post.
The rest of the story...
The first time I asked the question "God give me a burden worth risking my career for..." it resulted in major life-change for my family and me. We left all that we had known, family, friends, church, great career, and a beautiful area of the country we grew up in (Sonoma County, CA). We, my wife and three small kids, moved to the middle of the good ol' U.S.A and stopped in Joplin, MO. We did this so we could faithfully follow God's nudging and attend Ozark Christian College and pursue a calling into full time vocational ministry.
I was twenty-eight years old, my kids were 8, 6, and 4 years of age at the time, and I left a really good job and career. This wasn't something that was leading us to bigger and better things necessarily—it was a call to trust in God fully and trust Him alone; we either stepped out in faith or not do it.
We took root in Oronogo, MO (Just outside of Joplin, MO), and felt like we were going to live there for the rest of our lives. We loved our church, our friends, and the community we called home. My wife worked at Ozark Christian College and I served on the staff at Christ's Church of Oronogo; both great ministries for the advancement of the gospel and the kingdom of God. WE LOVED it!
The second time I sort of asked God the question, "Ask God to burden you with something worth risking your career for" big changes again happened to the Puentes family. I need to clarify by what I mean "sort of." What I mean when I said "sort of," I was feeling a nudge from God to think beyond our comfort-zone and beyond ourselves. I was feeling a nudge to faithfully seek Him out and His leading.
I was feeling there was something beyond what we were doing, something new, and something different. NOT something better or something bigger, but something that would lead us to grow closer to Him and grow our faith more—it would cause us to trust God fully and Him alone—we either stepped out in faith or not do it.
What happened next was we found ourselves moving to gorgeous Colorado and to the scenic views of the majestic Rocky Mountains. We took a ministry position at a great church! LifeBridge Christian Church is a church that truly lives up to being the best church FOR the city and not the best church IN the city. LifeBridge is a dynamic church, both locally and globally. The best part about the church is the people and it's externally focused DNA! The people truly are the ones who make this church a special place to be.
I've never been a part of a church where her people mobilize in unprecedented ways in both dollars and physical man-hours; nothing exemplifies this more than when the recent floods that struck all up and down the state of Colorado. I say all this because I am thankful for coming to LifeBridge and for the blessing I have received. This is the place and time in my life I have matured the most.
I have learned so much about leadership, ministry, the local and global church, neighboring and missional living, being gospel-centered—and thinking bigger about church and ministry in general. I can never thank the leadership of the LifeBridge enough for letting me come and be a part of this church!
I was 34 when we left Missouri and moved to Colorado. My kids were 15, 12, 10 years of age at the time we moved to Colorado. We have made so many friends and memories during this season of life. Just like our friends in Missouri, we also consider our friends in Colorado more than friends—they are family!
Wrestling with God...
Within the past couple of years, I have been wrestling with God. I kept feeling that God was moving in my heart to do something different. I wasn't sure what it was. I thought maybe it was to leave full time ministry, live in the mountains, move to another country, become a farmer, but the one thing I knew for sure was I was suppose to not do youth ministry full time anymore.
This was huge for me to discover. I have been a youth pastor for over seventeen years and saw myself as a lifer! So I approached my senior pastor about a year ago and told him I was that it was time for me to not do youth ministry anymore—long story short, I resigned my position as youth pastor at LifeBridge and he graciously offered me a neighborhood pastor position at the church.
Well another long story short—we've had an amazing past year serving as a neighborhood pastor at LifeBridge. We have been so blessed to be a part of the story that God is writing through this great church! BUT as you have already read, we are moving on—not to something bigger or better, but to something new and different. Something that will challenge and stretch us. It will move us to a deeper faith and trust in Jesus—and Him alone.
In the end...
So me at 40 years old, and my kids being 20, 17, and 15 years of age, we are moving to Prineville, OR. We're on another adventure! We are anticipating God to do all that He has promised and more.
In the end. What I realize is that Fina and I have been writing a bigger story for our kids and ourselves. We are putting into tangible and actionable steps, a story of what it means to surrender to Jesus and faithfully follow Him wherever He leads and no matter the cost.
To be honest, we aren't some Super-Christians who have it all together. We don't always read the Bible, we don't always begin with prayer, I don't always understand the big churchy words or complex church things, we aren't always joyful, and we don't always have peace—especially when we are trying to faithfully follow Jesus.
We have a willing heart and simply obey and ask Jesus "What's my next step?" We are just trying to be obedient to our Father in heaven—we love Him because He first loved us.
This journey isn't ours alone—it also belongs to the people we've met along the way, it's the cities we have lived in, it belongs to the church locally and globally that we unite with, and ultimately it is Jesus' story because without Him, the depth and meaning to what we are living out wouldn't be there.