Life Church Buffalo Letter To New Pastor

…Arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people…” (Joshua 1:2)

In case you haven’t noticed, the greatest need in our country, and in any country for that matter, is that of quality, value-driven, Godly, leadership. That kind of leadership should be rising to the forefront of a broken and desperate world from the Kingdom of God.

There are three problems as I see it. 1)  The lack of courage to be that kind of leader. 2) The lack of development of those kinds of leaders, and 3) The unwillingness to gracefully release those leaders into their greater levels of calling.

Certainly I do not claim to be the expert in these matters. But pay attention. What is about to transpire at Life Church Buffalo is one example of what I am referring to.

Peter Jankowski is accepting the call to move to Buffalo this June, join the leadership team as co-pastor, and then in the Spring of 2017 step into the role of lead pastor.

As the current lead pastor of the church, I have the awesome opportunity to lead a transition that will not only set the course for a long solid future for our church, but also give the open space for Pete’s call to leadership.

The following is an open letter to Pete from me. Let’s all learn together as we answer heaven’s call to lead and give greater opportunity for the rise of strong leadership.

When a leader advances, those who follow advance with him.

Dear Peter,

There are four memories that I will always cherish about you. The first is the day I met you at an early Sunday morning weekly discipleship meeting that I was leading. You were introduced to me as a man called to ministry.  My first thought was, “Well, we will see.” And here I am, more than 10 years later, partnering with you to take my place in the days ahead. I guess whatever I needed to see, I have seen clearly now.

The second is when you first started dating Kelly. I felt somewhat responsible at that time for Kelly and was committed to protecting her. You and I butted heads right off the bat and have respected each other every day since. Man, what a match made in heaven… both matches.  You and Kelly were absolutely made for one another. But little did we know that God was also orchestrating a relay team, where one day I would be passing the baton of leadership into your hands.

The third memory is that of you and Kelly showing up at our house Sunday afternoon, October 1st, 2006 with a handful of other brave souls to look me in the face and pledge your support upon the surprise announcement of the planting of the new church. You began to be a servant-leader that day as you volunteered to be the bookkeeper. (More accurately, I think it was Kelly who volunteered you.)

The fourth memory is our Sunday afternoons together for so many years. You and Kelly (and the boys after they came along) gathered with us like family after church, cooking dinner and cheering on the Buffalo Bills. Good thing not everyone saw us in our heathen-like reactions to all of those last minute losses. We might have been asked to go on sabbatical for counseling.

All of that to say that I loved the man that you have been in our lives. We have enjoyed life together and have kicked down a few gates of hell along the way.

But that was then.

Today is a new day!  You are a new man, entering a new season of leadership and calling in your life. You shuffled off to Columbus for a few years and grew in leaps and bounds. I am impressed with the man that you have become. And, by the way, hats off to Pastor Tim Moore, who gave you the space for leadership development at Crossroads Church. You are ready for the new assignment. God is with you. We are with you.

What you are about to do is not much different from the disciple Peter stepping out of the boat and walking on water. It is new territory with a new load of calling (responsibility) and a new demand on your soul, not only “not to sink,” but to victoriously ride the waves of God’s mission and movement.

You will lead with vision which God will give you and you alone – at least at first.  He won’t necessarily give you all of it, just the parts that you need to move forward. But the vision will be yours before it becomes the vision of the church. How you lead people to join you in that vision will take God’s wisdom and a lot of patience.

You are the man! This is your calling. This is your destiny. And God will give you the grace to succeed in all that He has given for you to do.

Coming back to the church and the people who know you and love you has huge advantages and one minor challenge.

The advantage is that there is already a huge base of support as you walk in the door. You are respected. They know that you are a man of integrity, a man with his priorities in the right place, and a man who loves with all of his heart. It also doesn’t hurt that you are married to probably the most loved person in our fellowship from day one. They are going to give you grace just because of her. :)

However, the challenge will be that you are not the same person that you were four years ago.  This was not just any four years of your life. It was your major growth spurt as a leader. First, you are in that phase of life – late thirties – where highly motivated leaders find their footing and prove their worthiness of advancement to the role of leading people of all ages. Secondly, you have taken your call seriously and have engaged as a life-long student of leadership. Thirdly, this was your season to reveal what has been in your heart for many years. You knew you were called. But Crossroads Church gave you the opportunity to demonstrate it. You were like a wild horse ready for the race and finally released from the starting gate. …Congratulations on your victory.

Now it will be our challenge to allow you to be the person you have become and are becoming.  May the people of Life Church Buffalo shift from their past view of you and take the time to get to know the new Pete, the one that is not only our friend, but has risen to the place of becoming our leader.

There is much more to communicate in the days ahead. But I begin with these words of advice to the leader of a church. I don’t claim to have always adhered to these principles. But I have learned, sometimes the hard way, these are the most important things.

1) Prioritize the hidden place of personal prayer and growth. A good portion of every week should be devoted to that alone. Don’t let your vision for ministry get in the way of your vision for God Himself.

2) Give your family the time and focus that they deserve. Ministry – the kind that has eternal value – will flow out of your relationship with Kelly, the boys, and future Jankowskis.  Your work has a 24-hour demand. So don’t shy from taking daytime hours with your family when needed.

3) Give the bulk of your relational hours to leaders and potential leaders. Begin with leaders you can learn from, then leaders you can hang with. Then pour your life into the leaders that will help you lead a healthy, growing vision of the church.

Be that kind of leader that God has called you to be. Don’t let the expectations and demands of the American cultural church of the past pull you into frazzled chaos. Stay focused. It can be a lonely place. But the rewards are worth it.

You are the man! I believe in you! Can’t wait to applaud you at the finish line!

Let’s change the world together!

Craig McLeod
Life Church Buffalo