Sounding Off: Moving to a new church community

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following letter was sent to the Church by the Sea on Feb. 15.


Many of you were able to attend a meeting we had after church this past Sunday. I wanted to write you all this week to follow up with more detail, and also to inform those of you who were not able to attend about some important news.

Most of you are aware that Margy and I are from the Midwest, and that our families still live in the Chicago and northern Indiana areas. When we go back to Chicago, we attend a church in Lake Forest (a half hour north of the city) called Christ Church. Recently, Margy and I have been feeling the distance from our families, particularly since her father was moved into a care facility this past summer. (He is in the later stages of Parkinson's.) And I have been sensing a potential shift in my calling and assignment. In the midst of all of this, I found out that the worship pastor at Christ Church, an acquaintance of mine, had left and I called to inquire about his situation. They asked if I would be interested in exploring the possibility of a fit, and from there, a dialogue began.

Through the process, God began to make clear that He was preparing us for something new. Although there were good reasons for us to explore that possibility, the reality of it was heavy. We have been in Laguna Beach for going on 23 years. We've been at Church by the Sea for 22 years and on staff for 21. Our roots here are deep, and our relationship with this remarkable community of believers is precious to us. But as we began to open ourselves up to whatever God had for us, it became clearer and clearer that He was preparing us for a new assignment.

It is with mixed emotions that I bring you this news. Margy and I will be moving to the Chicago area in early July. There is certainly a measure of anticipation when we think about particular aspects of this new assignment and being closer to our families. There is also deep gratitude when we consider the season that we've had here in Laguna Beach. God has used this time in our lives in ways that cannot be described with words. These 20 years have been the most formative time in our faith, and being a part of the work that God has done here through you all has been humbling and beautiful. But there is also sadness when we consider leaving friends that are as dear to us as family. We love you all so much, and considering leaving this community has been the hardest part of our decision.

God often uses this kind of change to ensure that we don't fall into complacency. And as we strive to walk in His ways and follow His guidance, there are times when we are called to make hard decisions, ones that move us away from comfort. This feels like one of those times. It feels like He is shaking things up a bit in us, and in our church family.

There was a time in this process when I thought, "We can't leave, what would happen to the church?" But I sensed God saying, "I can take care of My church, you pay attention to what I am asking of you." There is such wonderful spiritual health and growth in our church right now, and I know that we are in His hands. In fact, I know this transition is as much for our church's growth as it is for ours.

My new position at Christ Church as pastor of worship and arts will provide an opportunity for me to focus on my calling in areas of worship and creative expression in the church. Christ Church is just down the street from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, which is the primary seminary for the evangelical free denomination. There are a lot of students and faculty from the seminary that attend the church, and there will be opportunities to mentor young worship pastors in training. There is also a college in Lake Forest with a fine arts department, and I look forward to connecting myself with the art community in the area.

You'll definitely see us pop in occasionally. While we have lived here, our vacations have been spent in the Midwest. In the future, our vacations will be spent in Laguna Beach. Our heart investment here will not be lost. And we are committed to maintaining our deep connection to you all.

BRAD COLEMAN is pastor of Church by the Sea, an evangelical free church of Laguna Beach.

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