A Letter From Pastor Ryan About His Transition Away from Anchor

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A Letter From Pastor Ryan About His Transition Away from Anchor

July 29, 2018

 

To my dear friends and family,

 

In his first letter to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul wrote,

 

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” - 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

 

In speaking to a church that he planted, Paul admits that any and all success in his ministry to them was not a result of his own preaching style, personal depth of knowledge of the scriptures, his level of enthusiasm, current cultural trends, or his marketing efforts. When Paul set out to plant and grow the church at Corinth, along with all of his other churches, he believed that he was not powerful enough to make any change at all. He understood that he did not contain within himself the right combination of personality, knowledge, and willpower to build a church. His message was so simple and clear, that it is both easy to miss, and too important to overlook. He wrote, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified”. Paul knew that the Church could only truly be built by Jesus Christ, the Chief Shepherd of our souls. Paul’s power and success in ministry would be directly proportional to his willingness to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and allow the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts, minds, and wills of those who heard and received new life. Paul was careful not to build the center of any of his ministries around himself, but rather built them around the Man who was also fully God. God’s people have always had a tendency to center their attention and worship around charismatic spiritual leaders of their day, whether it was a king, prophet, judge, or military leader. In every case of God’s people following man-centered leadership in the Bible, they were destined for failure. This is one reason why God came to rescue us. Without Him reaching and saving us through the birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, you and I would have been stuck in a natural tendency to place our hope and trust in faulty men. Instead, He provided Himself as the ultimate Prophet, Priest, King, and Shepherd to follow; the One who would never fail, falter, or forsake. He is our Way, Truth, and Life - and offers us true freedom in becoming his disciples and trusting Him with our lives.

 

My hope and prayer for Anchor has been similar to Paul’s; that through the preaching of Christ and him crucified throughout Scripture, we would fall in love with Him more and more. And while we certainly appreciate the people who sacrifice to bring us music, sermons, prayer, ministry, services for our kids, and more- our ultimate goal is for the Holy Spirit to use these individuals to be a means to the ultimate end of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ.

 

So, what is the point of me telling you all of this?

 

I am filled with various emotions as I report to you that Kimmy and I will be stepping down from leadership and oversight of Anchor and our BASIC college ministry…

 

Last fall, through much prayer and Bible study, I began to sense that the Lord was transitioning me away from my current roles with Anchor and BASIC. Honestly, this was very scary to me because I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I loved every person, every conversation, every sermon written, every song sung together, every one-on-one hangout, every service opportunity, every leadership meeting about how we were going to take over Oneonta for Jesus, and how much I would miss all of these things. So, my initial response was to ignore this apparent call away and continue in what my assignment was. I honestly hoped that it wouldn’t be a big deal and hoped that it would go away. However, as time went by, God continued to lead me in a direction that became noticeable to my leaders and mentors. This eventually led to a 6-month-long conversation among the eldership of our church, in which we collectively tried to decipher where God was calling me to next. Finally, within the last two weeks, we have come to an agreement as church elders that God is calling me away from serving as pastor of Anchor and BASIC and into the next chapter of my ministry.

 

I started serving as the advisor for BASIC in 2011 along with Kimmy. God immediately gave me an amazing vision for students to be a part of something bigger, come together, worship Jesus, get sent out to preach the gospel, and bring our friends to hear the best news ever: that Jesus is alive and has won our victory from death. Anchor started with the same vision, but on a larger scale. We started on Easter of 2016 and haven’t slowed down since. From the very start, Anchor has been a church home for some, a supplemental place of worship for others, and an opportunity for others to explore their faith for the very first time. Together, we’ve found hope in Christ, and gave it away to others. Together, we have watched God perform miracles in these ministries. Body parts were healed before our eyes. Many dead souls became alive as people trusted Jesus for their eternal salvation. Dozens of disciples of Jesus externally committed their lives to Him through baptism. We met Christ every single week as He invited us to His communion table. Prayers for jobs, healing, deliverance, salvations, and more were answered. An army of volunteers was raised up to serve each other and those outside of this building and on campus. These are just a few examples of what God has done through this family over the past seven years. These are miracles.

 

As time has gone by, I have realized more and more my own inadequacies as a pastor. I have likely failed you throughout our time together. Some of you have noticed and have been very gracious. Others may not realize how I’ve failed them. As we have talked, prayed, studied, and served together, I have been forced to trust Christ more and more to shine through in my weaknesses. Honestly, this is biblically the best place to be, with a realization that none of us are perfect, not even the pastors and leaders among us. We need to develop a dependency on Christ as our perfect Shepherd, as I talked about earlier. However, I have realized and become convicted about how little preparation I have put into serving this church to the best of my ability. Honestly, some of my mistakes could have been avoided, and I could have been serving better if I had put more effort into preparing myself for ministry before I jumped into it head first. Just as a future surgeon decides to prepare himself in medical school before he operates, I will be spending the next few years attending a seminary online so that I can devote myself to studying God’s Word and learning how to better serve God’s people. I consider this a long-term strategic decision that will contribute to the health and success of my future ministry as a Senior Pastor wherever God calls me to. All in all, I firmly believe that God has called me away from my current position at our church so that I can focus on this kind of ministry training, in order to prepare myself to serve to the best of my ability with no regrets in the future. This is a difficult reality, but I feel that it’s the best one for me and my family right now, and I am excited to see God move Kimmy and me into the next chapter.

 

This is definitely not an easy thing to do. It has been the most difficult process that I’ve ever faced. I understand how many of you may feel shocked, hurt, betrayed, and abandoned by me because of this decision. I can’t say that I blame you for feeling these things. I am so sorry that this is happening to you. However, I want you to know that I have loved you with my whole heart and will continue to love you. There hasn’t been a day in the last seven years that I haven’t thanked God for you. I have made you an utmost priority in my life; praying with you and for you, talking with you, dreaming with you, serving with you, giving with you, loving with you and personally sacrificing financial securities for the sake of serving you. Though God has not blessed Kimmy and me with children yet, BASIC and Anchor have been my children. You’ve woken me in the middle of the night so we could cry together. I’ve fed you, helped you grow in your God-given giftings, driven you to concerts and games, helped you pick your classes, poked you to talk with that pretty Christian girl that you liked, taken you to your doctor appointments, shared so many laughs with you, watched you take big leaps of faith, watched you give your lives to King Jesus, played games with you, helped connect you with future spouses, watched you grow, walked through forgiving others with you, helped you drive your drunk friends home, taught you how to teach others about God’s word, suffered with you as your loved ones have passed on from this world, performed your weddings, watched you raised your children as disciples of Jesus, and I’ve sent you out from my care to change the world as a proud, proud father. Friends, the truth is that no sacrifice of mine could ever come close to the joy that it has been to serve you. You have have loved me and helped me grow far more than I have done for you. If my life ended tonight, I would meet Jesus with a full heart from the love that I have received from you. I praise Him for trusting me to serve you like this.

 

I want you to know that this is not over. My love for you will continue to burn. I will continue to pray for you, BASIC, and Anchor. I would consider it an honor to continue to get together with you when we can to pray, study God’s word, talk life, and hang out.

 

I also want you to know that you are in good hands that will lead you into the next chapter of Anchor and BASIC. Pastor Rodney has been on campus serving with BASIC since it started here at Oneonta. He will continue to be involved on campus and will be helping to find another co-advisor so we can keep kicking butt on campus. Anchor’s leadership is being headed up by Dennis & Amy Kropp and Chris Cleveland. These amazing people, along with our faithful board of elders love you all dearly, and are committed to see you continue to grow in your faith in Christ. The elders have collectively decided that today will be my last day serving as your pastor, but I will also be around to help with the transition process. I am really excited to see how God is going to continue to use these ministries to impact the world, starting with Oneonta, NY.

 

There are so many people to thank for my time as pastor here, and no words could ever adequately describe my appreciation, but I will start now and occasionally remind you what you mean to me for the rest of my life.

 

To all the crazy college students at BASIC: I'm so sorry that you couldn't be here for this. Thank you for letting me serve you and for keeping me a college student at heart and teaching me cool words so I can sound hip in front of my friends. Thank you for trusting me with your overwhelming problems and anxieties and allowing me to speak truth into your lives.

 

BASIC Leadership Team: your stamina and passion for serving your fellow college students is seriously admirable and unmatched. Thank you for letting me love you and for teaching me what being on mission looks like. You are all seriously world-changers.

 

Anchor congregation: thank you for letting me cut my pastoral teeth with you. You have allowed me to discover my passion for preaching the Bible, and you’ve helped me figure out which vocation I want to serve the Lord with for the rest of my life. Thank you for bearing with me as I’ve continued to grow as an undershepherd. Thank you for forgiving me of my shortcomings. Thank you for journeying with me as we’ve figured out how to start and grow this ministry. Thanks for throwing butterfingers at me every now and then.

 

Anchor Leadership Team: Thank you for dreaming big with me. This whole city has been impacted by your love and leadership. Noah: you’re our unsung hero, always sacrificing so that God’s word can be seen and heard in this room. Thank you, brother. Terri: thank you for being passionate, honest, and insightful with everything you do. You remind us that at the end of the day, we’re serving people, not putting on a show. Kayleigh: Thank you for diligently serving and for radiating so much joy while doing it, and for not being afraid to step into new territory. Our kids’ lives have been changed because of you. Tammy: Your joy is contagious. Thank you for sacrificing your time to make sure that we have all had an opportunity to get to know eachother better while eating yummy food. Will & Sarah: thank you for using your musical gifts to serve Jesus. We’ve encountered the living God through song in this room in part because you’ve been willing to contribute your gifts. Justin & Heather: you carry these worship services on your backs week in and week out - always ready to jump in and help at a moment’s notice, meeting new people and making them feel welcome, and seeing that things run smoothly through the entire service. You have encouraged me in so many ways, like reminding me that God is still in the business of changing lives.

 

Anchor volunteers: What you do really really matters. Julian, Rakesh, Caleb, Ethan, Adam, Montanna, Chrissy, Julia, Kristian, Ethan D, Alyvia, Lennon, Abbey, Lucy, Dan, Jenn, Emily, Kaler, Laura, and so many others: you have recognized that there is no job too small to glorify God, and you’ve done a killer job. You are all so special to me. Thank you for believing in the mission and sacrificing your time to see it happen.

 

Sermon Smilers: thank you for smiling throughout my sermons. You’ve made me feel better as I’ve had to tell everybody else how hopeless they are without Jesus.

 

Sermon Sleepers: seriously, take a nap or something before you come to church.

 

Aunt Jeanie: thanks for your continued moral support, constant giving, and for donating your delicious treats to our college students every single week. You have been a constant source of comfort to me.

 

Chris R: thanks for providing rides for the last couple of years, communion bread, help with food, and more. Thank you for pushing through your comfort zone for the sake of others.

 

Julie Dostal: Thank you for loving Kimmy and I as a solid support source, always ready to jump in and listen and pray for us. Thank you for believing in us.

 

Many of my closest friends have taken great interest in helping me process through this calling away from this ministry. When Satan would tempt me to feel alone, you would show great care and interest to talk, pray, and listen. Billy Alsheimer, Luke Moran, Sam Judd, Dominick D’Imperio, Cody Gibson, Justin Bailey, Kaler Carpenter, Peter Eklund, Josiah Zulkosky, and Sean Manchester to name a few. Thank you brothers.

 

To my family: Mom, Dad, Catherine, John, Billy, Gracie and Kerri, you have always placed such faith and confidence in me and encouraged me to be true to what I felt was right. Thank you for always being willing to listen, encourage, support, and help me believe that I can take over the world.

 

Community Gospel Church Family: Thank you for loving me as a college student, feeding me, fixing my broken stuff, inviting me into your homes, supporting my journey as a young adult, helping me grow as a Christian, teaching me what true loving community looks like, giving me jobs, giving me places to live, and so much more!

 

Board of Elders: Over the past ten years of being a part of this church, I have been loved, taught, shepherded, cared for with tangible needs, and so much more by this Elder Board. You have taken giant steps of faith on my behalf more than once. First, when trusting me to be a part of the music ministry as a new believer and college student. After a few years, I was entrusted to serve as the new advisor for the BASIC college ministry. A few years later I was overwhelmed with your support of a salary increase to help me continue in college ministry. After another few years, this board took a large risk in allowing me to head up our new Anchor church service. After a year of watching God bless this ministry, this board took another giant step of faith to increase my salary to allow me to pursue ministry full time without the constraints of another full-time job. To top this all off, I was shortly after voted in as a fellow elder and charged with the responsibility of helping this team steer our church in the direction of God’s leading. These risks that this elder board took on me have been some of the greatest honors of my life. Thank you for teaching me what brotherly covenant love looks like.

 

George: Thank you for showing me what it looks like to care for people, despite their circumstances. You have reached out to me and shown concern at some major junctions in my life, and I am so thankful. I am excited that this church has you as the president of the board of elders.

 

Chris: Thank you for your overwhelming support, for trusting me to serve in your music ministry, for stepping up to help lead music at Anchor, preaching at Anchor and BASIC, and for being one of my closest confidants. Thank you for your willingness to help continue Anchor into its next chapter.

 

Dennis & Amy: Besides being my family, you have supported me at every turn, fought for me, prayed for me, listened, encouraged, and so much more. Thank you for being willing to serve this congregation, which has been a joy and treasure to me. I am excited to see what it will become under your care.

 

Jackie: Thank you for your love and sacrifice of time and service that you’ve given to this church and to Anchor over the course of the last 40 plus years. You constantly pour your life out and expect nothing and no recognition in return. If members of this church were to catch on and demonstrate your attitude of service, this city would change overnight. On a personal level, you have been a rock for Kimmy and me. In any situation, whether joyful or painful, you have demonstrated love toward us with a grace that is hard to understand. I have so much hope for my marriage in the future, knowing that Kimmy will follow in her mama’s footsteps.

 

Pastor Rodney: Thank you for being a father to me, always encouraging me in my faith to dream big, take risks, be willing to look foolish, and loving Jesus through it all. I’ve never had a conversation with you where I didn’t walk away more full of hope. You have had my back in everything that I’ve done. You’ve given me a roof over my head as a newlywed. You’ve been on campus with me as we’ve loved and served college students. You’ve always been ready and willing to pray with me and everybody else who has needed it. You have shown me what it looks like to have the heart of a shepherd who genuinely cares and shows mercy.

 

Pastor Don: You have believed in me and have personally sacrificed so much to get me to where I’ve gotten. Thank you for teaching me to fall in love with the Word of God and teaching me that every jot and tittle points to Christ. Thank you for showing me that joy can come from faithfully teaching the Bible to others. Thank you for trusting me with my crazy idea to start Anchor, and for getting vulnerable with me and teaching me how to avoid pain that you’ve experienced in the past. Thank you for serving this church for as long as you have. Thank you for giving me my favorite gift: your daughter Kimberly.

 

Kimmy: Seven years ago tomorrow, we stood right where I stand now and made a promise to each other before God that we would never leave each other, that we would always have each other’s backs, and that we would love each other through any trial. You have far surpassed your promises to me that day. In my craziest dreams, I could never have imagined the deep level of joy that God has given to me through you. You are the most beautiful, and passionate, and loyal person I have ever known. You have been my best friend, my sounding board, my slice of heavenly wisdom, and my biggest cheerleader since we met. You have supported me even at your own personal expense. You have joined me in putting everything we had into these ministries, and have made many deep and personal sacrifices for everybody else’s benefit. I love you with a love that does not make sense. Marrying you was the best decision I’ve made beside surrendering my life to Jesus. If my only gift in this world was you, that would be enough.

 

Our Triune God: Thank you for raising these dead bones to life. Thank you for taking my heart of stone and giving me a heart of flesh. Thank you for giving us your Word. Thank you Father for creating me and choosing to adopt me as your son, despite my rebellion against you. Thank you Jesus for coming on mission for my soul, for paying the penalty for every sin that I’ve committed against you, for taking the the blame and punishment for my actions when you didn’t deserve it, for forgiving me anyway, and for insuring my victory over death through your resurrection. Thank you Holy Spirit for the joy that you have flooded me with, for revealing my need for you, for working within me, and for teaching me how to mimic the King of kings. Thank you God for never leaving or forsaking us. Thank you Lord that you will carry your Church through until the end of time, when you will return in full glory to finally rescue us. Our hope is in you alone.

 

Church, I am so sorry for the pain that this is going to cause. My intent was never to hurt you or hinder your faith. One thing that the Lord has proven to me over and over is that I can trust Him when He calls me into scary territory, because He is working a greater plan than I could ever imagine. I know that you are going to be ok, because your faith is rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ, who will never stand before you and tell you that He is being called elsewhere. Your faith does not stand in your pastor, it stands in the rock solid foundation of the God of the universe who loved you first, called you into his family, died for you, forgave your sin, and promised you eternal glory with Himself by your side. Trust Him! BASIC and Anchor was never about Ryan and Kimmy Alsheimer. It was and will always be about Christ, the Sure and Steady Anchor:

 

Christ The Sure and Steady Anchor
Written by Matt Papa, Matt Boswell

Christ the sure and steady anchor
in the fury of the storm
When the winds of doubt blow through me
and my sails have all been torn
In the suffering, in the sorrow
when my sinking hopes are few
I will hold fast to the anchor
it shall never be removed

Christ the sure and steady anchor
while the tempest rages on
when temptation claims the battle and it seems the night has won
deeper still then goes the anchor
though I justly stand accused
I will hold fast to the anchor
it shall never be removed

Christ the sure and steady anchor
through the floods of unbelief
Hopeless, somehow, o my soul now lift your eyes to calvary
This my ballast of assurance
See His love forever proved
I will hold fast to the anchor
it shall never be removed

Christ the sure and steady anchor
as we face the wave of death
When these trials give way to glory
and we draw our final breath
We will cross that great horizon
clouds behind and life secured
And the calm will be the better
for the storms that we endured.

 

I love you all more than I could ever express!

 

Sincerely,

Pastor Ryan Alsheimer

 

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