Nick Shock and I met in 1999 between our sophomore and junior years in college. We were both selected to serve in a summer revival ministry with the baptist convention in Texas; he would be doing the preaching and I would be working with youth. We traveled for 9 weeks to nine different churches and did ministry from morning to night. For most of the summer, we lived together because the host churches would put us in the same host home.
We were an interesting pair. He grew up in the ministry – watching his dad serve first as a youth pastor and then as a senior pastor. I had grown up in the Methodist church and only become a Christian at 16. He was confident. I was insecure. He could lead music and knew the language and culture of small-town Baptist churches. I had no idea what I was doing or what I was saying. Nick helped me learn the ropes of ministry and the local church. He was a great team-leader and was so encouraging to me as a ministry newbie. A friendship was born.
After college, we both followed the Lord on our respective ministry paths. We served as student pastors in different churches, finished our degrees, and started our families. Over the years, we stayed very close. We played the role for each other of that friend that we could seek advice from that was outside our ministry-context. We leaned on each other and learned from each other. When God called Barie and me to plant a church in the Austin area, one of the first calls I made was to Nick. I knew that I wanted he and Jada on the team. They prayed, they talked, and surprisingly, they came.
I wasn’t sure what it would look like to lead the guy who had first trained me in pastoral ministry. But Nick is a team player, and he has been an amazing ally and confidant even through the awkward moments where I had to put my “boss-hat” on and talk business. So much of Hill Country Bible Church Round Rock reflects his passion and influence. He has helped us understand our stewardship of the next generation, built amazing lay leadership teams across our family ministries, and been a voice for excellence and relevance in everything we’ve done. I know that we would not be the church we are today if Nick had not been a part of the original team.
Of course, we have made so many mistakes along the way. And God has almost totally rebuilt our philosophy of ministry along the way. We have grown in the depth of our love for Jesus and the depth of our appreciation for the power of the gospel. By God’s grace, we have led a young church through becoming a mature, reproducing church. We have learned to love our neighbors, serve our communities, and disciple our families. What a journey God has taken us through over the last 13 years. I can joyfully say that we are no longer the men we once were. Thankful, I am also humbled by how much further we have to go.
But now the day comes that I have always known would come. Our elders announced tonight that we are sending Nick and Jada (and a core-team) to plant a new church in our city. We have planted two churches already as a congregation, and this will be number three. But this one feels different. Very different. I am sending away not just a ministry partner, but my best friend. The one in this world who knows me best (after my wife), the one who has influenced me and shaped me and made me a better husband, a better father, and a better man.
Tonight I have been tested to live out what I say I believe. That the mission of Jesus Christ is more important than staying close to those we love. Sending out Nick and Jada over the next year feels bittersweet – sad in the sense of losing a staff member and close friend from the everyday routine of life. But sweet in the sense of sending a trusted leader and pastor to start a new church in a part of the city that desperately needs strong churches. Jesus has called. We must obey.
Jesus didn’t say that following Him would be easy. In fact, he told us that we should count the cost. The lordship of Christ demands our all because Jesus is God. Even more, the gospel of Christ demands our missionary labor because Jesus is the only hope of the world. I have loved every minute of every day that I have been blessed to work on staff with my best friend. But now he must go. First, because Jesus has called. Second, because Jesus’ call is urgent. The days are evil and the time is short.
We must get to work. His return is near.