Apple Valley Church of the Nazarene

On July 5, 2015, we celebrated our first Sunday together with the wonderful people from the Apple Valley Church of the Nazarene. For the past 20 years, we have pastored up in Northern California – it is a blessing now to be back closer to home where I grew up.

This has been a year full of change and transition for all of us. When we accepted the call to come to Apple Valley, God placed two big concerns on my heart: To continue to blend our Anglo and Hispanic congregations into ONE church as much as we can; and to build a vital inter-generational congregation that can touch the six generations of people who walk through our doors each week. We’ve adopted a simple mission statement: “to lead people of ALL ages into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.”

But this year has also brought us face-to-face with the reality of life and death: that it is brief and fragile and can change in a heartbeat. In this past year I have been involved in at least 18 different funerals. Some of them involved long-term members who received their eternal reward from their loving Heavenly Father. But others have been shocking, tragic and unexpected. On March 16, a 14 year old high school freshman from our youth group was hit by a car and killed as he was walking to school. I was blessed to watch our church rally around this grieving family. Hundreds of students showed up for a candlelight vigil and memorial service. Over those weeks we had opportunity to share the Gospel with many people whose lives had been shaken to the core. Our church even came together to pay for the funeral expenses. And then, just a few days ago, the 26 year old son of a mom in our church committed suicide. It has been another overwhelming and heartbreaking time for all of us.

This past year has convinced me that we truly live in challenging times. I’m convinced that darkness surrounds us, but the grace of God is more alive and active than I have ever imagined. I’m convinced that spiritual warfare is more real than we’ve ever believed, but the power of prayer can still break any chain. I’m convinced that so many people are living hopeless lives, but the radical optimism of a holy life is still restoring lost hope and peace.

After 30 years of being blessed to be a pastor, I am convinced more than ever that the hearts of God’s people have to be continually transformed into the likeness of Jesus on a regular basis, if we are to have any real hope of transforming the lost and hurting communities in which we live and minister.

A few years ago, I sensed in my heart that the Lord was getting me ready for a new ministry challenge. There is no doubt this is where we’re supposed to be. So, at our first assembly here on the Southern California District, my wife, Darla and I want you to know that we are looking forward to living out this new challenge among our church family that has loved us and welcomed us with open arms. Because we are convinced more than ever that God is with us, leading us every step of the way.

Jeff Whitney (Lead Pastor)

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