The Why

Mark Johnston

As many of you know, i announced my resignation from Stonepoint yesterday and i know some of you are wondering about the details that led to that decision.

I’ve always wanted to live near the ocean. I wrote about that HERE a couple of years ago, and those things still hold true today. During the past six months i have spent some time reflecting on my own mortality, and the fact that the pages seem to be flying off the calendar faster than ever, like one of those cheesy sequences in an old black and white movie.  

When our daughter Shelby’s twins arrived, Angie and i had about eight hours to kill between the time they were born and the time we could go in and see them in the NICU, so we wandered around, walking the blocks outside Baylor Hospital in Old East Dallas. At one point, Angie looked at me and said, ‘you just breathe better with bus exhaust fumes and carbon monoxide in your lungs, don’t you?’

Now, keep in mind that i was born and raised in Dallas, and still feel really comfortable there. To me, there’s a certain excitement in the city (i know some of you would say that you might get shot at any minute and that gets the old adrenaline pumping) but it’s an undeniable energy that i grew up with, and had almost all of my life until we moved to Edgewood…where the air is filled with the exact polar opposite of energy. Laid back, surrounded by pastures or just small town life. Some folks love that. 

I don’t. So, in the back of my mind the seed was planted: ocean…city.

My father-in-law passed away in February after a brief illness, and we drove to Boerne, outside of San Antonio for the memorial service. As we were making hotel arrangements beforehand, i made the comment to Angie, ‘you know we’ll only be two and a half hours from the coast, right?’ So she booked a night in Port A, and a night in Corpus, and we had a really nice time with the two youngest kids, considering the circumstances. We spent an afternoon being chauffeured around by Spencer, so we could look at neighborhoods and figure out if it was a place we might want to live someday. Not any time soon, mind you…but someday.

The last morning before we left for home, Angie and i got up early, to watch the sun come up over the bay. My devotional for that day on the YouVersion Bible app said ‘you don’t put on your scuba gear to get into the bathtub. You get in the ocean.’

We had our house for sale, and had been holed up in our little guest house for seven months trying not to kill each other, but in mid April, with the threat of Covid-19 in the air, we moved back into the bigger one just in case one of us got sick. We figured we’d be much more equipped to quarantine in a larger space than 4 people crammed into 600 square feet. A week after we got sort of settled, a couple drove out special from Flower Mound just to see the place, called our agent and said they’d pay our asking price. A week later they changed the offer to include the guest house, and offered good money, and left us four acres and the pond, so we jumped at the offer. 

And basically no place to live coming up real soon.

Our friends Matt & Erika, showing Christ’s love and being a great example of what Stonepoint wants community to be, have a house that they’ve graciously allowed us to stay in, so we put most of our belongings into storage and started trying to figure out what was next. We’d settled on an RV, found a place to put it, and had scheduled a time, and a tentative deal on one in Hot Springs, which the guy promptly sold out from under us, leaving us back at square one.

In the meantime, we kept thinking about the city and the ocean and how bad it would hurt to leave Shelby and the twins, and not get to see them as often as we’d like and to be as big a part of their lives growing up as we always thought we’d be. 

It was a back and forth struggle, one of those ‘arguing with God’ kinds of struggles, but in the end, we still felt called to go. 

My guy Donald Miller in the foreword of his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, wrote this:

‘If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.

But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to feel meaningful. The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either.’  

At some point, no matter what great things that i have had the privilege to have been involved in here at Stonepoint, the salvation conversations i’ve had with dozens of people, the hundreds of worship services i’ve led, the stories we’ve filmed and told—i got the feeling that from the 10,000 foot view, my life was starting to become about buying a Volvo.

My parents, before i was born, spent a couple of years traveling the Eastern Seaboard, while my dad trained men to do airplane mechanic work. They loved the time they spent in Charleston, SC and always talked of going back there, if only to visit. Then, life happened—my dad changed jobs, my mom went to work at TI, they had me, settled into their lives, grew older, retired, celebrated 50 years together, and then my dad got cancer and passed away. 

As much as they’d wanted to, they never made it back to Charleston.

I didn’t want to look back in 10 or 15 years and say i’d always wanted to live near the ocean, but never did.

I won’t be working at a church, but i’m not leaving the ministry. No believer ever does, really. We haven’t actually had neighbors close by since moving from Dallas, and we’re really looking forward to meeting and getting to know the people in our neighborhood, most of whom come from different backgrounds than we do.

We love our Journey Group at Stonepoint, and love spending time with them. But at some point, while hanging out with our fellow believers for fellowship and accountability is extremely important, if they become the only people we are doing life with, we are undeniably missing something.

Carey Nieuwhof wrote a blog post a few years ago called The Top Ten Things that Today’s Pharisees Say. Number nine is “I’m simply more comfortable with people from my church than with people who don’t go to church.” His response to that is striking—“this is one major reason why you and your church are incredibly ineffective at reaching unchurched people. If you want to change your attitude toward people who are not like you, go to some parties and get to know some people who are far from God. You will discover that God likes them. And you might discover you do, too. And people–who at one time didn’t follow Jesus–might even start following Jesus.”

That’s the whole point of this. That’s ‘the why.’ We have all been called to be salt and light where God has us planted. You may be in your ‘Charleston’ right now, and that’s great—there’s a place and a divine purpose for all of us. But for Angie and me, we want to be salt and light to a little neighborhood three miles from the bay for as long as He has us there, and i pray that you’ll be the same wherever He has you.

And that someday, in glory, we’ll reminisce on the great times we had here at Stonepoint Church and share stories of the people we showed His love to, from wherever we are, doing what we’ve been called to do.

Being the church. Not content with just buying a Volvo.