In about a month the Lighthouse Church of San Francisco (sflighthouse.com) will celebrate the six year anniversary of the electing of Dr. Jeff Garner to the pastorate of the church. A lesser known fact is that one week later I would be celebrating my sixth year as part of this church as well. Since I am relocating to Portland, OR, I will not be able to celebrate six years serving the city of San Francisco, but I will be able to celebrate so many wonderful memories from the last five years and eleven months!
Jeff Garner was a professor of mine in college. As I entered my junior year he was elected to the pastorate of the church he has faithfully shepherded since that day. He met with me a couple days after he was elected to ask me if I would be interested in doing something he called “coffee house evangelism”. It was a small idea for a big city. I would bring my homework every weekend, study at a local coffee shop, and hopefully build some relationships. Maybe one of these relationships would lead into a discussion about God, Christ, and the church. If it did I could invite them to the church I now attended in the city.
I asked for a couple days to pray about my decision. I felt that this was something God would have me to do. I agreed to his proposal and the following weekend I traveled to San Francisco for the first time.
The church was small, but the people were amazing. There was a couple dozen Samoans, some Caucasians, some Filipinos, and a few other ethnic groups represented. They danced around when they sang. They loved Jeff’s preaching. I received more hugs than I could handle. I was sold that this was the type of small, family-like church of which I could be part.
Over the last several years I have gone from sitting in coffee houses, to pastoring the college aged youth group, to assisting people when we had inadequate parking, to teaching summer courses, to leading the small groups, to assistant pastoring, to directing the department of education. During this time period I have made many mistakes, said some stupid things, and failed at various endeavours. I also found a life long pastor.
Jeff Garner has mentored me in ministry. He has been a guide into my journey into academics. He has been a fantastic pastor. Of all these things I most importantly see him as a close friend.
This week we sat down one last time to talk about life, God, biblical literature, and the Gospel of John. I always leave those talks refreshed and excited. This is exactly what every Christian needs, someone who can help you refocus your attention on the Kingdom of God and those things that are eternal and matter.
There are two sermon series that I will always remember that Jeff preached. The first was a series on the poetic books (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs). I never saw life as so multi-dimensional as I did through that series. And I never looked at the diversity and unity of Scripture the same way after that. The second memory was not a series, but one sermon. Jeff spent a whole week living as if it was the last week he had to live. He then made it into a sermon. I left realizing each moment matters.
I am saddened that the end of the road has come in this leg of my journey. The common goal of bring the gospel to San Francisco was only the beginning of our friendship. I now must move on to another place but I will always consider Jeff Garner as my pastor.
Jeff, thank you for everything. You are a wonderful friend, mentor, and pastor. I know that God has given you dreams for the city of San Francisco that He will bring to pass in His time.