Due to the nature of what’s going on in my life right now I am sharing on this blog what I’m sharing on our church blog …
The eight months leading up to this morning have been the most painful and difficult of my entire life. Today I announced to our church that I will be moving next year to start a new church on the Las Vegas Strip.
You can watch the video of the (30 minute) announcement here. (Sorry if it’s blurry.)
Everyone on our mailing list should be receiving a letter from me tomorrow or the next day, but just in case you can’t wait, or are not on our mailing list, here’s that letter:
Dear Forefront Family,
Hey everybody. Vince here, and I’m writing to share some big news, and it’s one of those happy news / sad news kind of things. I announced this on Sunday in our services, but in case you missed it, here it is: As you know, Forefront has always been about reaching out to people who are very far from God, people who don’t like church, people who other churches cannot or will not reach. Because there are so many people like that in America, we have always been passionate about starting new churches in other places, because it allows us to further extend the mission of our church.
So here’s the happy news: We have decided to start a new church, and to do so in one of the darkest places spiritually in the United States, a place where people are truly not being reached by churches … Las Vegas. In fact, not just Las Vegas, but the Las Vegas Strip. We’re going to help start a church on the Strip, for people who work on and live around the Strip.
Here’s the sad news: I’m going to move to Las Vegas to start and lead this new church. Wow, that is probably the most difficult sentence I’ve ever written. So, let me explain: I know this is going to sound really weird, but I was walking my dog on Thanksgiving Day when I was hit by … a thought … a voice … I don’t know, but all of a sudden I was overwhelmed by the idea that God wanted me to start a church in Las Vegas.
I cannot tell you how bizarre that was to me. The thought of starting another church has never entered my mind. It was difficult enough the first time! And of all the places in America I would want to live, Las Vegas would rank near the bottom. I didn’t know what to do and decided to just ignore it. Unfortunately I could not stop thinking about it. Quickly it began making sense to me. For instance, for the last few years I’ve been wondering if I am supposed to stay at Forefront. I’ve totally wanted to, but I’ve felt like I’m not the right person to take Forefront where it needed to go in the future. I’ve been talking to our MPW (Ministry of Prayer & the Word) Leadership Team about how maybe God made me better at starting things than continuing them. Also, I feel like my calling is to reach out to people who are far from God, and who other churches are ignoring. There may be no place in America where that is more true than Las Vegas. Also, when I was a child my father destroyed my family … in Las Vegas. There would be something poetic about redeeming families … in Las Vegas.
Finally, I told my wife about what I thought God had said to me on Thanksgiving Day, but when she asked what I was going to do about it, I said, “Nothing. If God wants me to start another church, especially in Las Vegas, He’ll have to tell me more than once.” Not much later God told me again, and then again, and again. For instance, on my trip to Israel one of the other pastors told me that someone was looking for a church planter in Las Vegas, would I be interested…
So, to keep a long story short, my wife and I have decided that we have to obey God, and that we trust Him, even if this isn’t what we want. And let me just say again, this is not what we want to do. We love Forefront Church. We love the people and I could never have a better staff to work with. All our friends are here. We love living in Virginia Beach. We are East Coast people. Both our families are within driving distance. This is where our kids were born, and the only home they’ve ever known. We are taking them away from grandparents and cousins. Las Vegas is a more expensive place to live, and I assume I will make less money. There is every reason to stay here. The only reason to go is … God told us. And we obey Him no matter what. And we trust Him; He hasn’t done us wrong yet, and we know that someday we’ll look back and see exactly why this was His perfect plan for us.
So … we’re still not exactly sure of all the details. We could have waited and announced this at the last moment when everything was set (that is what most pastors do) but this isn’t so much “The Antonucci’s leaving Forefront” as it is, “Forefront sending the Antonucci’s to Las Vegas to start a new church” and so we wanted you all to be a part of it. We’re still unsure about some things, but we are very excited. In the history of the Vegas Strip there has never been a church that has done any effective ministry on or around the Strip. It may be the darkest place spiritually in the country – it needs the light of Christ. We hope to be a part of making that happen. We’re excited about bringing Jesus, and bringing the ministry of Forefront, to the Strip. We will be all about loving God, loving people, and turning the world upside down. We plan to adopt the Mien, and do combined mission trips with you guys. So, in a very real way, we will simply be extending the ministry of Forefront to a new place.
As for Forefront (here in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake) I believe the future is incredibly bright. I am absolutely convinced that God has me leaving so that He can take Forefront to even greater heights. Forefront is God’s church. He knows exactly who will be replacing me. The MPW’s, our staff, and I are praying already – and we ask you to join us – that God will quickly send the perfect person. I also want to assure you that we will find someone who is line with the current vision and values of Forefront. Yes, we hope to find someone who can take us to new heights, but at the same time we will only consider people who want to continue with the same unique flavor and nature of Forefront.
I ask you to please stay faithful to this church. It can sometimes be easy to endear yourself to the personality of the pastor, but this has never been Vince Antonucci’s church. This is God’s church. Sometime between January and July of 2009 Vince Antonucci will be leaving to start a new church in Las Vegas, but God will not be leaving Forefront. And my leaving should have nothing to do with you staying. I pray your commitment to Forefront goes a lot deeper than enjoying my sense of humor or style of preaching. And when we do bring in a new Pastor, I ask that you support and love him and his family, as you have me and my family.
By the way, you may be aware that I am supposed to take a month off this summer for a sabbatical (a rest/reward our staff members are to get after seven years of service to Forefront) (this is actually my eleventh year). I told the MPW’s that I felt like I shouldn’t get the sabbatical. They told me I should. We eventually compromised, and I will be taking half of the sabbatical. I appreciate the MPW’s generosity and kindness in insisting that I at least take half the sabbatical break.
I hope you were in our service Sunday to hear this from me in person, but if not at least this letter has caught you up on what’s going on.
Thank you for your support and your friendship.
I love you guys.