This past Sunday I had the privilege of singing at an outdoor outreach concert for 980 people at the Grove, the outdoor venue at our home church, Live Oaks Community Church in The Villages, Florida. Take a look at the pictures my good friend and photographer Lou DiMarco snapped, including one of me with one of our gifted musicians, Hannah Kalisch. It was an amazing and powerful time of music and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, including some new music I wrote. 

As I reflect on these pictures, not only do I see the joy in my face but also flashback almost 2 years ago when my ministry came to a close at the last church where I served.  My parting there was both unexpected and bittersweet: as I walked through those days, I thought my worship ministry days were over and wondered what was next.  After a touching farewell reception at that church, Terese and I traveled to Los Angeles where I was asked to facilitate the worship breakout sessions at a national conference. During that week I felt the irony of leading discussions with pastors from churches from all over the U.S. while I was virtually unemployed! My mind raced between anxious thoughts and hopeful expectation of God’s sovereign care, especially when life hands us unexpected turns like the one I just encountered. As the conference in Los Angeles ended, my wife and I prayed together and committed ourselves and our future to God, and then flew back to Minnesota.

It didn’t take long for God’s answer to come.

My mother-in-law picked us up from the airport and dropped us off at our home. 10 minutes after we arrived I received a message from a pastor friend with whom I served several years earlier. The message was simple: “How would you like to serve as a worship pastor in Florida?”  As we talked, my friend introduced me to Pastor Chris Holck who led a new kind of church plant geared toward Baby Boomers (or as he termed them, “The Encore Generation”) in a place called The Villages. After talking with Chris a few days later, we were invited to The Villages, Florida to lead worship and mutually explore a ministry opportunity with Live Oaks Community Church.

Our first week with this church smashed any preconceptions we might have had about the church and the massive, planned community called “The Villages.”  From the vibrant worship to the unsurpassed friendliness and epic service the people of Live Oaks Community Church demonstrated, we knew this was the place God was calling us.

Since coming on staff in June 2017, we have seen many lives transformed and come alive by God and have experienced church growth as never before in an area that is among the fastest growing in the United States. Even as we’ve only been in our new campus for a little over a year, plans are already in place for a larger worship center and a possible 2nd campus. Terese and I have felt embraced and loved by our church, and Pastor Chris Holck—who is not only my boss but a good friend—has given me latitude and wings in my role as the worship pastor.

One of God’s big surprises for me has been the encore of my writing and recording ministry. I love writing for the church, and new songs have been birthed through my ministry at Live Oaks Community Church. Earlier this year God opened the door to recording these songs, and I am thrilled to announce my new CD “Living Oaks” will be released on January 18th, 2019.  Over the next few weeks, I will share some of the stories of how these songs came about, and will even give you a preview of my newest Christmas Song “Country Bluegrass Christmas” that is part of this new collection.

I hope my story will remind you that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). Whatever setbacks and unforeseen turns come your way, God doesn’t change, and he isn’t surprised!  God has your back (and front, sides, and all around!) and will work all things together for your good (see Romans 8). Simply entrust yourself and your circumstances to God, keep your eyes on Jesus and wait on Him as He brings you from where you are to where and who He designed you to be.

Even when you think your time is over, God may have an encore waiting for you:

The best is yet to come!

God bless you!

Chris Atkins