Monday, October 31, 2011


I could not have finished this documentation of our 2011 year without the help of my precious, amazing and wonderful wife who was SO patient with me in the writing process!  Sarah Brown, I LOVE YOU!  Thank you for being you and for being so much more than I deserve!



This story begins in January of 2011, on day 19 of the 21 day fast that Keypoint Church does every year, I was kneeling praying during corporate prayer and God gave me a very vivid picture which at first did not make much sense.  More specifically I saw a caterpillar, then I saw it undergo its process of change into a butterfly.  I sensed God was saying there was a change happening and another level coming but the confusing part for me was whether this process had just begun, or if we were in the middle of it, or if it had finished and we were about to see the next level.  At the time I thought it meant a new level as it pertained to the worship team and for the vision I was helping develop at Keypoint Church. Another oddity was that during this fasting time as well, Sarah had a very strange desire to move.  It only lasted a week and she only told her friend Nickie about it and after about a week the thought and desire completely disappeared. From the end of the fast until May 18th no other stirrings were felt.

On May 18th we started working out at the gym for the first time since Sarah's surgery.  We were both side by side on ellipticals when Sarah started talking about how she was feeling like she may need to step down from being a children's pastor to pastor alongside of me and be more focused while at home with the kids helping them homeschool.  She was asking me questions like, "Would we be more effective pastoring a group of people together verses each of us being over separate ministries?",  "Should she stay at home and not work at all since Hannah was starting High School this year?"  I said that those questions seem valid, so we both committed to pray and see if we received a peace about her stepping down.

The next day while at the gym again we were again on ellipticals and I heard the word "move" as clear as day.  I turned to Sarah and said "I just heard the word move." She said, "Ok, what does that mean?"  We weren't sure if this meant move on what Sarah was feeling about not working or if it meant geographically.  I had a sense that it was ultimately geographically though deep down inside.  At this point I told Sarah we need to start a journal, because if God was speaking it would be confirmed over a long period of time and through many sources.  The journal would help us visually see over time what God might be trying to tell us. 

A couple of weeks later, we were walking out of the gym, we were talking about the current stirring and I said to pray that God would speak clearly.  I told Sarah I had a faith and was believeing God would speak like He spoke to Moses, no riddles, no rhymes but clearly face to face.  When we got in the car Sarah was reminded of Psalm 1:3 and that she felt like God was saying whatever we do will prosper.  I then smiled because that was what I had read the day before.  I also shared that God had reminded me of Lot and Abraham standing over the land and that either choice they made was blessed, it was as if a green light was given, although we were still unsure of the direction.  Two VERY specific scriptures came to my mind at this point:

Phillipians 2:3, "Do NOTHING from selfish ambition."

Phillipians 4:6, "Be anxious for nothing."

I knew God in that moment gave me those two verses in order keep me on the right path throughout this uncertain time of change.

Knowing God would need to confirm any direction through our children so that we would all be in unity, I sat our kids down and asked them how their prayer life was and if they were spending time with God on a daily basis.  We encouraged them that they were not too young to hear God's voice.  However, I did not tell them about what Sarah and I had begun feeling and I left it at that.  The next day Sarah was sitting eating breakfast with the kids and she asked them if they were hearing God say anything.  This is when Hannah spoke up and said to Sarah, "While daddy was asking us to be sensitive to what God might want to speak I felt at that point we are going to move."  WHAT??  What an incredible confirmation!

We are now in June and Sarah and I set up a meeting with Pastor Spencer to talk over what Sarah had been sensing in regards to her stepping down from the children's ministry.  She cried through a lot of the meeting because she really didn't understand why she was feeling so strongly about stepping down, she has been a part of or leading children's ministry since she was 12 years old and it was always something she had done. She still felt very strongly about spending more "focused" time with our kids and pastoring alongside of me.  Spencer said "let's pray about it for a few weeks, you guys go on vacation and we will talk about it again when you get back."  While we were in this meeting we both almost mentioned the deeper stirring we were feeling in regards to moving but didn't because we didn't feel that had been confirmed enough yet.  


Vacation was originally planned for July 6th-9th to visit our friends Mark and Nickie Freeburg  in Omaha NE but when Pastor Spencer came back from his three week vacation he had mentioned that they do not do these three to four day vacations, he takes weeks so that he can truly unwind and relax.  This made Sarah ask if we should take at least a week off and we decided to extend our vacation.  After couple of weeks went by we were at the pool and I mentioned what about taking more days and making the trip to Colorado Springs to see our friends Steve and Renai Herron.  I called Steve to see if they would be home in order for us to come see them and he said yes, he said that we should try to stay the whole week because that was the week of the Desperation Conference (we had NO idea of this when making these particular plans!) and they could get us a free wristband for our daughter Hannah if she would like to go.  This was totally a "God thing" because earlier in the year Hannah in passing had asked about going to the Desperation Conference but we had said it would not work this year since our church was already taking the youth to the Motion Conference.  So, we changed our vacation request a third time.  Vacation was now set for July 4th-11th in Omaha and the 11th- 15th in Colorado Springs.

The week leading up to vacation Sarah could not shake the feeling that she needed to talk to Pastor Spencer again and officially give her resignation from the children's ministry and that she wanted to do it before vacation so that she wouldn't be thinking of it while on vacation.  On July 1st she officially resigned in a meeting with Pastor Spencer.  He was very supportive and encouraging.  She told him that she would continue in this position as long as necessary to make it as easy of a transition as possible.  

During the days between July 1st and July 4th three different people at different times when hearing of our vacation plans asked us if we were looking for a job there.  This was extremely puzzling to us.


Sarah Brown and Nickie Freeburg
July 5th I was running around the lake in the Freeburg's subdivision and the picture from the fast in January which was of the caterpillar process came flooding vividly back to my mind.  At this point I asked God for more clarity.  The 2nd lap around the lake I saw what appeared to be of a foot depressing a clutch, as in a manual transmission.  This was a bit odd to me at first but in my mind this came to represent a disengaging process.  After this, I asked God for one more picture since I still had one more lap to go and He obviously had my full attention.  The 3rd lap around the lake I saw what appeared to be a young boy on his bedroom floor playing with a large toy truck.  I had the sense this was his favorite toy.  In the doorway was the boy's father holding something in his right hand.  The look on the father's face told me that the father really wanted his son to have what he was holding but in order to have it the boy would have to put down what he currently had.  Can you say the picture was becoming clearer!  At this point I sensed with certainty that the season at Keypoint was coming to an end.

Joel lighting bottle rockets, Mark laughing
July 8th, I received an email from my friend Robert Quintana at Gateway Church saying, "he was praying for me and if he were ever in Dallas playing golf to let him know."  This was really weird and funny because I DO NOT play golf.  I responded saying, "Hey ok!!, Also, pray for us!  We are feeling like God may be getting us ready for a move but we are unsure as to what or where......" Robert responded saying, "Yes, I felt that this morning, I felt that you were in transition. Remember that He ordains our steps. I will be praying for you in whatever decision you make."  I was blown away!  This was the first random outside confirmation Sarah and I received, a third party hours away from us knowing we were in transition and we had not spoken for months and he definitely had no prior knowledge of anything that was going on.  Crazy.


July 11th we get to the Herron's house and they told us that the main person organizing the conference had just dropped off four more wristbands so that all of our family could attend the Desperation Conference instead of just Hannah.  Sarah, Bethany, Josiah and I are definitely excited about that new development!

July 13th.  The first night of the conference rolls around and Renai Herron introduces us to one of the children's pastors at New Life as worship was starting.  During the worship Jon Egan spontaneously begins to sing, "It's time to fly, it's time to fly, it's time to fly so spread your wings and soar."  We both felt like this pertained to us and the specific original picture I had gotten back in January.  At the end of service the children's pastor Renai had previously introduced us to came up to Sarah and I and handed us the papers you see below: 

The Brown's and the Herron's
Can you say WOW!  The word I received made total sense and backed up everything I had felt up to that point.  However, we were unsure of Sarah's because as far as we knew she was quitting her job to stay home with the kids and pastor along side of me.  I then asked Renai if she had mentioned anything to her about us and she said, "no."  At this point I now know it is time to meet with Pastor Casey, I have had enough confirmation to warrant a meeting with our leadership for their take on the situation.

July 15th, while Sarah and our daughter Bethany were standing in line for coffee, Sarah asked Bethany if she had God saying anything and she said, "Yes, that there was a change happening." This amazes me because we have still not talked to our kids about ANYTHING!  Sarah asked her if she knew what kind of change and she said, "no."  


July 19th, we meet with Pastor Casey and Pastor Spencer and tell them everything up to this day.  We are both crying too much to read the prophetic words to them that we had received at the Desperation Conference so Pastor Casey read them out loud for us.  When we are done Pastor Casey says that this is a good thing, God is moving and stirring, this is not a time to be afraid or worry, this is exciting.  He asked what we were thinking.  The only thing that came to my mind logically was that since I love writing worship music and leading worship it is very possible that God would be moving us to a larger church with an established writing culture where I could be a student rather than the main leader.  Sarah did not feel at peace about this because to her it did not make much sense.  Pastor Casey and Spencer both committed to support us through whatever the transition would end up being.  Pastor Spencer admitted that he almost asked me what God was saying to me when we met in June about Sarah's transition out of the children's ministry because he already knew I was sensing something.  This gave me added peace that God was already speaking to our leadership before I said a word.  This meeting was incredibly words I can say could describe the feeling of peace in that room.  I then went on to tell how I feel that whatever the transition is, it is going to be like the sending of Nehemiah.  That when Nehemiah came into alignment with what God was wanting to ultimately do through him he went with provision and favor on all sides.


Now that we understood we were in the middle of a major transition Sarah had felt that we should call and talk to Ed Funderburk to get some guidance.  Ed is on staff at Gateway Church in Dallas, he is an overseer for Keypoint Church and helps churches all over the country in varies ways, one of which being transitions.  On August 4th, we had a conference call with Ed where we spelled out everything God had been saying to us.  He said that from what we told him that he feels that we are in fact in a season of transition and that God was definitely about to move us.  He asked me if I had ever thought about preaching because of the way I had just finished communicating to him about what God had been doing leading up to this point, he seemed to think I would be good at it.  I very quickly said that I do enjoy teaching and speaking and that I had taught here at Keypoint but that I for sure wanted to be in an established worship writing culture.  I told him again about my passion and love for writing worship music and that I wanted to pursue being under the mentor ship of those who are doing that on a larger scale.  Sarah still did not have a peace about this.  Ed gave us some homework to do on transitions, listing things that we were adamant on and things that were not that important to us, in addition to reading his story of transition to Gateway and his teaching on a healthy transition.  He did say one line that stuck with me, he said, "God is not teasing you."  When he said those words I felt a depth of peace I do not know that I have ever felt before.  Sarah and I both clung in faith to the thought that the God that spoke the world into existence was not teasing us.  What a thought!  


Immediately following our conference call with Ed we went into corporate prayer.  As soon as Sarah entered the auditorium and began to worship and pray she started to cry uncontrollably, the realization that we were really in transition had hit her.  She tried to leave the room to compose herself but was unable to so she just sat in the back of the auditorium and just wept.  She was feeling like how could we leave Keypoint, we love Keypoint!  As the prayer time was ending she felt like she needed to talk to Ellen (Pastor Spencer's wife) she thought she would just ask her if she had a moment.  As she was walking towards Ellen, Ellen was walking towards her and before Sarah could get out "Do you have a minute?" Ellen said it.  They both just hugged and cried for a minute.  Ellen said that she felt like God was telling her to be a friend to Sarah during this time.  She began to tell Sarah about her transition and a story of when she was a first grade teacher.  She said that every year a company would send her caterpillars in a cage to watch them turn into butterflies.  One year there was one butterfly left and the whole class gathered around to watch the butterfly trying to breakout of its chrysalis.  It seemed to be stuck and the class was telling her to help it so not knowing that there was a special oil that was released during this time of struggle that helps the butterfly be able to fly she helped it out.  When she did this it fell to the bottom of the cage and she realized that it was crippled.  Sarah communicated to me and we both agreed that we felt that this was confirming to us that everything had to be done in God's timing.  Helping or hurrying the process would be disastrous.  We later confirmed that Ellen had no idea of the pictures God had given to me twice now of the caterpillar to butterfly process.  


Sarah and I at this time had been following Pastor Spencer's advice during our transition by naming things that we knew were not an option.  What he called "closing circles".  We went over the things and closed the circles on all that we would NOT be doing.  The list included but was not limited to:

  • Missionary work
  • Planting a church/Senior Pastor
  • Getting out of vocational ministry to do secular work while writing music
  • Moving to Nashville for the sole purpose of the music scene

Keep in mind we had said "no" to these things more than once.  Notice the one in bold:-)


After realizing that securing a place at a larger church that had an established worship writing culture was probably not what God was directing us to we knew it was time to call Pastor Ed Funderburk back.  

August 23rd, We talked to Pastor Ed and at this point I was still committed to staying in worship ministry since it is what I know and have done for so long.  Ed then said, if it is a job you are looking for I can connect you to pastors who are in need of a worship pastor?  Pastor Ed then connected us to a worship pastor opening and after looking at this opportunity we both knew this was not the step for us.  All the while I was working on my resume and was starting to feel very uncomfortable having the sense this was not the direction we would be heading.  I could not understand or get a peace about why God would move us from one worship pastor position to another.  It never did add up.

September 13th, I emailed Pastor Ed and informed him that the opening he had connected us to was not going to be the next step for our family, it just did not feel right.  Pastor Ed responded by saying, "Thanks for the update, I am not aware of any other churches looking for a worship pastor at this time."  After that response from Pastor Ed I knew I HAD to hear from God and soon!


I immediately began a water fast.  I was pleading with God that He would honor my prayer that was from the beginning that He would speak clearly and not in riddles and rhymes.  

September 14th, the next day I am driving home from work when a familiar conversation begins to play in my head.  It was a conversation from two years prior Sarah and I had with a couple who had moved to the Hampton Roads area in VA, Troy and Katherine Canalichio.  As soon as this conversation started flowing through my mind I began to have this sinking feeling in my gut.  The topic of that conversation was about how frustrating it had been for Troy and Katherine for whatever reason, to get plugged into a church.  And this weird compassion began to stir in my stomach for them and for that area.  God, could you really be putting planting a church in Virginia in my heart?


So still in the car headed home I begin to ask God to reconcile how this could be.  I reminded God (hahahahah) that at age twenty He had specifically called me into worship.  I then feel God ask the question, what have you been teaching your worship team about what worship is?  I then respond with reluctance and with a sneaking impression of where this conversation is headed, "I have been teaching them that worship has nothing to do with music, but that it is submission and obedience."  God then said, "Right, so how can you worship me best then?"  Then it got strangely quiet as it sunk in (LOL).  I said, "I can be obedient."  

The promise and picture of Nehemiah, that he went with favor and provision as he aligned himself with God's purposes at this point came back to me.  I then specifically ask for two things that I knew would be needed: money and people.  These were the main two things Nehemiah went with and were the two things I was going to need to accomplish what I knew I was being asked to do.

Right before getting home I was comforted because I knew that confirmation would come from all sides if this was what God was specifically asking of me and our family.  I knew that God would confirm it this through my children, through my wife and through my present leadership.  


As I walked into our bedroom where Sarah was I was trying to find a way to ask the question for the third time about planting a church, which we had already said we were NOT doing several times now.  I then asked very slowly, "So, can we truly rule out that God is not asking us to plant a church?"  Sarah looked at me and paused, after a few seconds had passed she said, "Well, if we do it, it would need to be in Virginia."  Imagine that!

At that point I told her of what had just happened on the way home.  At this point I knew the next level of confirmation would have to come from my kids.

Actual table we sat at..yes it's Taco Bell:)

We gathered Hannah, Bethany and Josiah and went to dinner.  I asked our kids what they thought about planting a church.  They begin to talk about how they loved the time back when Keypoint was in the original  elementary school and how fun it was loading and unloading.  Sarah then asked, "If we were to plant a church where do you think it would be?"  Josiah's eyes got wide and with his right index finger raised high in the air he says, "....Virginia, because Troy and Katherine are there."  Ok, so the confirmations are getting a bit ridiculous but I love it because God is answering my prayer a hundred times over that He would speak clearly.  


September 15th, that next day I set up a meeting with Pastor Casey because of this new direction we were feeling.  As I was about to walk into the meeting Sarah called me and said, "If this is God, he (Pastor Casey) needs to tell you this, "I already knew it, I was just waiting for you to figure it out."  I agreed and went into the meeting.  I begin to tell Pastor Casey all that has recently happened, what took place yesterday while I was driving home, what took place last night with our family and that we now feel that God is possibly calling us to plant a church.  Pastor Casey went on to say that I was definitely gifted in worship and music, but then he proceeded to say, "But if you ask me your calling is in pastoring people.  I've always seen it, I was just waiting for you to catch up to it."  Now we have the last major confirmation that this is truly a God thing.  I felt relief, a sense of awe and a feeling of joy that at least now we know.  Pastor Casey then spells out what Keypoint is going to do to get behind the vision that God is stirring and it is above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.  If you would have given me a piece of paper and a pen and asked me to write down what I felt our churches response should be to us I would not have even scratched the surface of what they are doing!  Can I just say at this point that I KNOW Keypoint Church is a Kingdom minded church! That my pastor, Pastor Casey Henegan and the whole staff are truly concerned about seeing God's agenda released in the earth and I love it.  That is what it is all about.


Sarah is now feeling reality sink in but this is when everything begins to become clear.  She is battling the "who am I" syndrome.  This is when I ask her to read her prophetic word again as I am heading out the door for work.  She does read it again and senses the words jump off the page as if God Himself was in the room speaking them to her, the prophetic word that was given to her at the conference now makes ALL the sense in the world.  For me, all of the pictures God put in my heart now confirm that all of this was God's doing.  The caterpillar ceased to be in order to be changed, the clutch that represented the disengaging process and the boy that had to put down his familiar toy in order to get what the Father had in his hand, Whoooaa!  God, you definitely in the end spoke without riddle or rhyme and you confirmed everything the way it needed to be in order to get my attention.  God you are amazing.


After announcing the plan to: the Keypoint Church staff, the children's ministry which Sarah oversees, the worship team which I pastor and to our closest core of friends something amazing began to happen.  Four couples came to us and specifically told us that God was telling them to go with us from Keypoint.  WHAT?  Uproot your family and move twenty one hours away?  Again God confirms the Nehemiah picture!  Provision and people!


I have heard it said lately that, "God's will is God's bill."  I am coming to find out that this is for sure the truth.  I am also coming to find out that what I have been preaching for the last six years about how God's favor and trust truly rests on those who understand obedience and submission is also truth.

The road ahead will call for uncompromising diligence,perseverance, hard work, sacrifice, serving on all levels when convenient and when not convenient, there will be mountain tops and there will be valleys but the Bible says to those who endure until the end, to them belong a crown of righteousness.  There is nothing on this earth as precious to God as people.  It is what has His heart.  Let's allow it to have ours!  Above all I would encourage and challenge you to stop asking God what you can do "for" Him and start asking Him what you can do that is "from" him.  Get aligned with what His heart is aligned with and you WILL find the provision and the power to accomplish GREAT THINGS!

Joel and family


M. Brown said...

What a lovely, detailed story of God's revealed will in your lives. You will be so missed. But our hearts and prayers will go with you.

-The "other" Brown's

Roxanne said...

It is amazing to read your story and how God can and does speak. I am so excited for your family and the awesome things that God will do!

Natalie said...

Thank you for being so diligent in documenting God's leading in your families lives into the new chapter for the Brown Family. Words cannot express how thrilled I am for you all and sad you will be moving on all at the same time! Bittersweet I guess is the word I am looking for. Furthering God's kingdom is the path we are all on and I am excited to see how he is going to use you and all those that follow you in VA!! Love you guys!!

The Brown's Family said...

Joel, es increible como Dios te ha dirigido. Es un testimonio de edificacion y desafio para mi. Dios nos esta hablando a un nuevo nivel tambien, pero estamos recien comenzando. La manera como Dios te ha dirigido me da las esperanzas que Dios nos respondera tambien, solo tener paciencia y tener los oidos bien abiertos. Espero que ahora Michael no tenga pretextos en viajar las largas horas para visitarlos. Los amamos mucho a todos ustedes. Ani

Russ said...

Joel, my wife and I attended Keypoint for about six months before we moved to NM to plant a campus ministry at UNM in 2008. prior to being at Keypoint we were a part of a church plant in NWA. Things did not go so well and our season at Keypoint was one of rest and just being a part of a congregation. I too was/am a worship guy who just wanted to hear what God was up to next for us. I must say those 6 months of worshipping with you, though we never met, we're some of the greatest moments with the Lord that Jamie and I have ever had. I always thought I would be a worship pastor and writer, yet God had so much more! I just want to encourage you and your family today to continue to stay true to what God is calling you to do. He will provide all that you need. Our prayers are with you in New Mexico bro!

Russ said...

Joel, my wife and I attended Keypoint for about six months before we moved to NM to plant a campus ministry at UNM in 2008. prior to being at Keypoint we were a part of a church plant in NWA. Things did not go so well and our season at Keypoint was one of rest and just being a part of a congregation. I too was/am a worship guy who just wanted to hear what God was up to next for us. I must say those 6 months of worshipping with you, though we never met, we're some of the greatest moments with the Lord that Jamie and I have ever had. I always thought I would be a worship pastor and writer, yet God had so much more! I just want to encourage you and your family today to continue to stay true to what God is calling you to do. He will provide all that you need. Our prayers are with you in New Mexico bro!