During the November 1st worship services, theCross Mount Dora is saying good-bye to its worship leaders for the last 4 years, Tom Kern. His departure comes at a time when theCross is forecasting a big vision for the future called “Plant and Build” that includes planting a new church, strengthening non-profit partnerships in the community, and growing our existing ministry at theCross.
Tom is leaving after much thought and prayer. Tom has an amazing family that includes his wife Nilette, and three children, Asa, Ezra, and Eve. Tom and Nilette have meant so much to this church and it simply will not be the same without them here. Their footprints, handprints, and heartbeat are all over theCross and our church wouldn’t look or feel the way that it does if the Kern family had not invested their time, energy, and resources into this place.
I honestly believe that this is the most bittersweet moment I’ve had in 4 years as pastor of theCross. I know it is the right thing to do, but it also includes personal grief to me. I’ve always said to people that if they feel God is calling them elsewhere they need to follow after what God wants and not what I want. This one just hurts more than the others.
Tom Kern is quite frankly one of the most talented musicians around, and he has been a very reliable friend and trusted colleague in the ministry. I have enjoyed many long strategic conversations with Tom regarding the church and will miss those moving forward. We have watched God do miracles before our eyes, and we have had a lot of fun along the way. We have made crazy videos together, ripped on each other for our clothing choices: Tom loves his wife’s red belt, tight jeans, and his tailored smedium shirts. We have crossed milestones of 100, 200, 300, 400, and even 500 people coming to worship on a Sunday. We have even crossed the amazing milestone of expanding into our current facility of which Tom and Nilette had the dream and vision for what it would look like. My favorite memories are baptizing each of his children at theCross. I especially remember Asa with a Star Wars figure pointed right at me while I was baptizing him so that as the Holy Spirit is coming into his life, the “Force” was coming into mine (or something like that). Please understand, this personnel change is not what’s most comfortable for me, but it is what our church and what the Kern family needs next.
Tom says that although he wants to continue to be a worship leader, he has no immediate ministry plans and will be praying and seeking out opportunities to lead worship. Behind every great man is a great woman and I can’t tell you how blessed we were to have Nilette with us at the church. Honestly, this woman should have been volunteer of the year just about every year she was here. What an amazing, integral piece she has been in serving and growing the church and I know that God has big plans ahead for her as well as Tom.
We will move forward with a process to identify who our next worship leader will be. Please be praying for us in this process. In the interim, Bob Dennison, Linda Crossman, and Chris Burns have offered their help until we figure out our longer-term plan. Please thank each one of them when you see them for stepping up in a big way as well as the rest of the band members who are having to adjust to the sudden changes.
So, November 1st is a special day. We are saying good-bye to one of our favorite, most instrumental (in more ways than one) families. Please honor the Kern’s and let them know how much they’ve done for you this Sunday. You can post favorite memories or encouraging messages on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and when you do, please use the hashtag #ThankYouKerns. For now, let’s pray for a Spirit-led transition and wish the Kern family all the best!
Pastor Zach Zehnder