From Music City to Silicon Valley
A personal reflection about unpredictable pivots in life.
The last few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions as my family has quite unexpectedly, and quite rapidly, been called to embark on the next phase in our journey. In a few days we will finish our eleven-year chapter in Nashville and move to the San Francisco Bay Area where I will join Venture Christian Church as their newly formed Pastor of Innovation.
Have you ever used GPS navigation in the car with only audio prompts? It’s amazing how anxious you can become when all information about your route isn’t fully displayed on a screen in front of you. You must completely trust the queues for a safe and timely arrival.
Traveling across long, empty expanses of roadway requires patience to wait for the next prompts to come. Conversely, navigating busy city streets takes a hyper-focused attentiveness to be ready to turn at a moments notice.
At various stages in my life I have gone through periods of extended waiting, as well as moments of swiftly responding to prompts from the Lord about the direction for my life. Both have required faith that I’m heading toward where He desires, and demonstrable action to move in confidence.
“Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.” — Proverbs 16:20
“Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” — Hebrews 11:1
I was not seeking a new opportunity or wanting to move my family so far across the country. In fact, we had just recently sold our house so we could build another down the road. However, God had other plans in mind and it has been amazing to witness how many things have miraculously aligned since this whole situation came to pass only a few short weeks ago.
Most of the journey ahead is still quite unknown. But having learned to listen and respond to the Lord’s calling is a skill I have had the opportunity to sharpen quite a bit over the last few years, and I know that He has great things planned for us ahead.
“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”
— Allen Saunders
God’s Path, Not Mine
I grew up as a musician, tripped over entrepreneurship, and somehow just became a pastor after establishing myself in the world of technology.
Much of my schooling in St. Louis as a child was in the arts, training to be a musician and performer. This was my first foray into creating things that only previously existed in the imagination. After accepting a scholarship to play upright bass for the symphony orchestra, I realized it would be almost impossible to make a living with this craft I devoted my childhood to.
Pivot - Building Businesses
Devastated, I refocused onto the business world to learn why the music industry was broken and set out to take part in building solutions. I worked in literally every facet of the industry, and ended up starting a number of businesses of my own, and helped others do the same along the way.
Pivot - Developing Software
As it turns out, I was learning the industry at a time when technology was disrupting every facet of the business and the entire model was being flipped on its head. Having learned a bit of code over the years, I decided to dive head first into building technology ventures to solve problems.
This rocketed me into years of working with countless startups and corporations as a developer, designer, partner, advisor, and executive leader to help grow new ideas into large-scale commercially viable products.
Pivot - Transforming Culture
The primary metric I’ve learned to focus on when building any product is around “delighting the end-user.” This looks different from project-to-project, but when the priority is optimizing the human experience and having a real impact on peoples lives, the product is far more likely to succeed.
When entering a new organization it takes time to shift the dynamics to fully embrace this metric. But I have found when “innovation” is focused on people, as opposed to simply the product itself, you can have a far greater impact on the world with the work that you do.
“Life’s most urgent question is: what are you doing for others?”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Church has a multi-millennia track record of commissioning artists and professionals to expand God’s message of love and salvation to the world through creative and technological works. We are now at a fascinating point in history where there are no longer significant technological barriers that prevent us from connecting with people and communities both near and far.
Silicon Valley is at the heart of this cultural transformation.
Therefore if successful technology products focus on people, and the most impactful products come from here, leveraging this community in order to maximize a positive impact around the world makes sense.
It is a scary to think about myself in a pastoral role (it certainly wasn’t a path I chose for myself), and I cannot deny the challenges that lay ahead; immersed in a world of 80-hour work weeks and competitive stock vesting schedules. But there is a movement with local business leaders and pastors that have been praying for and uniting around this very mission. To reach the Bay Area with Christ means to reach the world with Christ, and it is thrilling to know I’ll have a direct role in contributing to this effort.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” — Colossians 3:23–24
Thank you for an amazing 11 years, Tennessee.
It is extremely hard to say goodbye to a place where I have gone through so many career pivots, where we bought our first home, where both of our boys were born, and where we formed such precious friendships. However, it is apparent that the Lord has blessed our family tremendously over the years when we let go of our own understanding and simply trust Him. We are uncertain but excited about what the future holds for us.
We thank each and every one of you that has been a part of our lives during this amazing chapter. We are tremendously grateful and blessed to have had such a great community of friends.