Where do I even begin as I attempt to reach for words to explain our departure from our beloved Fellowship Memphis? Maybe I should begin by extending my deepest gratitude to you for allowing me to speak into your lives and lead you these past eleven plus years. Twelve years ago I got a phone call from a white guy with a deep southern drawl asking me to join in on this great adventure of planting a multi-ethnic church. Little did I know how life changing that call from John Bryson would be. It’s been said that some of your proudest moments will be tied to your deepest sacrifices, and I’ve found that to be true. Coming to Memphis was a sacrifice for our whole team. We left established churches with steady paychecks, to stare at twenty something people in a living room, with hardly any money in a bank account. And now three locations, five services and several thousand diverse people later I am completely awed by God. We haven’t just made history here, we’ve made eternity.
So why leave what God is clearly breathing on? When Paul left Ephesus he made a remarkable statement to the elders of the church he had planted, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). In tears, Paul says that the reason he was leaving this church that he founded was to “finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus”. God had made it clear to this church planter that Ephesus was not all that he had planned for Paul, there was more.
Our family feels the same way. Sitting in the back of a meeting room this past June in Northern California the Holy Spirit spoke to me very clearly, that this was to be our families last year at Fellowship Memphis, and I also sensed He was saying that I needed to be open to any job opportunities that came our way. These words shocked me. I left thinking that if this was truly the voice of God then it will come to pass. Sure enough, several ministry opportunities came our way in rapid fire succession, and we felt strongly that the Lord was calling us to go and serve the team at Trinity Grace Church in New York City. I will serve as their Pastor for Preaching and Mission, helping this already beautiful and flourishing church by preaching regularly, along with leading the charge in taking this church in a multi-ethnic trajectory. These two things- preaching and multi-ethnic ministry- are the two things that comprise the specific ministry that God has called me to. For over eleven years we have done that here in Memphis, and now God is calling us to do the same things in New York City.
Paul’s words in Acts 20:24 are very interesting, especially when you compare them with what he tells Timothy at the very end of his life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). Paul went a lot of places and did a lot of things between Acts 20 and 2 Timothy 4, enough for him to exhale to Timothy that, “I have finished the race”. His ministry was complete. What satisfaction.
I long for this same satisfaction for you. For some, finishing the race is staying put- serving in the same community, living in the same neighborhood and working the same job for decades. This is your course. For others, finishing the race is doing what Korie and I are doing, picking up and moving on after realizing that we have done all that God wanted us to do in a given location. Where the body of Christ tends to get in trouble is when we seek to legislate for all what God has assigned for a few.
And so the Loritts family prepares to leave, and how are hearts are hurting to depart from our dear church. Our small group of Mclean and Libby Wilson, Wilson and Katie Moore, Sam and Brannon Schroerlucke, Will and Jennifer Godwin and Michael and Jill Stockburger have been so life-giving to us through this whole process. And John Bryson. There are no words to express to this great, godly, humble leader how indebted I am to him for these years spent together serving God’s people. To our Fellowship Memphis family, please know that we love you, and have counted our time here as one of the richest blessings of our lives.
With fondest affection,
Bryan Loritts, on behalf of Korie, Quentin, Myles and Jaden