An Empty Chair, A Clear Head, and a Full Heart

The following letter was delivered to those in leadership at Briarwood Presbyterian Church almost one month ago. I am so thankful for their kindness. The Lord has used them mightily in my life. I will forever be a changed leader because of their leadership. Please join me in prayer for my next missional adventure and for Briarwood’s next National Missions Pastor and Director of Embers to a Flame.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Dear Friends:

This is a bittersweet day as I deliver my letter of resignation.

It is a bitter day because I am saying farewell to leaders, friends, a fantastic team, and a beautiful church, and I am doing so at a very odd time. However, it is a sweet day because I am following the leading of the Lord and pursuing the passion he has placed in my heart. I am currently transitioning to minister at Horizon Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina. There, primarily from the pastor’s study and pulpit, I will be able to serve a city I know very well and a congregation hungry to enjoy and glorify Christ. In addition, I will also be able to minister to my own aging parents who more and more need their son.

I imagine Dr. Reeder will understand me most clearly. Bottom line, the calling and passion I have to pastor a particular flock of Christ’s is unrelenting and increasing. I am persistently hungry to craft a vision, guide a team of elders, lead in the worship of Christ, preach from God’s Word, make disciples, pastor a people, counsel those burdened by sin, grow a healthy church, and attack a local mission field for our King. I have tried to disregard it. I have prayed for contentment in my current post. However, I tear up often, and the passion to pastor a particular congregation grows and grows and grows. It is not enough for me to preach and teach here or there. I cannot seem to extinguish the flame burning in my heart. The Holy Spirit will not let me be, and Laura sees this more and more. I am more the pastor/shepherd than the administrator/executive director. I appear to be a shepherd not shepherding.

Men, not for a moment do I think a mistake was made in my coming to Briarwood. This has been an incredible time of spiritual revitalization, personal growth, administrative development, and ministerial success. Christ has used me in some special ways to share his love within Briarwood, Birmingham, the PCA, and many other spheres. Now, as a result of ministering alongside you, my horizons have been enlarged and my head has been cleared. I, more than ever, envision the healthy church Christ might have me serve and lead. I give thanks for how Christ has used you in my life.

Additionally, I too am troubled by the timing. I want the best for Dr. Reeder, Briarwood, my various teams, and the Embers to a Flame ministry. I am aware I have put you in a tough place, and I am concerned for my ministerial reputation. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, you would have never called me for a 14 month term, and I would have never have taken the position had I known what would transpire in my head and heart. However, this is where we are. As the wise teacher said, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Prov. 16:9) All of this is abnormal, odd, and not preferable, but I must do the next right thing. I need to use my gifting and serve Christ regardless of the cost. The Lord has called me to lead, and that is what I must do.

Therefore, regarding the last day of my ministry here, I have some flexibility. I need to sell my house and get my family to Greenville before the upcoming school year, but I will try to serve you in the way you deem best. I will wait to hear from you regarding my last day of ministry at Briarwood.

You have defined and developed a leader. You are now in the process of deploying him into the world. Hopefully you can take some pleasure from God using you in this way.


Joe Franks

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