More money, better opportunity. That is what people at my workplace assumed when I told them that I submitted my resignation. And it would make sense. After twenty years of taking different roles in fintech, I feel like I finally hit a stride in my career: I found work I genuinely enjoy, I finally connected with great, supportive management, and was being recognized for my contributions. The only way forward seemed to be up. So when they asked where I was going, my reply was a surprise to many, and perhaps to some of you reading this today. “Pastoral ministry.” I’d say; and this, the result of a “but God” moment in my life.
Even a year ago, I could not anticipate resigning from my job for this reason. After an existential midlife-ish struggle when I turned forty, something in my mind snapped out of it. I realized I had a lot to be thankful for: on top of all that Jesus had done to save me and make a sinner like me a child of God (which in itself should be enough!), I have a loving wife, happy and healthy kids, and meaningful work with colleagues that I enjoy working with. I am also a member of this phenomenal church, having had the privilege of serving these past two years on Session, where I learn more than I contribute. Though I deserved none of it, I felt truly blessed.
But just about that year ago, God started to move my heart through a pre-recorded sermon series on the book of Jonah. Since college, and especially during my time in seminary, I always struggled with whether I was called to pastoral ministry. And these messages about a prophet who resisted God’s will really poked at me. Shortly after and within months, three separate and unsolicited ministry possibilities were presented to me. One of them was to become a church plant resident with GRC to eventually start a church in the NJ area. Two others were as a pastor in existing churches, both in San Diego, CA.
When I spoke with my wife about this, we thought maybe this was God getting our attention. And so we decided to take small steps forward together to see: through GRC, we attended a church plant assessment that our denomination runs in Charlotte, NC. I also went through a pastoral candidate process at both churches in San Diego. Afterwards, all three opportunities remained viable paths forward. So after fasting and praying (thank you to those of you who joined us in this!), and seeking counsel with our pastors and trusted friends, we decided about three weeks ago to move towards serving as senior pastor with a church in our denomination in San Diego called Harbor Church. We are targeting the second half of August (next month!) to move.
A few things I would ask of you as takeaways from this Voice of Grace:
- Plug into community life here at GRC. I mean really plug in. Jess and I look back and feel like we are able to take these steps forward because of how God used GRC to minister to us in incremental ways: through Sunday worship, ACE classes, individual connections during fellowship hour, growth groups, and more recently, discipleship groups. In between at different homes or over meals, many offline conversations with church friends were had processing life, faith and thinking through how we can best serve the people God loves. Since joining in 2018, we have received so much from our church, being equipped and ready to give.
- Remember and support our ministry through Harbor Church. Harbor exists to be a church transformed by the gospel that seeks to be a life-giving spring for the renewal of San Diego. It is a smaller church that is in a season of replanting. Coming out of COVID in February 2022, the church relocated from renting different spaces in the highly transient University Town Center (UTC) to a more stable, residential area called Scripps Ranch. Since that time, the church has experienced steady growth. As of this past year, they have brought on additional staff, such as an assistant pastor and children’s director. But work remains to be done, such as establishing a discipleship pathway, equipping and installing new leaders, and establishing a youth program for Harbor’s growing kids. Three ways you can remember and support us in this work:
- Please pray for us. I feel like a bag bulging with mixed emotions: excited at the opportunity ahead, intimidated by what would be a significant career change, worried about how my kids will adjust to a new place, and sad to be leaving an incredible community of friends here at GRC. But we trust we are following the Lord’s will. We have a short timeline to relocate, as we’d like to be there before the school year starts. Please pray for our move, and that we would effectively minister to God’s people once we’re out there.
- Tell people you know about Harbor. If you know people in the San Diego area, send them our way! I would welcome opportunities to connect and serve them in Christ.
- Finally, would you support us financially? As mentioned before, Harbor is currently a smaller church with positive momentum in a season of replanting, all with part-time staff. Since moving from UTC to Scripps Ranch, I would be the first to go in and devote myself full-time to its work and mission. And so our goal is to raise $200,000 over the next three years. One generous donor has agreed to match up to the first $30,000 raised by August 31. Your gift of any amount is tax deductible and will make a meaningful impact. To give, please use our dedicated link at harborsdchurch.com/peter. The designation should be “Peter Hwang Ministry.”
I titled what could be my final Voice of Grace, “For the Sake of the Call” because I have recently found myself humming often to an old song by Steven Curtis Chapman: “Not for the sake of a creed or a cause, not for a dream or a promise. Simply because it is Jesus who called, and if we believe we’ll obey… We will abandon it all for the sake of call!”
Peter Hwang serves as an Elder at GRC.