Leadership Transition at Pulpit Rock Church

June 25, 2019 | Written by Doug Roth, Jonathan Cleveland and Thomas Thompson

Doug Roth | Chairman of the Board of Elders

Doug Roth (Chairman of the Board)

On behalf of the Elders of Pulpit Rock Church, I’d like to share with you the journey we have been on for the past couple of months regarding Thomas Thompson, Jonathan Cleveland, and the role of the Senior Pastor.

Pulpit Rock Church is an Elder-governed church. The Board of Elders governs PRC through our oversight of the Senior Pastor. The Elder Board meets regularly with the Senior Pastor to discuss vision and direction, as well as budgetary and administrative issues. The Board does not make day-to-day decisions to manage the church. Rather, the Board works to support the Senior Pastor and help him in his leadership of PRC.

In early May, several Elders met with Senior Pastor Thomas Thompson to talk about the upcoming year (PRC’s fiscal year runs from July to the following June). During that meeting, Thomas first brought up that God might be calling him to step down from the role of Senior Pastor. Thomas also offered the recommendation of Executive Pastor Jonathan Cleveland as the next Senior Pastor for PRC. The Elders in attendance quickly recommended a meeting of the entire Elder Board, so that we could all be part of the conversation. That meeting convened two weeks later.

At the subsequent meeting, Thomas explained more about what he was hearing from God regarding his future and explained further why he believed we should select Jonathan to become the new Senior Pastor. Jonathan was also in attendance, and he indicated his willingness to be considered as a candidate for the Senior Pastor role. Thomas and Jonathan then departed, leaving the Elders to have an in-depth discussion about the way forward.

At PRC, the Elder Board is responsible for hiring and supervising the Senior Pastor. We do not take that responsibility lightly, and we knew we needed to be careful and deliberate if a change of Senior Pastor was coming. Having received an official resignation letter from Thomas, effective June 30, 2019, we discussed several options, including the possibility of holding a nationwide search for a new Senior Pastor, appointing an Interim Senior Pastor, or offering the Senior Pastor position to Jonathan.

We decided to meet with Jonathan to explore the possibility of offering him the Senior Pastor role. We wanted to get a sense of the direction and vision God was giving him for PRC. A week later, that meeting occurred. Jonathan spoke to the Elders about what kind of leader he would strive to be, about issues that PRC is facing, and about his vision for PRC in the coming years. He answered questions from the Elders and humbly gave a clear picture of how he would lead PRC as its Senior Pastor, should he be offered that position.

Jonathan left the meeting, and the Elders spent time in prayer and discussion of what we had heard.  We weighed the options in front of us, and spent time in silent meditation, listening for what God might put on our hearts. Ultimately, we discerned that God was leading us to offer the Senior Pastor job to Jonathan Cleveland. We extended the formal offer to him a short time later, saying,

“We, the Board of Governing Elders of Pulpit Rock Church, having sensed God’s call on your life to ministry in general, and to the leadership of Pulpit Rock Church in particular, now extend an offer to you to become the next Senior Pastor of Pulpit Rock Church effective July 1, 2019. It seems good to us and to the Holy Spirit that you should lead the people of Pulpit Rock Church into the foreseeable future.”

Jonathan’s faithful and committed service to PRC for the past fifteen years has positioned him well to step into the role of Senior Pastor. In the past several years, Thomas has shared many significant pastoral responsibilities with him, making Jonathan uniquely prepared to accept this role. The Elders have complete confidence that God will continue to bless Pulpit Rock Church under Jonathan’s leadership.

The Elders are thankful for the faithful service of Pastor Thomas at PRC over the past decade. God has used his leadership to bring our congregation to a place of health and vision for the future. He has been a blessing to us, and to many in the PRC family. We appreciate that he is willing to continue to serve in a new role on staff for the next year, to allow for a smooth transition.

The Elders hope you will join us in praying for Jonathan, for Thomas, and for Pulpit Rock Church throughout this transition as we seek to be the heart and hands of Christ in our city.

Please feel free to send any questions or comments you have for us to elders@pulpitrock.com.

Jonathan Cleveland

One of the things I have most appreciated about being led by Thomas is the way he courageously listens to God. So, when he first told me that God was leading him out of the Senior Pastor role, I had mixed feelings. I value and admire the sensitivity he has to God’s leading, but honestly, I was a little heartbroken. I have loved having Thomas as my pastor. His wisdom and insight have shaped my life and leadership for over a decade.

My first impulse was to talk him out of it. But after a few failed attempts at that, I began to listen.

I saw my friend lean into the heart of God. And like a thousand times before, I began to trust his sensitivity to what God was saying. God really is leading him to something new.

Our elder board has been walking with us through this season. They love this church and are full of grace and wisdom.

When Thomas recommended that they consider me as the next Senior Pastor I, again had mixed feelings. The role of Senior Pastor has never been one I’ve sought out. Climbing a ladder or achieving a specific role has never motivated me in ministry. What I’m most passionate about is pursuing the things that matter to God with people I love. Ultimately, that is what made Becky and me consider this opportunity.

We love this church. For 15 years, when people have asked what Pulpit Rock is like I’ve always told them: the best thing at Pulpit Rock is the people of Pulpit Rock.

And, we love the direction we are heading together. This church is courageous, and willing to follow Jesus wherever he leads. Over these last few years I’ve seen us become a spiritual home where you can come as you are. A table where all are welcome and all of you is welcome. And I’ve seen firsthand how the love of Jesus changes us when we embrace the fullness of the gospel.

Becky and I realized we would be grateful to play any role at Pulpit Rock if we could continue walking with you people to pursue God’s direction.

Talking with the elders, I saw that our hearts were aligned. When they invited me into the role of Senior Pastor, it seemed right to the Holy Spirit, and us to say yes! I am humbled and excited to be in this role. God is doing something incredibly special in this faith community. And I am honored to continue to discover it with you!

My first decision in this role was to offer Thomas a job. We know that Pulpit Rock does not just exist for itself, but it is for this city. Our flourishing is tied to the flourishing of Colorado Springs. I’ve seen that become a huge part of Thomas’ heart. And the opportunity he has to partner with COS I Love You, seems like a great next step for him and for us. We’re thrilled to be able to sponsor him in that role.

But I’m equally thrilled that he will also take on the role of Spiritual Formation Pastor for Pulpit Rock. Discipleship is a much-needed area of growth for our church, and I can’t think of anyone better to help us tackle that than Thomas!

He has agreed to split time for the next 12 months between those two roles. Practically what that means is he will still be around the office, he will continue to preach regularly, and he will help us develop some much-needed classes and strategies for spiritual formation.

It has softened some of my feelings of loss to know that Thomas and his family will still be a part of our faith community, and we will still be able to benefit from his leadership on a regular basis. (In fact, he will be leading out on a sermon series through the Gospel of Mark starting in September.) I’m also truly excited about how our church will benefit from his efforts in our city. We have been blessed to have Thomas as our Senior Pastor, and we will continue to be blessed by his leadership in these roles.

As you are processing all of this transition, I’m sure questions or thoughts will arise. We would love to hear from you. Please reach out to the us at elders@pulpitrock.com with any thoughts or questions.

As I’m writing this, I’m sitting at a table with my brother in Ethiopia. We’ve spent the last week working with our partner church Leku Keta. While he took care of the significant medical needs in this community (he’s a doctor), others on our team spent time with the children we sponsor. I had the opportunity to spend hours with the ministry leaders from this church learning from them and caring for them.

I was talking with one of these leaders, (an amazingly talented woman named Belginesh) about some recent violence that impacted this church. She said something stunning to me.

She said, “…many believers think that the Gospel is just about them and God, but that’s not the full gospel. The gospel is about how we treat each other.” And then she gestured her hands horizontally and said, “the gospel is about here.”

For the 15 years I’ve been here, THAT has been the heart of this church. And no matter what changes, THAT is what we will pursue. We are a people who walk closely with Jesus and love deeply the people on earth and we do it together. As we move forward, let’s hold tightly to who God made us to be. And let’s stay focused on the gospel that is “about here.”

My prayer for our church family during this season is simply this:

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…
16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly…
17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus…
(Colossians 3)

Thomas Thompson

To the Great Men and Women of God at Pulpit Rock,

One of the most helpful truths we focus on at Pulpit Rock is the importance of listening. As I have been leaning into listening to God with Jessica and our church’s leadership over the last few months, we recognized that God was calling me to a step of faith but did not know what that was. We now understand that God was calling me to realize my time as the senior pastor here has concluded, and that God was inviting me to broaden the ways I lead in our city outside of the local church.

I know this might be a lot to take in. Let me tell you what it is not. This is not connected to any displeasure with the leadership or congregation of PRC, or any pressure from inside or outside. I just hear God saying that this season of my life is over and that He wants to do something new in and through me. There is more in my heart that is hard to communicate on a blog, and so in these coming Sunday services I’d love sharing more with you.

The more I continued to listen to God, the more it became clear that not only was I to hand off the baton, but that I was to hand it off to Jonathan Cleveland. That listening made perfect sense. Jonathan has led in this church for over 15 years. His heart is firmly rooted in the people of this place.  And over the last few years, I have loved seeing him spread his leadership wings, through the pulpit, with our staff, and in some powerful projects. I have no doubt he is the man I’d love to follow in this place.

So it was my unreserved recommendation to the Elders that Jonathan be the next Senior Pastor, to bring God’s direction to our church going forward. I could not be more thrilled with their prayerful and enthusiastic decision to call him in that role! I have the highest confidence in our Elders and in Jonathan’s leadership here. Over the next two months, our elders will continue to guide us in this transition.

Jonathan has asked me to stay on in a shared leadership role at this church for the next year. First, as the Pastor of Spiritual Formation. That means you will see me preaching—I am excited to help take us through the Gospel of Mark over the next year. I’ll also be working to develop a community of teachers and coaches to help our congregation be spiritually formed as followers of Christ.

And Pulpit Rock is going to continue to step into our city by sponsoring me with our partner organization, COS I Love You as Director of Partnerships. In this position, I will be helping connect churches and local businesses to work together to pursue the flourishing of our city.  I look forward to helping us continue to be in the city and FOR the city of Colorado Springs.

So, over this summer, our church will be navigating this. I am sure there are questions you may have, or feelings you want to share and we would love to make space for that. There are more conversations to come.

This coming Sunday, June 30, is one of those conversations.  We will take time in our worship services to unpack a little more of this from me, from our elders, and from Jonathan about what is next for us at PRC, as well as address some questions you may have. Feel free to submit questions to us at elders@pulpitrock.com.

I hope you to hear this: I am indescribably grateful for the grace given to me in my tenure as Senior Pastor at Pulpit Rock. You’ve given me the best decade of my life. I look forward to walking with you in a new way over this next season!

In Christ,
Thomas Thompson

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3 thoughts on “Leadership Transition at Pulpit Rock Church”

  1. I am confident that both of you are where God wants you to be! Thomas and Jonathan, I am excited to see what God does for you and your families during this time of transition in to His future 🙂
    Even though we’re attending an amazing church on the other side of Pike’s Peak…I am still, and will always be, indebted to the leadership (past and present) of Pulpit Rock who have helped me to see God’s plans for our lives as well. I had so many opportunities to grow spiritually within those walls, and then to take what I’d learned to continue to grow and to show others what it means to love and follow Jesus.
    Pulpit Rock Church – you are still in good Hands…and when God shuffles His people around like this – amazing things are about to happen!!
    Blessings to you both – Great men of God!

  2. On September 13, 2007 I wrote an email to David White on the Elder board asking that they please consider Jonathan Cleveland for the senior pastor position. I did not think they needed to search anywhere else. David promptly replied that number one, Jonathan had not applied, and number two they thought they had a really good candidate who would be able to surpassed the high bar of Jonathan’s spiritual sensitivity and thoughtful teaching. Of course that turned out to be Thomas Thompson.

    I’m so glad that Jonathan has been here and will continue into this role, and I’m so glad that Thomas was selected to be here, and I’m so glad for the form of church government that we have and for the spiritual sensitivity of our elders. And I’m so glad for the grace of God in this church and in my life!


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