Leadership Update

Dear Members (Investors), Attenders, and Friends of Portico Church,

On January 9, 2022, we announced during our Sunday Services that our founding pastor had resigned from all ministry roles, including serving as Portico’s Lead Pastor of Vision and Instruction. If you missed that Sunday, or are not a member, we want to provide further clarity so that everyone is on the same page moving forward.

Our members have met a few times over the last few months, and most recently we shared our transition plan (outlined below) with them last Thursday, January 20th. Our hope is that this email provides everyone with a better understanding as we move forward together.

The following is a summary of our January 20, 2022 Investor Gathering.

Key Takeaways:
• The Elder Team has called Jason Conner to serve as Portico’s Acting Lead Pastor. Jason presently serves as the Lead Pastor for sister church, Portico Church Arlington. Jason will begin serving as our Lead Pastor on February 1, 2022. By the end of a 6 month term as “Acting” Lead Pastor, the Elder Team plans on asking Portico Investors to affirm Jason Conner to the permanent position of Lead Pastor.

• Pastor Justin Conger has stepped back from the Elder Team and will begin transitioning out of organizational leadership on February 1, 2022. After helping new Acting Lead Pastor, Jason Conner to onboard, Justin will begin a much-earned 6 month Sabbatical Leave on March 1, 2022. The purpose of Justin’s Sabbatical Leave is rest, renewal, and preparation for future ministry.

• Portico’s main focus in 2022 is to recapture a clear vision of the Church. This requires embracing a fresh framework for how we as members, disciples of Jesus, and leaders function together in unity as an embassy of God’s Kingdom.

It’s hard to capture the feel of a room in a letter but let me try – new beginning. Last Thursday’s Investor Gathering felt like a new beginning. To be sure, there’s still hurt, frustration, and plenty of work to do, but God’s Spirit was at work in us and among us. God blesses his people when they humble themselves and seek Him.
Our History
For those that I’ve yet to meet, my name is Jason Conner and I’ve been serving as the Lead Pastor of Portico Church Arlington since 2013. Christy, myself, and our kids were Investors at Portico Charlottesville from 2007 to 2012. I served as a Deacon and Christy did some teaching. After confirming my call to vocational ministry right here at Portico Charlottesville, I was sent in March of 2012 to serve as the teaching pastor at newly planted Portico Arlington. In late 2013, Portico Arlington lost her founding pastor and I was asked to step into the role of Lead Pastor. Feeling completely unprepared, I struggled to see how God could work in the chaos of an unexpected leadership transition. Although our church was days away from dissolving, God worked a miracle through the godly resolve of the few leaders and members who were left. Over the last 8 years, God has rebuilt Portico Arlington into a thriving, multiplying church. Those days were hard, but we learned how to trust God for an uncertain future. I am ever grateful for that severe mercy.

I tell you this story not to stir up feelings of anxiety or to commiserate, but to let you know that our churches have a shared history. We’ve both experienced unexpected loss. Just as God entered into Portico Arlington’s loss to bring new life, I’m asking you to trust that God will do the same here at Portico Charlottesville – if we will humble ourselves and seek Him together.

Our Future
Loss produces grief. All of us experience grief differently. The unexpected loss of leaders may be producing feelings of: fear, intense sadness, anxiety, or anger. This is unavoidable and expected. That said, the enemy of your soul will patiently work to see these feelings transition into deep roots of bitterness in your life. God doesn’t expect us to ignore these feelings (see Psalms) but rather to bring them to Him and work them out in the community of the Church. Our pain may tempt us to retaliate, but Jesus gives us a new command: “...love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35). This is a hard command when we’ve been hurt, but our future depends on it.

I’ve accepted the call to serve as your Lead Pastor with joy. I feel called by God to this position and Portico Arlington is sending me with understanding and joy. I am not coming in as a consultant or fixer, but to pastor you through this season into a season of strength. I will spend the greater part of February transitioning and onboarding. I believe healing begins from the inside out, so I will be focusing first on our excellent staff and leaders. Expect to see me in the pulpit in March.
Our Hope
Do you remember what it was like to feel the Holy Spirit breathing life into you as a new Believer? Maybe it was when you came to faith or later in your walk with Jesus. Either way, it’s unforgettable. In the last few weeks, I’ve heard from people who’ve come to faith at Portico Church. Their passion for God and this church is infectious. They remember. Let’s all remember why we called Portico our home as we trust God for the future. Let’s anchor our hope in Jesus and move forward together.

Here’s a few ways you can help us move forward right now...
• Be Present. Our instinct is to run from pain and conflict. Yet, healing never happens in isolation. What God wants to do at Portico – He wants to do with all of us. Be present in worship, community groups, and wherever you have relationships and commitments in Portico Church. 

• Be Praying: I’ve already witnessed God working through the prayers of our churches. The future for Portico Church will be built on the foundation of prayer. Let’s seek Him and wait on Him together. 

• Be Patient: God’s work takes time. Be expectant but be patient, as well.
Lastly, thank you! Thank you for your willingness to take this wonderful risk with me. It’s worth it. There’s lots more to share, but I’ll save that for the future. I’ll be working with our staff and leaders to open up more opportunities for us to gather & communicate in the coming weeks.

Yours In Christ,
Jason Conner
Acting Lead Pastor Portico Church [email protected]

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

Ps. Here’s some additional information in Q+A format you may find helpful
Q: Why are you sending out detailed information about Portico Church?
A: We believe honest, clear, direct communication is critical in helping us move forward together.

Q: When will Jason officially begin serving as our Acting Lead Pastor?
A: February 1, 2022. For most of February, Jason will be working with staff/leaders and onboarding. Expect to see Jason in the pulpit in March.

Q: Why is Jason serving as our “Acting” Lead Pastor?
A: Due to the speed of this leadership transition, Jason will serve as our “Acting” Lead Pastor for a term of up to 6 months. This will allow time for transition and testing. The Elders plan on asking Portico Church to affirm Jason as permanent Lead Pastor by the end of the 6 month term.

Q: Did Pastor Justin Conger resign?
A: No. Pastor Justin Conger did not resign. Justin stepped back from the Elder Team and will transition out of organizational leadership on February 1, 2022. This will allow Justin to onboard Jason in February while giving him a break from ongoing and overwhelming responsibilities.

Q: Why is Pastor Justin Conger beginning a 6 month Sabbatical Leave on March 1, 2022?
A: Portico’s policy is to give pastors a paid Sabbatical Leave after 6 years of service. Justin has served for 15 years without a Sabbatical. This much-earned Sabbatical will help him to rest, recharge, pursue spiritual renewal, and prepare for future ministry. Justin and his family will continue to actively participate at Portico throughout their Sabbatical.

Q: Who’s leading Portico Church?
A: Pastor Jason Conner and the Elder Team (Ron Londen, Jedd Smith). Portico Arlington is providing two pastor/elders to serve as Temporary Advisory Board members, as well. This will provide safety and stability during this leadership transition. They will transition off of the Board as Jason Conner transitions to permanent Lead Pastor

Q: Why don’t we ask the former elders to serve again?
A: Some of the former elders have served for several years without a sufficient break. Additionally, the demands of the last two years have taken a significant toll on these elders and their families. Our priority right now is health and relational reconciliation. What’s more, Portico has pastors who’ve been serving faithfully without a path to eldership. All of this must be considered as we move forward in adding to the Elder Team.