My friend, mentor, and former colleague Mark Francisco announced his retirement from his position as Lead Pastor at Coquitlam Alliance Church over the weekend.
Mark's first Sunday at Coquitlam Alliance was after the 9/11 tragedy in Manhattan. That was more than 7,500 days ago.
7,500 days is 21 years. Think about it:
- The average person works 260 days a year (Mark worked much more than this!). If Mark only worked 8 hours per day this would mean that he spent more than 43800 hours working, serving, and leading Coquitlam Alliance Church (CA Church).
- How many sermons is that? How many pastoral care moments is that? How many leadership and staff meetings is that?
How much rain has fallen in Coquitlam during this time? I can't even begin to guess.
When God asked Mark to mentor me on an Israel trip in 2008, my life was forever changed. I had no idea that just one year later I would be on staff at CA Church.
During my 9 years with Mark, I served as a youth, young adult, and executive pastor. After all of his investment into my life he deserves a post of recognition and appreciation.
Here are five ways Mark has impacted my life:
1. He let others lead
Within two weeks of joining Coquitlam Alliance, Mark invited me to lunch. I was blown away. Before this I had only been in a Lead Pastor's office on the day I was hired and the day I resigned.
As part of this meeting, Mark offered me a weekend to preach. This surprised and scared me at the same time.
Who would ask their part-time junior high youth pastor to preach?
Mark did and I flourished because of it.
Years later who would give a 30 year-old the Executive Pastor position of a large and complex organization?
Mark did and I flourished because of it.
These opportunities summarized Mark's approach to me during my time there. I got shot after shot, and opportunity after opportunity, to lead, grow, fail, learn, and be able to one day become a Lead Pastor myself.
Leaders in the church are often perceived as insecure, afraid, and marginalizing. Mark was the exact opposite of those things.
I was able to enter into leadership challenges that were well above my level because of Mark's commitment to let others lead.
2. He believed in young leaders
Mark leaves a legacy of leaders who are passionate and called to contribute positively to society and the church.
In a day and age when most men prolong adolescence, shirk responsibility, and lose themselves to purposeless pursuits like video games and pornography, having men who are building healthy homes, lives, and churches is remarkable. I am grateful to be one of the leaders he poured into.
What I love about Mark is how he developed leaders. He didn't do it in a classroom or through a course. He did it by opening his life and walking with others.
For Mark, it is all about relationship. Mentoring meant walking together in the ups and downs of leadership and the challenges of life. I can't remember how many times Mark said to me, "We lead together."
As Mark invested so intently in young leaders, you didn't even realize that you were being formed.
I look back now and see the clear ways in which I was shaped because of Mark.
3. He led with integrity
Today, there is a deep skepticism of leaders and institutions, and sometimes with justifiable reason. As a society, we await with fear and anticipation about hearing how things actually were. These stories are all too common.
While no one is infallible and God's grace is sufficient for all of our mistakes, Mark led with integrity.
During my first year at CA, Mark took me to lunch (again!). Having parked close to the church (it was probably raining), I walked up to the front doors, but as I approached them, I realized I was all alone. As I looked back, Mark was running across the parking lot to pick up some garbage. Thinking nothing of it, he ran back with his hands full of trash and threw it out.
Mark's humble act of servant leadership sums up what he was all about: he was never too important to throw out garbage.
He successfully navigated so many arena's that others have not: he never handled any money personally, when meeting with people of the opposite sex he ensured safety and accountability, he continuously gave power and the spotlight away instead of hoarding it for himself.
Trust is the currency of leadership and Mark earned it because of his integrity.
I have read that "the best leadership moments are the ones that no one will see."
While Mark had many memorable moments of public leadership, some of his most memorable happened when no one was watching.
4. He loved me
Even though I was an imperfect disciple and employee, I knew I was deeply loved.
As an Executive Pastor, one of my first tasks was to oversee the renovation of our foyer. Like all renovations, this one was way over budget and took much longer than expected.
It meant that I had to explain this all to our great group of Elders.
Mark stood by me and loved me through a difficult leadership moment despite my mistakes throughout the process.
It's amazing the growth, the lessons, and the mistakes you can make when you know you are loved.
Mark created a safe environment where I could be myself, despite my imperfections.
5. He loved the church
"All we need is a miracle."
The line was used by Mark. It's one I repeat to myself constantly as a Lead Pastor.
Being a Lead Pastor is a great job, but it has its moments. It's easy to swing from hope and expectation, to discouragement and insecurity. I see and feel that now more than ever.
However, looking back at Mark's influence on my life, he taught me that Jesus loves His church and provides for it. Mark's vision when he first came to the church was to one day donate a million dollars to global missions. The Elders were accepting, but skeptical at this audacious vision.
Coquitlam Alliance ended up giving more than a million dollars to Global Missions the year after I left.
Mark's crazy vision had come true. His dream had become a reality. "All we need is a miracle."
Mark taught me to love the church that Jesus loves - in spite of her faults and frailties. Consequently, he believed that a church, when gathered around Jesus and His Word, could accomplish amazing things as God infuses His life into it.
Mark left a legacy of exemplary people. The exemplary people now make up a thriving church. This is a outstanding legacy in a post-Christian culture.
"All we need is a miracle."
I am filled with gratitude as Mark steps away from his current role. I, along with so many others, have benefited greatly from his love and leadership.
Thank you Mark for all you have done for me, Coquitlam Alliance Church and the Kingdom of God. You are loved and honoured for all of your hard work.
Mark's first Sunday as Lead Pastor was in 2001.
Mark Francisco's last Sunday is yet to be determined, but without him, I would not be the pastor, father, disciple, or man I am today.
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