(Photo: REUTERS/George Frey)
The pastor of a successful church in Utah is moving his family to back to Ohio with no specific plans, admitting that leading a Christian congregation in a predominantly Mormon community has taken a mental and emotional toll.
Pastor Charles Hill planted One Community Church in South Jordan nearly three years ago in an area estimated to have about 90 percent of its residents belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church congregation grew to be as much as three times larger than other Christian churches in Utah, Hill said.
Hill once felt led to reach out to Mormons, the dominant religious preference in Utah, but now feels that God is calling him back to Ohio in a state where he was the pastor of a multi-site church.
The decision to leave One Community Church and move began about three months ago, Hill told The Christian Post Monday as he was driving his family and all their belongings to Ohio.
He said it was a progression of realizations that began as the result of discovering that not only his wife’s depression, which she had been struggling with for the last 18 years, had escalated during the three years in Utah, but he himself had bouts with depression which manifested itself in a loss of passion.
“There is a lot of factors involved. We didn’t start talking about it until about 14 weeks ago,” Hill said. “My wife (Tiffany) came to me and said, ‘Hey, this depression is really getting a lot worse.’”
In the process of discovering his wife’s depression had worsened and deciding that both of them needed to see a counselor, he discovered that his lack of passion was also a sign of depression.
“I was really having a struggle with a form of depression as well and that manifested itself in a lack of passion,” he said. “It’s so subtle that you don’t realize you have it until you look back.”
Hill, who is an avid runner and outdoor enthusiast, said that his depression did not set him back physically and he was scheduled to run a marathon before the decision to move.
In his last blog entry where he announces his move, he clarifies, “There is NOTHING juicy, NOTHING sinful, NOTHING crazy. If there were, we would list the reasons because you can’t keep gossip like that from flying around. Our marriage truly is stronger than ever. Our family is stronger than ever. There are some things that we both have come to terms with in knowing who we are as a couple, as a family and what we feel God is asking us to do in this next season of ministry.”
“It really came down to making this decision on behalf of our family. If we are feeling this way even though things are going great (at One Community church) then maybe God is speaking something into our souls,” Hill told CP.
“There was no a-hah moment. It started with my wife and how I’m wired,” he said.
Hill said he came to realize that although he loves the Mormon people and made many friends in the community, having a long-term commitment to South Jordan and the surrounding area was not something he desired.
“In Utah, it’s a very long process to sit down with someone [to evangelize],” he said, admitting that it was a “very tough spiritual area.” My counselor said that I’m not wired to spend 10 years walking a Mormon through why the Book of Mormon is different than the Bible.”
Also, during this awakening process over the last few months, Hill said that it became clear that he and his wife felt led to return to Ohio, where she was born and he went to high school.
“It became really evident to us that we have such a passion for Ohio. Not necessarily from the area we are from, but the entire state,” he said. “We started feeling this burden for Ohio. If God would have called us to China or Africa we would have gone, but for whatever crazy reason we are going to the middle of Ohio (Columbus area).”
Hill said that although he has a rental home lined up, there isn't much else planned ahead of time for Ohio.
"I have no job. We just hauled our stuff. We have nothing but seven weeks pay. We are going to just sit and listen to Jesus," he said.
Hill’s time in Utah did not come without controversy. In April of last year, he launched a "Beer and Bible" meeting in a pub in South Jordan to reach the unchurched. However, a group that agreed to support his new ministry suddenly pulled its financial backing and fired him.
He was allegedly let go because he drank half a beer in public during the "Beer and Bible" meeting.
"It's troubling," Hill told The Christian Post at the time. "We're out here trying to reach people as Jesus would.
"It's still baffling to me that when your boss has given you permission that you can still get terminated for something such as that."
During a gathering of Mormons in Salt Lake City, for their 181st Annual General Conference in April this year, Hill also countered an antagonistic Christian group that regularly pickets the event. He led Christians in offering “free hugs” and “Jesus style” love for the Mormons.
"Jesus didn’t scream and hold signs at the Samaritan well," Hill said in a statement. "We are called to love each other."
One Community Church is now being led by Pastor Tony and Shanda Simoncini who moved to Utah over a “deep desire to live in a place where the workers are few.” Their desire is for more people to come to know Jesus Christ and for more evangelical churches to “rise up in the Salt Lake Valley.”