Well, the time is fast approaching!
As a 26 year-old pastor without much of a clue about what leading a church meant, back in 1978 God put me in the right place at the right time to become the pastor of a new congregation, Providence Baptist Church. All I knew for certain was that God always provides abundantly for anything He asks of us, that I had a talented and supportive wife named Cathy, and that an extraordinary opportunity had been placed right in front of us to make a difference in the city of Raleigh for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now, almost 37 years later, I am down to my last few months as senior pastor here at Providence. This is the only place I have ever pastored and the only place I have ever wanted to be. The environment of grace at Providence has given me the rich privilege of loving and being loved by a gracious people as we have pursued Christ together. With many missteps and stumbles, I have learned in the trenches of practical ministry the ups and downs of shepherding God’s people, and yet have been given room to grow through the failures, rejoice in the victories for Christ, delight in seeing scores of pastors ordained, hundreds of missionaries sent out and thousands of people come and be better equipped to go as God has led.
June 28 proved to be a memorable day in my life. Sadly, that morning, my Mom died at 6:15 after enduring failing health for the past couple of years. It was tough to watch her go, but with a sense of relief and joy to see her enter into her eternal home with Christ. A new day for Mom has been secured by grace through Jesus Christ! That evening back in Raleigh at Providence, the members stepped up in an astounding display of unity and affirmed their support for Brian Frost to be my successor as senior pastor at Providence. By a secret ballot vote, he was approved by a 674-0 vote of the congregation. A new day for Providence has been set to begin under Brian’s capable, godly leadership!
On that same night, the elders then had the opportunity to announce that I would spend the next six months coaching and mentoring my good friend Brian as he prepares to take the reins as senior pastor on January 1, 2016. That also means that on that date, after 37 years and 3 months, my ministry will change and be something other than senior pastor of Providence Baptist Church. Other than a few early years of student ministry, I have never known anything else but being the pastor at Providence so the adventure before me is huge!
As this transition begins, lots of people have been asking great questions about what’s next for us. Indeed an exciting new chapter of ministry will be coming my way beginning in 2016. Some have asked about my “retirement” plans. I have to answer by saying I don’t have any such plans at this point! Far from retiring, I see some of my most active days of ministry yet–and they are just around the corner! Providence has made chapter one in my ministry years a satisfying and amazing journey. Now, we anticipate chapter number next!
Pray for Cathy and me as we wind down our labor of love here over the next several months and wind up our new adventure as I step into the lead role for a ministry called Equipped for Life. I have just finished year one of my PhD studies and know that much profitable labor remains for me in that direction for some time to come. A season of rest early in 2016 will be followed by a period of intense focus for the development of Equipped for Life as Cathy and I work on the foundation stones for this exciting new ministry.
In a later post, I will answer some of the questions I have been asked the most about this period of transition, explain what Equipped for Life is and hopes to accomplish, and in general how I am feeling about where the Lord is directing our steps.
For now, thank you for your interest in reading this far! We have been most blessed to serve Providence for most of our lives and will continue to call her our church home. We love this place and her people and intend to be right here supporting Brian and the rest of the ministry team as long as the Lord gives us breath! Until next time, know this–I am one grateful man for the goodness of God, for the love of an amazing wife and family, and the privilege of serving alongside some of the best folks in the world right here at Providence. Thanks!