Yesterday was my last day as senior pastor at Providence! Now I am just a member, but I want to be a good one!
When Cathy and I found ourselves with eleven other couples on the threshold of starting a new church in 1978, we could never have predicted what the next 37 years had in store for us! After preaching thousands of sermons, writing several books and articles, traveling hundreds of thousands of miles to speak at conferences here and abroad, baptizing hundreds, marrying hundreds more, counseling those in trouble or in need, comforting those who were bereaved or hurting in some way, sharing the gospel with individuals, small groups or entire congregations, my calling to preach the gospel and to equip the saints for the work of ministry has never left me in search of something to do!
For all the mistakes I made, and the failures I endured, there was never a moment in all those years when I felt any lack of support from you. Don’t get me wrong! There were plenty of antagonists to be found along the way and the sailing was not always smooth. But I always knew that Providence consisted primarily of men and women who loved Christ, loved His Word, loved His church, and yes, loved me as their pastor. How can I thank you properly for all of that? What words of praise can adequately be expressed to a great and glorious Savior, Jesus Christ? Praise and thanksgiving will always be in my heart and on my lips for you and to Him who alone is worthy to be exalted!
Through all of those years, you the people of Providence have extended much grace to me and my family! Thanks for loving my family and for loving me well!
Looking back, some of you I baptized, then officiated at your weddings, dedicated your babies…only to get to do the same thing for your children! Scores of you we ordained to the ministry, hundreds we commissioned to be missionaries, and thousands of others we affirmed to be salt and light in whatever circumstances God has placed you. In this day of short pastoral tenures, who gets to stay in one place long enough to do all of that? Your gracious love and prayers and faithfulness provided a place for us to call home and raise our own family right here.
From a purely practical standpoint, you have also been a generous people. Through four relocations, you stood by the ministry and gave freely so that we have never had debt for more than a few years at any given time. We have met our budget all but a handful of those 37 years. And even then, we managed our spending well and ended the year in the black! That was done without ever compromising our commitment to give sacrificially and gladly to support various missions endeavors around the globe as a gospel centered church should. You have joined me to treasure Christ and make His glory known in your hearts and in all the earth! Thank you for that!!
May the riches of His grace flow freely as Brian Frost excels in his new role. I now get to join you as a member of Providence, loving, supporting and praying for my new pastor. So as I step aside and Brian becomes your Senior Pastor today, my heart is filled with joy and gratitude that I have been your pastor and friend all these years. “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” (3 John 4).
As I begin a new phase of ministry as Executive Director of Equipped for Life ministries, continuing to equip the saints for the work of ministry, especially ministry leaders, please pray for me as I will for you! May the grace of Jesus Christ be yours completely!
Recently, this picture appeared on Facebook and I re-posted it because it struck me as quite comical! Sometimes pastors feel like they are running for their lives!
Not sure who “they” are who said that, but frankly sometimes being a pastor is NOT fun! But when God is the One who calls, being a pastor is the best…even if once in a while it might feel like a Jack Sparrow moment!
At the end of this month, I will complete over 37 years as a pastor and turn the reins over to Brian Frost, our next pastor. As my tenure comes to an end, I can say with complete candor that I have been blessed to be the pastor of an amazing church. Providence Baptist Church, its leaders and members, have allowed me to serve them and shepherd them for a very long time! How can I express my gratitude for that? Not many pastors get to do what I have done and experience life together with a loving, appreciative, supportive people. Not that it has always been an easy calling!! That is why I think every pastor relates to the picture above!
But how can churches and pastors be more likely to do better than merely survive ministry? In January, I will begin a ministry called Equipped for Life, also the name of this blog. My whole ministry life has been devoted to equipping the saints for the work of the ministry so it is only fitting that I get the opportunity to continue that at another level.
One of the focuses of that ministry will be to equip pastors and other Christian leaders to find the joy of Christ and the fruit of the Spirit in their calling. Another part of that ministry will be to help churches and their leaders understand how to function in the most biblical ways possible as they follow the lead of their pastors.
That part of the ministry will be called Sunergos Equipping Ministry. Sunergos is the Greek word for “working together with.” I will be working together with churches and Christian leaders to help them find the pleasures I have enjoyed for all these years at Providence – and if possible help them avoid the parts that were not always enjoyable!
Pastoring and functioning well as a Christian leader can be a delight. Pray for this ministry to reach the right churches and pastors and leaders so that every year more of them will find the joy of Christ in their ministries! In addition to the coaching, consulting and mentoring aspect of this work, I will also be available for teaching, preaching and conferences. Lots of ground to cover should the Lord allow. I will keep you posted as this new ministry develops!