This past month I celebrated my 60th birthday. My wife and I celebrated 40 years of marriage and Community Baptist Church and I acknowledged 25 years of service together. We also acknowledged 30 years of ministry in our community.
Pastoring a small church in a rural community makes me a little apprehensive about numbers. But these numbers represent my life. When I was in high school and college I dreamed about and planned for a completely different career. But God had plans – even from before I was born – that have shaped my life.
The number 60 still baffles me. When I was younger, say in my 30’s, 60 represented a kid of person I didn’t want to become: old, stodgy, stuck in old ways of doing ministry. Now that I am 60 I wonder what those younger pastors think when they see me? Do those words and phrases describe me? The number 60 also reminds me that I am in the 4th quarter of my life – with much less time ahead of me than behind me. The number 60 magnifies the intensity of my desire to mentor younger men and leave behind a powerful legacy of faithfulness.
The number 40 puts in perspective what people often say: I love you more today than yesterday. Cindy and I have developed a deeper love over the years. We have celebrated many wonderful events, grieved the loss of her dad, all of our grandparents, my brother, and countless church family. But in the days that make up 40 years we have discovered God’s faithfulness, God’s mercy, and God’s grace in more profound ways.
25 years in one church, one ministry. All 25 of these years have been as ‘Senior Pastor’ – some years with associates, most without. But the role has changed. While people’s needs and basic makeup have not changed, our strategies of serving has changed. The culture has changed and the ways people live has changed. One observation I often share with my pastor-colleagues : Preaching is harder than ever. As a young pastor I though preparing messages would become easier over time. Boy, was I wrong! More time is invested in prayer and preparation than ever before. 25 years in the same community has given me open doors that I would never have discovered in just a few short years. The community where I live has changed radically in 25 years. God has given me opportunities not just to observe the changes, but to actually participate in the process.
Finally, as our church acknowledges 30 years of ministry I have to thank countless people who prayed, gave, sacrificed, worked, labored, and allowed God to use them in creating a ministry that lasts. Though we pray regularly for the Lord’s return, I am confident that what God has begun here as Community Baptist Church will thrive – not because I served 25 years, but because God’s purposes are being fulfilled and God’s work is not yet completed.