This weekend is the eleven year anniversary of the church I planted. It is also my last weekend as its lead pastor.
On January 19, 2003, I gathered with a very small group of Christians for the first Sunday morning worship service of Providence Community Church. I had been dreaming of starting a church for years. It was no longer a dream; it was a reality. After a time of singing, I stood and simply said, “Open your Bibles to…”
Those first words would go on to characterize the next eleven years of my life. I was first and foremost an expository preacher.
In today’s world, pastors are often first and foremost innovators, or great strategists, or even great managers.
I never sensed that was my calling. Yes, I realized at times that there was a need to innovate, strategize, and manage, but none of this was as important as my sense that the people I pastored need to know God.
They needed to be taught the Bible so they could see and understand the great story of redemption and the ways in which God has dealt so lovingly and graciously with his people throughout the years. They needed to know how to believe the gospel.
They needed to be taught the Bible so they could see and understand the ways in which God’s people had lived in the kingdom as a community committed to love and serve one another. They needed to know how to belong to one another.
They needed to be taught the Bible so they could see and understand the ways in which the mission of the gospel had been carried out through average people who had nothing to give to the world except for love and self-sacrifice. They needed to know how to bless the world.
Whether or not I was innovative or strategic or managerial was never the issue. The issue was whether or not I faithfully proclaimed Jesus and his kingdom.
That, and that alone, would be the only way I would evaluate the success of my ministry. Had I been faithful to preach Jesus and his kingdom–in both my words AND my actions?
And so, for the past eleven years, I have been committed above all else to being a faithful expositor of the gospel. I did my best to never water down the truth, to never avoid tough subjects, and to preach the whole counsel of God. Some days this was easier than others. There were days that I couldn’t wait to preach, and there were other days when I couldn’t wait to be done preaching. One thing is for certain, when I preached the Lord was always faithful even when I was without faith.
Through it all, I aimed to do my best to present myself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 NRSV)
This weekend I will stand in front of my church, one final time, as its pastor. I will end my ministry here the way it started. After we sing, I will stand and simply say, “Open your Bibles to…”
The moments that follow will turn the page on the greatest chapter in my life thus far. I will look upon a people who have learned to believe, to belong, and to bless. My only prayer will be that they will know that it is they who have taught me.
Providence Community, you have taught me to believe the gospel. You have made me want to belong to you. You have shown me what it means to bless the world.
Thank you for being the faithful teacher to me that I strived to be for you.