This Sunday I preach my last sermon as pastor of SCC.
I have all the mixed feelings you might imagine.
I will have spent 605 Sundays as pastor here. With a few Sundays off each year, and two sabbaticals, I imagine I preached over 500 sermons.
It's amazing to think that when I became pastor of this church, I had preached perhaps seven. I'm pretty sure my "candidating" sermon was the eighth time I had ever preached. That's crazy to think about. I'm grateful that this church invited me to learn here.
Of course pastoring is about more than preaching.
Every Sunday has a Monday where it's not just about what to preach or what songs to sing. And each Monday has a Tuesday which, for most of the past 604 Tuesdays meant "staff meeting" where the pastoral and administrative teams prayed over and cared for the details of this church.
During that time we tried hard to implement one vision of becoming a multigenerational church for Sarasota. We made six key decisions toward that. A seventh decision was unable to gain enough support:
Leading a church isn't a business, it's ministry.
As much as the conventional model of church requires pastors to make business decisions about how to implement vision, etc., it's not primarily a business. At least it shouldn't be. The only reason we do any of this is to see the gospel become fruitful in people's lives.
It has always been my passion to reach dechurched and unchurched people with the gospel. During the past six hundred weeks we baptized 106 people, dedicated 23 children, and received 168 new members. We also laid 180 loved ones to rest.
This Sunday we'll take time to read the names of each as we commend them to the Lord in prayer. It will be a sacred moment. Then the overseers will commend me to my new call. In a couple weeks, Dennis will be installed as interim pastor. And my prayer is that wherever by whomever, and by whatever means, the gospel will be boldly preached, and that this next season will see even more people baptized and brought into maturity of faith. And as Dennis (and then his successor) lay to rest the people I have pastored here, may it be as a sacred testimony of their faithfulness. This is my prayer and desire.
Next Monday will be the first in 605 Mondays that I wake up without a call to SCC.
I will no doubt wake up Monday with enthusiasm for my new call to develop a network of microchurches. Of course it won't be the first I've thought about it. I will spend a bit of time resting with family, but then I will hit the ground running. And I imagine it will feel different to run without the call of SCC on my shoulders.
Like I say, I have mixed emotions about it. I am excited about what I will be doing next. I am so encouraged by so many at every turn.
So, if I have been sad the past couple of months, it's partly the disappointment of not being able to establish this network as a ministry of SCC as I had hoped. And it's partly because I always saw myself retiring at SCC. And I am also engaging the sorrow of friends who have poured themselves into ministry here but are now leaving with a sense that they no longer fit here. And I feel the sadness of other friends who feel called to stay at SCC and no doubt feel abandoned by their friends.
This makes me sad, but the new ministry makes me glad. Both emotions can be genuine concurrently. And I genuinely pray blessing over SCC with a clear conscience that I have done all I could to establish the gospel here, and have done nothing to undermine the transfer of leadership. And I am thankful to those who pray for me and speak words of encouragement to me. My choice is to give a blessing.
With gratitude, sincerity, and blessing,
Pastor of Sarasota Community Church since 2009.