Sunday, June 6, 2010

15 Years and Counting

As of June 1 it has been my privilege to serve the First Baptist Church of Hot Springs for 15 years. That’s a long time in pastor-years. It was mentioned this morning that in our 173 year history I now have the longest pastoral tenure by five years. That’s hard to believe—especially with a church that has been so stable for so long.

Some have asked me what the secret is to long pastoral tenure. (I was in my first pastorate for almost 14 years before I came to Hot Springs so folks think I must know something about this subject.) Well, I’ve thought about that question a lot, and I don’t know that I really have any answers. I did hear one answer from a long-tenured pastor. He said the secret to long tenure is this: no pulpit committees. It has to be more than that, but I don’t know that I can put my finger on it. Perhaps, however, these things have helped:

• I try to keep fresh in my relationship with the Lord so that I’m working in His power instead of my own.

• I try to love the church family as they are and not as I wish they might be.

• I try to bring it every Sunday.

• I try not to let either the criticism or the praise I receive linger in my heart and mind.

• I try to show up each day even when I don’t feel like it.

• I value church unity.

• I try to deal with church problems rather than sweep them under the rug.

• But at the same time, I try to pick my battles wisely.

• I try to assemble a good team of staff and volunteers.

• Rather than doing the same year of ministry every year, I try to make sure we’re always doing something in the church that keeps us moving forward in some way or another.

• I’ve always hated packing and moving.

And that’s pretty much it. You’d think someone with my experience would be wiser or more profound, huh? Sorry. That’s about all I got on the subject. But it seems to be working, and God seems to be using me, and the church seems glad I’m still around.

Today, as people were leaving several said, “I pray you’ll be here 15 more years.” To which I replied, “No you don’t. In 15 years I’ll be 68 going on 69 years old and you’ll be thinking, ‘Is that old man ever going to retire so we can get some young blood in here?’” I worry about that a little—knowing when it’s time, knowing when I’ve quit growing and started coasting, knowing when I’m a liability rather than an asset for the church. But I’m not going to worry about that today. Today, I'm giving thanks to God for allowing me to serve a church that loves my family as we are and that treats us better than we deserve. Today is celebration day because it’s been my great joy and privilege to have served the good family of First Baptist Church in Hot Springs for 15 years, and, God willing, for many more years to come.


  1. congrats john! what a blessing you have been to FBC Hot Springs. i know my husband enjoyed serving with you for eight of those years.

  2. It has been our great joy and priviledge to have you and Dayna and Nathan and Kristen and now the grands. Our love to all of you.

  3. After you moved here, I remember praying for a long time that you would eventually like it here and at least give it a year!

    How to know when it's time? When someone calls you an old goat and you kinda smile inside and get this warm feeling and realize you've peed on yourself! Just another deep thought.

  4. Sounds plenty profound to me, John. It's wonderful to have some real history with people.

  5. Thanks for your reflections John -- congratulations on your fifteen years. Your people have been tremendously blessed by your service, and your time with them has forced you to always be growing, to your joy and usefulness and to their benefit. You have always been a tremendous encouragement to me as well. Blessings! Bob

  6. amen brother...............