Yesterday marked my 9 year anniversary as Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church. There are many reflections I have as I consider my last 9 years, but here are two that leap to the front of my mind and heart that I shared with my beloved congregation last week at our member’s meeting:
1) A shift in who was really being patient. If you would have asked me in my first few years who was being most patient, without a doubt, I would say I was. Patience with difficult people. Patience with frustrating traditions. Patience with trying to win the trust of the people. Through the years, a shift in my thinking has taken place. The longer I serve as pastor, I realized it was these people who were being the most patient. Patient to allow me to grow in preaching. Patient as I made bad decisions. Patient as I learned how to better shepherd people. As each year goes by, I grow more convinced the congregation’s patience and grace extended to me was greater than that which I extended to them.
2) The way God’s blessing often follows sorrow. A glorious pattern continues in our congregation. That pattern is the way God shows himself to be good and present after a difficult season. Throughout the years I have watched painful exits of church members only to gain some of the most beloved the next year. I have experienced the sudden deaths of beloved church members only to see the ministry they loved, served, and helped build flourish more than ever after they are gone. This pattern has seemed to be God’s way of reminding us of his goodness, that he is still at work, and has not forsaken us. My faith has grown in ways I never imagined these last 9 years that causes me even to anticipate the next harvest to come as we endure the sorrow.
I spent 9 years doing associate pastor work before coming to Auburndale. Without a doubt, these last 9 years as Senior Pastor have been the most challenging and difficult, yet enjoyable and fruitful in my life. I look forward to what lies ahead.