Following 26 years as Senior Pastor, I will hand off my responsibilities to Pastor Jesse Richardson. I will take on a new role as the Associate Pastor at Sierra Bible Church. I want to share with you thoughts that are filling my heart regarding our journey together, past, present, and future.
25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”
27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.”
From the time that God made plain to me that I was to begin planning to hand off my Senior Pastoral duties at Sierra Bible Church, I have keenly identified with John the Baptist in the passage above.
For a season, the ministry of John the Baptist was the most happening event in the region. The scriptures testify about the crowds that traveled into the Judean wilderness to see and hear this man who was shaking up the region with his preaching. At some time during his ministry, Jesus stepped from the crowd and was identified by the Holy Spirit as the one whose way John had come to prepare.
The next day, following his baptizing of Jesus, he saw Him walking by and proclaimed to his disciples, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” At that very moment, two of his disciples left him and began to follow Jesus. And, from the passage above, we can conclude that the crowds that once followed John began to follow Jesus. Someone nearby pointed out the fact by saying, “…and all are coming to Him.” To which John replied, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Please understand that I am in no way comparing myself to John the Baptist. But for the past forty years, I have been a Senior Pastor, charged with the shepherding of two different bands of God’s larger flock (Moab Christian Center and Sierra Bible Church). I have enjoyed both the joys and the sorrows, the ups and the downs, as well as the perks of that position.
The truth be known, there was a time in my ministry that I was impressed with myself and would have guarded my position and the exposure that position provided, maybe not at all cost but certainly at some. And even today, being human, don’t think that I have not, in the past year, awakened in the night, hyper-ventilating, wondering, “What have I done?”
Like John, I too, have heard the comments of some, suggesting that I’m about to lose and Pastor Jesse is about to gain. I am amazed at just how many have been concerned that I am giving up my spacious office for a smaller one. “Hey, John, the crowds that followed you last week, are now following Him!”
At this season in the life of Sierra Bible Church, for God’s greater purposes to be served, it is necessary that I step aside and take a lesser roll. Bottom line? The struggle in my own soul, comes down to this: would I rather look out for my own comfort, convenience, and the guarding of my own turf, or see God’s greater purposes and glory unveiled? I want to see God glorified above all things, and if that means I must decrease while another increases, so be it, it’s His Church.
In that same passage, John responds to those who are reminding him where the crowds are now, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.”
I did not open the door of opportunity at Sierra Bible Church in 1991, God, in His sovereignty did! I have been greatly blessed and privileged to have played a small part in His divine plan for Truckee, California. My heart overflows with joy when I think of the struggling congregation of 120 that is now a much healthier congregation of nearly 500. Praise be to Jesus!
So, as I step aside to make room for another, it is with a heart full of joy that I look forward with anticipation at what God is going to do next as you and I submit ourselves to a plan that is not about us, but about Him and His glory.
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