This month I transitioned into a new role with a nonprofit organization called Leadership Network. In another post, when I understand it more myself, I plan to share more about what I will be doing. In short, we support pastors and the church. Our goal is to help with innovation, leadership development and best practices in the church. It’s an amazing opportunity.
This new position will be very full-time, so I will no longer be a full-time pastor. I came into ministry later in life, after a long business career. It’s amazing, however, when I realize I was a pastor for 16 years. It seemed to pass so quickly.
We had growth, renewal, staff and cultural health and community engagement. We made all the recognition “lists.” Looking back at four churches later (two revitalizations and two plants), God was incredibly graceful to us.
Considering everything we experienced in 16 years, there are a few things that I’m most proud to have experienced. And, they may not be the things I would have expected in the beginning.
Here are four of my proudest memories of being a pastor:
My wife is still my best friend—in life and ministry.
Cheryl is just as committed to me—and our ministry—as when we started. She placed a pillow in “my chair,” which says “Where you go I go.” People continually asked me through the transition process where Cheryl was in all this—and, it was easy to say she is as committed as I am.
I know many pastor spouses who checked out, because they had been burned by ministry. We worked hard to protect our marriage, our hearts and our joint commitment to ministry.
Both my boys love Jesus—and the church!
And, have felt their own call to ministry. One son works behind the scenes, supporting the church in his profession. He is active in his local church. He is consistently sharing worship songs or sermon messages with me that have inspired him. The other son works in the church and was on our staff. He’s passionate about sharing God’s word.
I came into vocational ministry later in life, so the ministry isn’t the only world my boys know. But, they witnessed firsthand the struggles of church planting and the difficulty of church revitalization. I know so many pastors who have children that grew up to resent the church. I’m thankful my boys stayed firm in their faith. We worked at this too. We didn’t hide things from them, we let them participate with us, and we allowed them to choose how they would express their faith within the church.
People felt welcome in the churches where we pastored.
Grace is attractive. Love is welcoming.
I’m thankful God led us to be churches that were attractive to passionate followers as well as those who were far from God. It doesn’t begin in the parking lot, although parking lot ministry is important. It actually begins in the workplace, the school and on Main Street.
In all four churches, we encouraged people to think outside the walls. My number one message was attempting to help people understand truth found in the grace and love of Christ.
We saw people far from God come to know, love and serve God.
Isn’t that what we’ve been called to do as churches?
We were blessed to be a part of growing churches, both in church planting and revitalization. One pushback to growing churches is all we care about are numbers. But, anyone who believed that never knew my heart. Every number for me always represented an individual story—a life change—a person who God passionately loves and wants to redeem for His glory and their good.
We experienced lots of stories over 16 years of pastoring. We cherish the testimonies, and keep all the cards, emails and notes of life change, as some of our proudest treasures in life and ministry. To God be the glory! For 16 years, He has been faithful!
It’s a new season for us in ministry. We won’t be actively shepherding a church. In fact, we will be looking for a church in which to attend. (We’ve always said if we found ourselves in this position, we’d attempt to make the best church members a church can find.) But, I’m thankful for God giving us an incredible 16 years of pastoring.
This article originally appeared here.