Week 4 – Before I Go…
January 15, 2023
As we near the end of our time together, I have just a few more things I want to share from my heart as we conclude our current series. In these days I have been praying that God would enable us to see what we need to see, to hear what He would have us hear, and to learn what He wants us to know.
When I initially sensed the Lord leading me to step down from my position as Lead Pastor at The Point, I was in an unexpected place. It is not the path I would have chosen, but for the past twelve months, He has continued to affirm His plan for our lives, for our ministry, and for His church.
Laurie and I have experienced a wide range of emotions since making this decision. Even though we believe we are following God’s direction in making this decision, and we have absolute peace about it, there is still grief because we are mourning the loss of something we love very much.
Growth means CHANGE. Change means LOSS. Loss means PAIN.
That’s normal and understandable for all of us. We have shed plenty of tears, and there will undoubtedly be more in the days ahead. I keep telling myself that is ok, as long as I shed those tears in private. I hate to cry in public. Unlike Carrie Underwood, I do not cry pretty. I am an ugly crier. 😊
I expect to shed tears of joy as I pass the leadership baton to my friend, and your next pastor, Jon Gibson, next Sunday at the Seymour High School Auditorium. The Gibsons are all moved in, and Jon has been graciously waiting for me to hand him the baton. He is like a racehorse anxiously waiting to be released from the stall.
I have enjoyed and appreciated the time we have spent together, getting to know one another, and making preparation for this transition. We have been in the Gibson’s home. They have been in ours and we have great love and respect for this couple. We believe in them deeply.
I feel incredibly blessed that the Lord has given me the opportunity to pastor this church for 20 years, 7 months, and 20 days. It would have been easy to stay. It would have been convenient to stay. Nobody would have been surprised had we stayed. In fact, most expected us to stay for a few more years. It would have been comfortable, and it would have seemed natural for us to stay until our retirement. We could have easily chosen to do that. But to stay would have been disobedient to what I know the Lord has been saying. And disobedience would be contrary to the life we have always tried to live.
It has been amazing to see how the Lord has been at work guiding this process. Members of the Board, the Transition Team, the Search Team, and our staff have testified to the Spirit of God’s presence and leadership throughout this process.
On Sunday, November 6, I gave you – The basis for a good transition: God SPEAKS, and we LISTEN. That is exactly what has happened. Not only in this transition, not only in the last few months, but I believe that has been the foundation of our experience together for more than twenty years. Together, we have always done our best to follow the leading of the Lord. This is His church. And we can trust Him to guide us.
As my time as the leader of this church comes to a close, I believe the Lord has uniquely gifted, prepared, and called Pastor Jon Gibson to lead the church forward in 2023 and beyond. Since my announcement to the congregation last March, we have been talking in terms of a relay race and the passing of the baton. This metaphor illustrates well the transition that is before us. When I came to Seymour in 2002, I came as an interim pastor. I was the next in a long line of pastors that were before me. In fact, I become the 32nd pastor of the church that was 102 years old at the time.
I have the distinction of being the longest tenure pastor of this church at almost 21 years. Dr. B.G. Wiggs was number 2, having pastored the church for 18 ½ years, between 1959-1977, before become the District Superintendent of SW Indiana. Next Sunday, Jon Gibson will become the 33rd pastor of this church. Unless the Lord returns first, there will be others who follow Jon. He is an interim pastor too. I want to challenge Jon publicly today.
As the longest tenured pastor of this church at 20 years, 7 months, and 20 days, I dare you to take the title from me. I want that to happen. I believe in the value of long pastorates, and I am praying that God will anoint you, use you, and bless your ministry here for the next 20 years and beyond. I am praying it will be so.
Over the past few months, I have had plenty of time to reflect on my years of leadership here at The Point. This transition has been on my mind constantly. I have thought about it when I have been driving down the road, sitting at home, working in the office, during times of prayer, even on Sunday mornings as we have gathered for worship. My mind is full of memories, my eyes have been filled with tears, and my heart is overflowing with gratitude and love for God, for you, and for our years together.
God has blessed my life in more ways than I dreamed possible, and I am sincerely grateful for the opportunity He has given me to serve as your pastor. My sincere desire has always been to live a life that glorifies and honors God. While I know I have not been 100% effective, I have done my best and I intend to continue to improve and grow as the Lord continues His refining work in me. I want to do my best to be obedient to whatever He asks, and be found faithful in all that I do, for as long as He gives me breath.
In this process I have continually found myself going back to Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for GOD’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.” – Proverbs 3:5-6 (The Message) That is the winning combination for life. We talked about it last Sunday. Trust God.
Big faith matters to God. He wants us to trust Him and take Him at His word. We don’t have to try to figure out everything on our own. His ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Our goal is to just listen for His voice in everything we do, everywhere we go. As we do, we can be confident of this, He is the One who will keep us on track.
One more time I would like to challenge you to go all in and give your whole heart to Jesus. Live your life according to the principles found in His Word. These are decisions you will never regret. Trust God completely. Allow the Spirit of God to transform your life from the inside out. You have heard me share God’s goal for all of us so many times. He wants us to be like Jesus.
“God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him.” – Romans 8:29 (The Message)
Jesus is the prototype. God’s Spirit is at work refining in us the image of Jesus Christ. Some of you already know this, but I am not the same man I was when I arrived here in June of 2002. I have pictures to prove it! From what I can see, these past few years have been harder on me than I realized. There is no question about it, I have changed a lot. Twenty years from now things will have changed even more.
I have changed a lot. But the changes in me are more than cosmetic. God has been at work transforming my life in so many ways. I believe I have grown. I haven’t arrived and I am not done growing But I hope that I am more like Jesus today than I was 20 years ago. I know there are many things I would do differently if I was starting over today. But ultimately, with where I was at the time, I believe I did my best. Since then, I have learned. and I have grown as a leader, and as a follower of Christ.
Even though I know I haven’t led perfectly, I have done my best with what I knew at the time. And part of being a good leader is knowing when it is time to go. Some of you have heard me talk about a conversation Laurie had with my mother about 40 years ago.
When Laurie and I were dating, she would try to get me to sing when we were in church together. I would tell her that I didn’t sing because I couldn’t sing. This was before I heard about that thing of making a joyful noise. So, one day when we were visiting my parents in Ohio, Laurie decided to ask my mother about my singing ability.
As most of you know, my mother thinks her two sons can do no wrong. There is no use trying to convince her otherwise because she won’t believe you. So, when Laurie asked the question, I was anxious to hear my mother’s response. I will never forget what she said. “Well, bless his heart, he sure tries.” That day I came face to face with the truth. I can’t carry a tune. I have had to live with that realization, and it has been affirmed many times over the past 40 years.
I’ve also had to admit, I have not been a perfect pastor. Looking back, I didn’t accomplish all that I hoped. I am sure there were people who I let down or disappointed along the way. I know there were others who could have led better. But I did my best. I share this because I think mom’s words would be a fitting summary to the past two decades of my ministry here, and almost two decades of ministry preceding my arrival in Seymour. Bless my heart, I sure tried. 😊
I have never doubted God’s call on my life. But I have been sincerely surprised that He called me. I didn’t grow up in a ministry family. None of my family had ever been to college. If I am honest, I would have to admit I have been in way over my head. Thankfully God doesn’t require perfection before He will use us. His concern is not about ability or inability, but our availability.
When Laurie was softening up to the idea of marrying a preacher, not only did she not want to be a pastor’s wife, she didn’t feel qualified to be a pastor’s wife. But the Lord reminded her that God doesn’t call the QUALIFIED He QUALIFIES the called. I am so glad she was willing to be available. And as far as being qualified, the Lord knew she was just what I needed. She has been a blessing to me and to every church we have served.
We will celebrate our 40th anniversary this summer. I don’t know how she has done it. She has my best friend and partner in ministry right from the start. She has faithfully supported and stood by me every step of the way. When we first started dating, she said she never wanted to marry a preacher. I told her there was nothing to worry about. Nobody expected me to be much of a preacher anyway, so she was safe.
A pastor’s spouse has a great influence on their ministry. Laurie has not only been there for me, but she has also always been there for the church in ways that nobody would ever see or know. She has willingly sacrificed for the good of the church and the kingdom of God. You know she is not an up-front person. She prefers to stay out of the spotlight. But she has always been a stable presence through thick and thin. She is an incredible lady that has been a wonderful asset to our ministry. Without her, I wouldn’t have made it. I couldn’t have done it without her. I am blessed to call her my wife. In addition to being a wonderful wife, she is an incredible mother to our three children, and a wonderful grandmother to all nine of our grandchildren. I love you more than words can say.
A recurring question for us has been “what’s next?” For the time-being, we plan to stay in the area. Laurie will continue her part time job as the Office Manager at a financial planner’s office here in Seymour. And I will be a stay-at-home husband for the time being. As crazy as it sounds, I am still not sure what I will do at this point.
I sense the Lord has been saying stand still. I am not good at that. But until He directs, that is exactly what I intend to do.
I know He has a plan for my life. He has not forgotten me, and I don’t believe He is finished with me. I believe He is up to something new, and I am ready to follow where He leads. I intend to read, pray, listen, be still and wait on the Lord. I believe He wants to do a new work in my heart and life. Over the next few weeks/months, we intend to invest more in our marriage, in our family, and in our personal spiritual lives. We believe the Lord will provide the same wisdom and clarity for the future as we have experienced in past decisions, as we keep in step with the Spirit of God.
Yesterday was the final week for my newspaper column. I intend to suspend writing my blog. If you are interested, there are about 650 posts at pastorgreene.wordpress.com For now, I believe the Lord is leading me in a different direction. In this transition I intend to begin work on at least one book. I am not sure I can say this is a dream I have had, but it is something I always felt I would do at some point. It seems like this transitional time in my life is the time to do it.
You won’t see me online for a while. I intend to take a break from social media. I believe the work the Lord wants to do in my life is very personal and it does not need to be platformed or publicized in any way. So I will be spending time with Him, not to prepare another message, write another column, or create another post. I intend to go deeper in my walk with Jesus. I will crawl up on the examination table and allow the Lord to turn on the searchlight of my soul and continue His refining work in my life. I am asking what I need to learn in this time, and I am going to do my best to wait and listen in His presence.
Some of you have heard us refer to “going dark” over the next few months. What that means is you will not see us around The Point in the coming months. It is not that we don’t want to be here, or that we do not support the Gibsons. We believe it is important to step into the shadows and give them the time and space to allow them to become the leaders God is calling them to be at The Point.
Our plan is to visit a variety of churches in a 60-mile radius over the next few months. This is not something I advocate, and it is not something we will continue for the long haul. But it is something we intend to do for a while. For almost 40 years, we really haven’t had much of an opportunity to visit a lot of church because of our commitment at the churches where we have served.
We intend to visit churches where our kids and grandkids attend. We plan to visit where some of our friends are pastoring. There are some churches we have always wanted to visit. This will be our opportunity to slip out from under the weekly responsibility of ministry and to go where we will have no responsibility and where we can be fed personally. Plans may change, but right now, I am looking forward to visiting lots of places.
Our desire would be to return to The Point, when the time is right, if and when the Lord allows. We want to do what is in the best interest of the church. And after next Sunday, I am confident that we need to step into the shadows and disappear from the landscape for a while. Our only request is that you pray for Laurie and me as the Lord brings us to mind.
In addition to thanking my wife, there are so many wonderful leaders I wish I could recognize individually, but there is obviously not time for that today. So many wonderful Board and staff members have served the church over the years. We established a transition team two years ago, and a search team in 2022. I could spend days talking about the blessing these leaders have been.
As you know, we have an incredible staff here at The Point. John Holt is our Business and Finance Manager. John and I have served together the longest. John was a key volunteer at the church I served in Illinois, just before coming to Seymour. He has been on staff here for almost 19 years.
Joel Burbrink and I are in our 16th year serving together. Joel is one of the most creative and most gifted people I know. He and I are so different in so many ways, but the thing that has made this partnership work so well is the fact that our hearts were united in the desire to glorify God and introduce people of Jesus. When I think of the series we have done together, Joel has consistently taken things to the next level. He knows how to organize a service around a theme that has a point. His creativity enables him to develop environments that strengthen the impact of the message. Joel is a trusted and capable leader and a valued friend.
Jeff Lewellyn is our Ministries Director. When people would see us together, many have mistakenly thought he was my dad. Jeff has been an amazing leader, supporter, counselor, and friend for the past 6 ½ years. I cannot begin to say how much value I believe Jeff has brought to the table when he joined our staff. He has developed and invested in our staff team in ways I would never have dreamed of. The church is in a better place because he is here.
Renee Bogard came to work in the office not long after I arrived. My wife, Laurie was the office manager for the first several years we were here. Renee came in our second or third year and she worked alongside Laurie and then took over the full responsibility of the job when Laurie left the office in 2010. Laurie and I decided it might be nice to come home in the evening, or go on vacation, and talk about something other than church.
Renee represents the church well. She brings so much positivity, laughter and sunshine to our world. She makes everyone’s day brighter. Thank you! There are so many more I would like to mention, but for the sake of time, just let me say how much I love and appreciate all those who are currently on staff, the dozens, dare I say hundreds of Point Kids and Point Student volunteers, hospitality team members, the worship, tech and media teams, small group leaders, and so many others who have made such a difference.
The Point would not be the place that it is without you. We have a wonderful team. We have worked together, prayed together, served together, carried the weight of ministry together, learned together, grown together, hurt together, rejoiced together, and we have seen God do incredible things together. The church assessment that was conducted here a couple of years ago, confirmed what we already knew, and that is that The Point is truly a transformational church. The church is healthy, thriving, united, and focused on our mission.
I love this church. I am thankful for the people who make up the church.
The church is not a building at 311 Myers St. It is people like the ones I have just mentioned and hundreds more who are involved in what God is doing right here at The Point each and every week. What has been, is good. We have so much to be thankful for. But It’s a NEW and EXCITING day at THE POINT!
God wants to do a new work in us, among us, and through us. But here’s what’s even more exciting: I believe God wants to do a GREATER WORK than ever before. Over the past couple of weeks, I have commented in various settings, that I believe the leadership transition has gone incredibly well. I honestly don’t think we could have scripted it to go any better. As I have thought about my departure…
I feel like I will know I have left well when you have fully embraced Jon Gibson as your pastor. If that doesn’t happen, I will feel that I have dropped the ball in my leadership. If you are not because I’m not here, or if you disengage because of the changes that are taking place, that will make me question what we’ve been doing here these last 20 years. I have never had any intention or desire to build a personal kingdom. This church is not built on a personality. My desire has always been for you to follow Jesus, not me.
God is the Source for The Point, not me. God brought the Gibsons to Seymour, and now I am asking you to embrace Jon and Heather in the same way you have embraced Laurie and me. If you want to honor me, lean into what God has done, is doing, and will continue to do through the ministry of this church and the leadership of our new pastor.
I can’t tell you how many times someone has said, “he’ll have big shoes to fill.”
I understand that comment. It is flattering and I appreciate it. But I want you to know something. I am taking my shoes with me. Jon doesn’t need to fit into my shoes. He doesn’t need to fill my shoes. He has his own shoes and his own calling and his own gifting. He is coming to Seymour at the Lord’s direction. If the church needed someone to fill these shoes, I think He would have left me here.
The reason I have such peace in asking you to honor and follow the Gibsons is because the Lord has made it clear that they are the ones to lead us to the future God has in store for us. There is a new and greater work to be done! That’s why Jon doesn’t have to worry about filling these shoes. He’s bringing his own. His shoes are different than mine. They are bigger than mine. The shoes Jon Gibson wears are uniquely and specifically designed for the road ahead. Don’t try to squeeze him into my shoes. Try not to compare our shoes.
It will be honoring to me to see you get on board and follow Jon’s leadership right from the start. Whatever you do, please don’t stand on the sidelines with a wait and see attitude. Be faithful in Attendance, Giving, Serving, Inviting, Praying, etc. God will bless you as you do, and this incredible story will continue.
With the pen in my hand, I believe God has enabled us to write an incredible story. I am thankful He allowed me to be a part of it. As I prepare to hand the pen to Pastor Jon next Sunday, I believe that story will keep going and get even better.
ONE MORE THING – Well over half my ministry and more than a third of my life has been invested right here in Seymour. That being said, at the conclusion of the service next Sunday, a final prayer will be prayed, and we will say amen.
That final amen will mark the end of one chapter in the story God is writing and the beginning of the next. And at that point…I will defer to Jon as the undisputed leader at The Point. I intend to support him and support the church in every.
I will pray for Jon and Heather, and I will pray for the church.
Even though we will not be here physically for a while, we will continue to support the church financially. The Point is named in our will. We don’t intend to change that. Why? Because we love this church. We have invested a significant part of our lives here. But this is not my church. As I have always said, it is Gods church.
Next Sunday, I will step down and Jon will step up. In that moment, our relationship will change. I will no longer by your pastor. I’ll still be your friend…I am still your brother in Christ…I still intend to hug you when I see you…I will miss you…and I will always love you! I mean that. But Jon Gibson won’t have to look over his shoulder and wonder why I am still trying to pastor this church. At God’s direction, those days are almost done. They have been great days. And we thank God for them. But now it is time to focus on the windshield, not the rearview mirror. God has led us to this place, and we trust Him. Our faith is in Him.
God’s plan is ALWAYS best.
One your way out you will receive invitations for next Sunday’s Passing of the Baton service at the Seymour High School Auditorium. Please use them. Invite absentees, the unchurched, coworkers, neighbors, and friends. Next Sunday will be incomplete without you. There will be one service next Sunday at 10 am. That service will be in person only. It will not be online. I hope to see you at the Seymour High School next Sunday!