Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Nine Years Together

Nine years ago (come November 10th) Westmoreland Baptist Church called me to serve as pastor. I cannot believe how quickly the time has passed, and how many changes have come about in those nine years.

The first two years here, I spent working hard to minister to a congregation that was hurting. The next two years, you ministered to me and Linda as we faced the diagnosis of Stage Four Colon Cancer and the resulting tests, surgeries, chemotherapy treatments, and other related procedures. I will forever be thankful for the patience, love and affection you showed us with during that very difficult time.

I have officiated at 99 funeral services since I have been your pastor. My first was Curt Maynard’s service in February of 2003 and the most recent was that of Frances Adkins about a month ago. Randy Spurgeon and Rick Weber have also assisted my by handling several other services in my place during a time of my illness or when I have been out of town. Our church has ministered to each of these families in some way during their time of loss. We have seen many of our dear loved ones depart this life, but we take comfort in the fact that they are waiting for us on the other shore.

We have been blessed to have baptized many precious souls - not nearly enough, but grounds for rejoicing, none the less. We have married numerous couples, beginning with Evelyn Looney and Robert Bentle in November 2002, up through the nuptials of Rowina Gantalao and Joseph Spurgeon last December. God has blessed us with many new babies over the past several years, and we thank God for those young families that are such an important part of our church.

We have had seasons of abundant spiritual blessings, and times of drought. There have been financial difficulties and yet God has always supplied our needs. New ministries have begun, and some have come to an end. We have received numerous new members, and have had others move away. New ministries like Upward, First Place, and TeamKid have been a blessing. My greatest yearning is for growth in numbers and in the quality of our Discipleship Ministry – especially the Sunday School component.

Many folks have been pleased with my ministry here and have been most supportive, but a few have been upset with me and moved to other churches. This is always disheartening to a shepherd, who loves each member of his flock – but it sometimes happens in the course of the life of a church.

We have remodeled the sanctuary, restructured our church organization chart, and written a new constitution. Staff members have come and gone, and I thank God for the opportunity to have worked with each of them. We are blessed to have staff members who love the Lord and love His church, and give of their talents in His service.
I have been blessed to work with the most harmonious group of Deacons here, than at any church I have ever served. None of them seek to grow a power base, all have the heart of a servant, and each has the desire to see unity and spiritual growth among our congregation.

We have supported missions at home and abroad through our gifts to Southern Baptist missions and the Cooperative Program. We attempted a church plant in Wayne, that did not bear fruit, but we have financially supported church planters in the Philippines, and sent our members there who have helped plant several churches for the Glory of God and the sake of His Kingdom.

In looking over the rich 96 year history of Westmoreland Baptist Church, I note that the average tenure of a pastor here has been 5 ½ years. If the Lord tarries His coming, and allows me to continue to serve you as pastor, I will become the longest tenured pastor at Westmoreland Baptist Church in May of next year – passing Rev. Ralph Webb who served the church from May 5, 1948 through November 10, 1957.

I am honored and humbled that God has brought me to this place of ministry, and to serve these people. If it is His will, I hope to have many more years with you. I will forever be thankful for the day that God put Kenny Adkins and me together in a golf outing and brought the conversation around to the point that WBC was without a pastor. I am thankful for the day I spoke with Terry Perdue over the phone, and he encouraged me to take a resume’ and audio tape to the late Rick Rakes at his office at “The Daily Independent”. I will always be grateful for the fact that the pastoral search committee, consisting of Rick, June Ashworth, Charley Dygert, Steve Howerton, Rachel Lackey, Sam Wellman, and Hope Smith recommended me to the church.

I thank you all for your love and prayers and thank God for these past nine years together. I am praying that God will give us even greater days ahead. I’m getting older now (as are we all) but I have never been more excited and enthused in my ministry as I have been these past few months. Fresh Wind… Fresh Fire.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Brother, you are an example of faithfulness to all who serve as Pastor. May God richly bless you and Westmorland as you continue to serve Christ.
Matt Shamblin