You never want to be the guest who stays too long or the speaker who doesn’t know when to shut up. It takes careful timing to make a great exit. You’ve said what you came to say, but no more. You’ve done what you came to do and now, you’re finished. As any great stand-up comic will tell you, “Always leave them wanting more.”
Last Sunday, I announced my intentions to step down as the Senior Pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church at the end of 2023. By that time, I will have been the pastor of this church for 32 years. It’s been quite a ride and of all the pastors I know, I’m the most blessed. We’ve done a lot of creative things in our community and around the world. We’ve been involved with Living Hope Ministries in South Africa for over 20 years. That put us on the front lines of AIDS work in the world. We’ve built the only sanctuary designed specifically for deaf worshipers. The floor of the sanctuary isn’t fastened down so it can vibrate when the music is piped through the floors. (The best sound system in our church is in the sanctuary for the deaf. Go figure.) We recently opened the Rowen Glenn Center for Special Needs. My granddaughter has special needs and through this building and ministry, we’re making a positive impact on countless families who have children and adults with special needs.
During my time at BBC, I have attended countless concerts and pageants. I’ve sat at tables and stood on the stages and preached the gospel. I have talked to young adults well after midnight about how the topic I’ve just taught applies to their lives. I’ve done more weddings, funerals, and baptisms than I can count.
I’ve also spent more hours than I could ever count listening to the heartaches of families, some of which are too brutal and tragic to discuss here. I’ve come home way too late from a meeting that went on for several hours when it should have lasted thirty minutes.
Overall, it’s been a great ride and I’ve loved every minute — well, I’ve loved most of it.
Now, it’s time for me to do something else. I believe we’re going to be facing some very tough times in North America. I believe the church and its pastors will have to be ready for different challenges and opportunities. While I don’t believe the church will be overwhelmed or defeated by the coming attacks, I do believe pastors have to be trained to do ministry a different way.
The details of what that means are the topic for a future blog, but let me say that the measurements we use now to judge success won’t be the markers we use in the future. Think about it. The United States military has gone to highly trained small teams for precise missions. Businesses use small think tanks and task forces to take on major projects so the work is fast, efficient, and cost-effective. The work is done by those closest to the execution of the work. Small, targeted, and well-trained. That’s the future of the church.
I want to be part of that future. I want to work on finding creative ways to connect the gospel to our culture and world. The world is still asking questions for which Jesus is the only answer. The church has to find a way to get that message across. I’ll be working with pastors, church planters, and churches throughout Middle Tennessee to see how best we can accomplish this mission.
While I’m thankful for my past, I am excited and hopeful for the future. You need to leave while they still want you and while you still have a place to go to. I’m grateful for both.