In his ground-breaking book, The Purpose Driven Church (1995), Rick Warren recounts a study he made a few years ago of the 100 largest churches in the United States. He writes: “Although I discovered that large, growing churches differ widely in strategy, structure, and style, there were some common denominators. My study confirmed what I already knew . . . : Healthy, large churches are led by pastors who have been there a long time. I found dozens of examples. A long pastorate does not guarantee a church will grow, but changing pastors every few years guarantees a church won’t grow (p. 31).
Of course, Warren is not the first, nor the only observer of church life to note the correlation between pastoral tenure and church health. William Easum, in the Church Growth Handbook (1990), observed: “The longer the pastoral tenure, the more growth is likely to occur” (p. 57). He goes on to note, however, that long pastoral tenures require two things. The first is “longer and more flexible time away from the church.” The second is a pastor who experiences “regular personal growth so that the church does not outgrow them” (p. 58). These two components are related to one another. In fact, the second grows out of the first.
Recognizing these principles, about sixteen years ago our church leaders began to encourage me to take a regular summer study break. The purpose is to take time to listen more intently for the Father’s direction through times of fasting, prayer, and study of Scripture; to refuel and recharge—spiritually, emotionally, and physically; to learn from other churches and leaders; and to dream and plan for the future of our church.
So, again this year I will be away for a combination of study break and family vacation. Sunday preaching responsibilities will be handled effectively by other pastors on our team as follows:
Sunday, July 12 Andy Johnson, Children’s Pastor
Sunday, July 19 David Peterson, Discipleship Pastor
Sunday, July 26 Justin Nalls, Middle School Pastor
Sunday, August 2 Mark Hudgins, Membership Pastor
Sunday, August 9 Justin Nalls, Middle School Pastor
I will be speaking again, Lord willing, on Sunday, August 16. Until my return, if you are in town I am counting on you to be in church. You’ll be blessed as you support and hear our pastoral team.
In a couple of months, Beverly and I will begin our twenty-seventh year of ministry at Ingleside. We are deeply grateful for the Lord’s favor over the past twenty-six years, and we are eager to follow the Lord’s leading into the next chapter with this church family. I’m convinced that the best is yet to come!