“A rumor is one thing that gets thicker instead of thinner as it is spread.” – Anonymous

I recently heard a rumor. It wasn’t just any rumor. It was a rumor about me.

It’s kind of weird hearing a rumor about yourself. We all know that others talk about us. We just rarely get to hear what they are saying. I sort of felt like I was eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation. It was kind of surreal.

At first, when I heard the rumor I wanted to laugh. In fact, I think I chuckled as the person was retelling it to me. I thought to myself, “Who would even think that?” But, after a while, I sort of wanted to cry. It sort of hurt to think that someone might say something like this without taking the time to ask me about it. Although, I guess if they had, I would still be trying to think of an article idea for this week. (“Count your blessings”, right?)

So, what was this rumor I heard?

Here goes: Apparently, (so goes the rumor), after I…

…finish my doctoral work at Southeastern I am planning on leaving Forest for “greener pastures”, church-wise.

Now I know, as rumors go, this is a tiny one. It’s not Watergate or anything. But, it’s still a rumor. And it’s one that I would like to address.

First of all, let me say, I suspect if this was actually said, it was probably meant more as a word of concern than as a word of gossip. It may have sprung from an innocent discussion. Who knows, maybe it was just a harmless comment instead of an actual rumor. But, no matter how it came into being, it “be”. So, I would like to set the record straight: I have every intention of staying as the pastor-teacher of Forest Baptist Church as long as possible. To put it another way, I would want nothing more than for FBC to be my first and last pastorate.

Let me give you a list of reasons. For the logical folks out there, this might help. Here’s why I currently have no plans of leaving Forest Baptist Church:

1. We just refinanced our home not too long ago (aka: I can’t afford to move.)

2. If I ever do attempt to leave the greater Lynchburg area with my wife and children, I am pretty sure my father-in-law would shoot me, seriously injure me, try to talk me out of it.

3. Having grown up in a somewhat transient pastor’s home, I want my kids to have a stable church family if possible.

4. I believe that longevity is a missing ingredient in ministry today.

5. I already have 11 years invested at Forest. How many 30 year old pastors can say that?

Now, if logic doesn’t convince you, how about a little emotion? Allow me to share my feelings on this issue in the form of a letter, from my heart to yours.

Dear Forest Baptist Church,

I first met you when I was just 18 years old. I was a lonely college student living 500 miles from home. I needed something more than a church. I needed a family. And you became that family. You opened your arms wide to me and my brother and you welcomed us. You trusted me to be your intern, your staff member and, now, your pastor. You’ve supported me when I got married, when I graduated college, had children, graduated from seminary, and now as I’m pursuing more school. I love our history together. And I want even more of it.

Truth be told, I want to grow old with you. I want to celebrate your debt retirement. I want to baptize my children in your baptistry. I want to see my kids walk down your aisle to be married. I want to see our current nursery babies graduate from high school. I want to preach through all 66 books of the Bible, verse by verse, from your pulpit (of course, not in one sermon). I want to experience high mountain tops together. I want to experience low valleys together, too. I want to be here for you just as you were for me when I was 18. I want to build up the believers of Forest “until we all attain to the unity of the faith.” (Eph 4:13) I want to tell you, in the years to come, that God can be trusted in all seasons of life. I want to show you how He can be trusted in those same seasons, too.

As long as God will have me here and as long as you will have me here, I want to be here, too. If it is God’s will and plan, I want to finish my ministry exactly where I started, right here at Forest Baptist Church.

Proud to Serve Jesus As Your Undershepherd,

Now let me be clear. I have said, “I have every intention.” The Proverbs tell us that

“The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” (16:9)

God directed my steps here. He may also direct my steps away from here, too. None of us knows what tomorrow holds. We can make plans, but God may have different ones. If God’s plans do include us ever leaving here, I will be obedient to His calling. However, He may need to plan on igniting another burning bush or sending me a talking donkey to convince me. Yes, wherever He leads, I’ll go…albeit reluctantly.

Truth be told, Rebecca and I could see ourselves retiring to the mission field one day. Notice I did not say retiring “from” but retiring “to.” I would rather burn out for Jesus, than rust out. But, who knows? Only God does. I’ll leave the future in His wise, good, and sovereign hands. In the mean time, I’m happy to recommit myself 110% to serving FBC with all that I have here and now.

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again: I hope God allows me to die as the pastor of Forest Baptist Church…just not anytime soon. 😉