For the past several years I have had the joy of replanting a dying church while investing in the lives of young leaders. I have grown to love the young elders as my own sons, the elders in this photo and the other young elders that have moved on to plant churches or relocated to other cities. It has been said great movements of God seldom begin with men my age but they can be quenched by men my age. It has been my goal to discover, develop and deploy young leaders in our church, to plant churches and to rePlant churches.
Recently our church called Adam Mitchell to be our Associate lead pastor. Adam is a gifted and called young leader with a proven track record of pastoral care and leadership. Additionally our denomination has increasingly been asking me to spend more and more time helping respond to the crisis of dying churches in North America.
In recent weeks God has made clear both His desire for Wornall and His desire for me. I am convinced God would have me pass the reigns of leadership to the next generation and spend the fourth quarter of my life focused on helping replant dying churches.
One of the many causes of declining churches are pastors who lack the self awareness and spiritual insight to know when its time to pass the mantle to the next generation. I want to model for my boomer generation that the greatest thing we may do for our church might be to empower and engage the next leader rather then to hang on….and on…. and on. Stay if God makes it clear for you to stay. But NEVER stay because it meets a need in your life to be the pastor. We play the fourth quarter with a different passion and focus than we played the first three. As boomers we need to discover how God would have us play our fourth quarter and embrace the change.
With all of that said here is what I shared with the church that I love today:
Serving the gathered church at Wornall Road has been my greatest joy in my 35 years of ministry. Serving the gathered church at Wornall Road has been used by God to shape and mold my life in a way that I could never have imagined. Serving the gathered church at Wornall Road has provided the deepest friendships I have ever known. Nothing I have done before nor anything I will do after can compare in scope and impact to my service with you.
As our Lord has led us to replant this church we have witnessed many amazing blessings. We have helped to launch 10 new churches. We have served our schools, our community and the most vulnerable among us with passion and effectiveness. We have had a front row seat to witness the rebirth of a dying church. We are having an impact on the narrative of dying churches in North America.
About two years ago Kevin Ezell the President of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board contacted me to learn about our replant story. 4000 churches close each year in North America, 1000 of those are Southern Baptist churches. Since that first phone call from Kevin Ezell, Wornall has generously shared me with North America. I have led conferences attended by great numbers of people, I have written articles and strategy papers for our mission leadership. I have helped design a national strategy to replant dying churches. I have coached dozens of dying churches and even more pastors seeking to replant churches. I have taught seminary courses on replanting. And our ministry partner the North American Mission Board has provided paid interns to serve among us so that Wornall could become a Legacy church replanting center.
In recent weeks the North American Mission Board has been asking me to devout an ever increasing amount of time to the cause of replanting churches. After a I led a meeting in Atlanta for the North American Mission Board at the end of August where we trained 5 new replant coaches, the President ask me to come to work full time with them. I have been ask to become the National Strategy leader for Legacy Replanting for Southern Baptist. I have been in long and detail discussion about this with our pastor/leaders. Jill and I have prayed and discussed this as well. Additionally our Administrative team has been involved in the process. And I have had many long conversations with our associate lead pastor Adam concerning my future and his.
I am confident that God is calling me to lead this national initiative. I am confident that this call is also an affirmation of the work you have done and are doing at Wornall Road. I have accepted this call and I will resign my duties as your lead pastor. Jill and I will still call Wornall Road our church home. We look forward to remaining a part of this family that means so very much to our lives. Going forward I will be focused on helping stem the tide of dying churches across North America. I would ask that Wornall Road embrace my continued ministry to lead in replanting of churches as an extension of your ministry.
I can also commend to you with full confidence the recommendation of both your pastor/leaders and your administrative team to call Adam Mitchell as your lead pastor. You will have the opportunity to call Adam to this position at your regularly scheduled annual members meeting Sunday evening Oct. 19, 2014. I have witnessed the ministry of Adam and his wife April among you for the past year and my confidence to embark on my new mission has been made even clearer by my confidence in Adam’s calling and ability to serve as your lead pastor. I am fully confident that Adam will lead you even greater ministry than I was ever able to lead you.
Jill and I love each of you. We cherish every moment we spent serving you, it was a great honor and an amazing joy. We aren’t leaving our church just passing the mantle to the next generation.