You know how they say that the older you get the faster the years go by? I feel that today. 26 years ago, Jan and I started as a ministry team at Foothills Bible Church. It seems like yesterday. I never dreamed we would stay in the same church this long. I think we beat average pastoral tenure by a few years. ;-)
Our first experience as Senior Pastor and wife was in Michigan. That's home for both of us. God gave us an amazing opportunity there for seven years. I was 25 years old and had a lot to learn. The church was in a suburb of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was quite traditional. They took a risk on me, as I was still in seminary. In the early years there, we had such fun, I couldn't imagine ever leaving. The best part of that church was the people. The worst part of that church was the people.
What I mean is that we formed remarkable relationships in that community. Jan and I made great friends, many who remain to this day. Some of you will probably read this. You know who you are! You brought us unspeakable joy. Thank you! We also had some tough adversaries there. They brought unspeakable pain. I can't imagine they are reading this.
When it became clear that it was time to move on, we initially "dated" Foothills Bible Church, but the first time around, they said no to a "marriage." God had some work to do on me. He also had some work to do on the church. We learned such important lessons in 1982-84. And in 1985, God said, "OK, it's time for you to go to Foothills now."
We have never looked back. Sure, there were times I wanted to leave. But no one called. And then, there were times we wanted to stay, and inquiries came from three churches at the same time. Bottom line, I always went back to the calling I felt in 1985 and resolved that unless it was as clear as that, Foothills was where God wanted us. And so, we stayed.
I think of all the souls saved, people baptized, babies dedicated, marriages performed, hospitals visited, and funerals conducted. I think of missionaries supported, members received, and buildings built. I see the faces of hundreds of staff members who have served for varying lengths of time. I feel the support of scores of elders and deacons who faithfully served multiple terms of service to guide the church family. My head swims as I recall our initial annual church budget of $165,000 which has grown to over $3,5oo,ooo today. From a little building on Belleview Avenue, we were blessed to move into huge facilities on 38 acres back in 1997. Quite a journey over the past 26 years.
I'm not living in the past, but it doesn't hurt to look back. God made Israel do it all the time. He kept reminding them of His faithfulness to them. Looking back can sometimes help you move ahead. So as Jan and I celebrate 26 years at FBC today, I look back with gratitude to God. In fact, I've compiled a "Top Ten Reasons Why I'm Thankful for 26 Years at FBC" - list.
1. God made it all possible and has never failed me - if there's any glory, He gets it!
2. My dear wife, Jan, supported me every step of the way...and still is!
3. Thousands responded to the Gospel and said yes to Jesus here.
4. People here really want to know what the Bible says.
5. This is the most giving church I've ever known.
6. In my book, decision-making with an Elder team tops congregational rule.
7. Though staff members come and go, God sent us several "keepers."
8. This isn't a "me" church, it's a "we" church.
9. The pain here continues to shape me into the man God wants me to be.
10. Location, location, location - God wants me in Colorado, and so do I!
No one knows what the future holds, but this 26 year journey at FBC has been a remarkable portion of the legacy of my ministerial life and calling. Thank you, Lord!