"And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men who will be qualified to teach others." - 2 Timothy 2:2 (NIV)
It has been my conviction for the better part of my adult life that 1) there is no such thing as "retirement" from Christian service, and 2) what is best for the church is of far greater importance than what may be good for me. Applied to my own life, these two points are coming into focus. Let me explain…
In less than two years I will be turning 70 years of age. Currently I am in good health and the prospect of me being able to continue serving Christ for many years ahead seems likely. As our Lord taught his disciples about keeping their "hand to the plow" I cannot currently even imagine ever saying, "I'm done." When death comes knocking on my door THEN I will be "done" but hopefully not until then.
But there is this very big work that our Lord is engaged in: the work of building his church. With every generation of new believers comes a call for a new generation of church leaders. Burning Hearts is now in a very stable and growing state. Those who are older are rightly looking to the younger ones to take their place. And the same goes for the position of Senior Pastor.
And so the decision has been made (and discussed many times at elders' meetings) that a time is soon approaching when I should "hand over the reins" to a younger man. As you may have heard, we have very recently begun to pursue this in a clear way, advertising (ChurchJobs.net) what we are looking for: viz., a fellow age 40 or less, with a solid theological education and appreciation of both Reformed and Baptist theological leanings. As Burning Hearts is both healthy and happy – a rarity among churches, I am sorry to say – I have always believed that when the time came for us to start looking for a new Senior Pastor we would have many applicants.
So here is what this all means…
1. I, Pastor Doug, am not planning on leaving Burning Hearts. Following my "handing over the reins" to another in the fall of 2022, Ruth and I will be, Lord willing, heading off on our long anticipated Walk Across America in early 2023. Once that walk is finished (and assuming we have survived it!), we will be returning to Lancaster. If Burning Hearts is in a strong enough financial position to hire me as a part-time assistant to the new Senior Pastor (and if he desires that), that would be great. But that may not be possible. It is too early to say. But either way, in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, "I'll be back."
2. In searching for this new Senior Pastor we think that it would be ideal if we can make the connection with him within the next year, develop a relationship with him, and then in September or October of next year, bring him on staff. This would mean a few months of overlap between the incoming pastor and me. His full-time leadership position would officially begin January 1, 2023.
One would think that with this rather stretched out hiring timetable, we would have trouble finding anyone interested in waiting that long to begin, but we have already received applications from twelve men (as of this writing) and a couple of these show real promise.
Even though the elders are in agreement on what we see as the ideal candidate, we remain open and flexible in our search. So, if you have anyone you would/could recommend we are open to these recommendations.
This is what is best for Burning Hearts. There is no question in my mind about that. My hand is still to the plow and I have no interest in leaving this field (Burning Hearts), but by the time I reach 70, a much younger man should be able to plow the field faster, better and easier. I will be happy to assist him, warn him about and help him get through some of the rocky places he may face, and even give him a break at times. But it will be what is best. May God bless the future of Burning Hearts Community Church!