Reflections on 15 years of revitalization at my church
The first five years were brutal. There were three different movements to get me fired. In the midst of all the hostility and adversity, God was still building his church.
September 9 marked the completion of 15 years as Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY (2003–2018). Many of you know my story. So then you can imagine I have spent a great deal of time reflecting in recent days on all God has done in me and our church for the last decade and a half.
My reflections are best summarized by breaking up my time at our church into three time periods: Surviving, Thriving, and Fixing.
Surviving (First five years)
The first five years were brutal. There were three different movements to get me fired. In the midst of all the hostility and adversity, God was still building his church. He was teaching me some of the most valuable lessons I would later learn about ministry. I preached waiting for the seeds of the word to find good soil. I pastored this flock with the intent to win their love and trust. I struggled. I tried to hold on to my family. I made mistakes. I almost left. But we survived.
For more info on the first five years at the church, watch this video.
Thriving (Next five years)
After surviving the third firing attempt that almost split the church and harm my health, the ship just seemed to turn after that. Some of the most significant leaders of our church who are still serving now came to the church that next year. My enemies in those early years began to soften towards me and we began to make peace with one another.
We moved to a plurality of pastors. We finally achieved an accurate membership role. We saw some conversions and refugees joining the church. We found our budget in the black for the first time in many years. And we raised up and sent missionaries and pastors around the world. In these years, we thrived.
Fixing (Last five years)
These last five years have brought new challenges. One of the reasons pastors often don’t stay 10 years in one church is that you can no longer blame the previous pastor for the problems. This season pressed me to take a long, honest, and painful look at how not just my strengths as a leader helped the church, but how my weaknesses harmed the church. This has been a humbling, but important season of self-reflection and evaluation of our church to then try to begin to fix what I broke. This was true for the church as well as for my family.
With God’s grace and strength, I feel I have been able to make some important progress in addressing issues in both my church and family, but it has been hard and painful. I have been reminded of the gift of close friendships and skilled counselors necessary to do hard, but essential personal soul work as a pastor to grow in grace and sanctification. As a result, I feel we sit at a better place of maturity and health now than ever before.
Thankfully, there are many unique and powerful evidences of grace in our church from the last five years. I intend to built on these encouragements as we move into the fourth round of what has become blocks of five-year seasons of ministry for me. And I am also encouraged and very thankful by God’s work in my marriage and family throughout it.
Next five years
Pastoring this church has been one of the greatest joys of my life. God has been so kind to me to allow me these years with a very special group of God’s sheep whom I believe I continue to grow in love for every day. Therefore, I move forward confident that our sovereign and good God will be at work these next five years in the same way he has undeniably been at work these past 15 years.