Five years ago today I began my tenure as your pastor. Having spent my ministry life in Florida, the thought of moving to South Carolina never crossed my mind. My expectation was to remain in my home state. It has become clear that the plans of the Lord are far better than the plans of man. The Marine Corps brought me to Port Royal back in 1994. I had no idea this church existed. I passed it every day but never noticed it. This is because I was not a Christian, much less a pastor in those days. What a difference fifteen years can make. Being able to come back to a place that Terri and I enjoyed, now as a pastor, has been a tremendous blessing. The manner in which you embraced me and my family has been at times beyond words. As a congregation you have been very loving and encouraging. The past five years have been filled with highs and lows, good and bad, times of celebration and times of mourning. There is a great deal more in my heart that I can’t express with words. Let me just say a few words of thanks and then let you know how I am praying for you.
1. Thank you for giving me the freedom to preach God’s Word. As a minister of the gospel, I am called to share the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). At times, God’s Word is not easy to hear or handle. You have never asked me to soften, back off, or water-down God’s message. I appreciate being able to carry out my calling among you while honoring God with a clear presentation of Scripture.
2. Thank you for your willingness to accept all people into the fellowship. This can never be said enough. God has called us to reach all people. Thank you for embracing an ethnically and socially diverse community. There are churches that say, by word or action, that only certain types and colors of people are allowed and wanted. I thank my God every day that you celebrate the worth of every individual. You give me the confidence to go into our community, knock on any door, and know that whoever answers will be welcome. I’ve never had that confidence before.
3. Thank you for loving my family. The lives of a pastor’s wife and child are unique. It is lonely and frustrating at times. They must be willing to take a back seat to the entire congregation and share me with everyone else. Thank you for being a blessing to Terri and Jordan. Thank you for not putting unusually high and unfair expectations on them. Thank you for encouraging and allowing me to take the necessary time to foster these critical relationships. Thank you for taking care of my family emotionally, spiritually, and financially. I would like to especially thank you for allowing me the time to be with my dad when while he was sick. How you ministered to my family at this death is something that will live with me for the rest of my life.
4. Thank you for trusting me. From the beginning, you have trusted me. You have allowed me to lead as I have been led. I have asked a great deal from you in five years. I have asked you trust and love each other during a difficult time. I have asked you to love your neighbor as yourself. I have asked you to be increasingly active in reaching our community. I have asked you to give more to missions. Each time you have responded beautifully. Does this mean I have always gotten it right? Absolutely not. Still you trusted me. I understand that I am a steward of your trust. My prayer is that I always do right by the Lord and you.
The Apostle Paul, speaking to the Philippian Christians, wrote, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy.” Phil 1:3-4. I want you to know that I have been praying for all of you long before I met you. You have heard me say before that if you knew how I prayed for you that it would certainly surprise you. I pray big things for you because we serve a big God.
1. I pray that you always feel a little unsettled. I believe contentment and comfort are twin enemies of the gospel. I pray that you are always looking ahead. This is where your best days are. I pray that you always look for new opportunities to minister in Jesus’ name. Changing cultures will require new means to communicate the gospel. I pray that you are never satisfied with your prayer life. I pray that you are never satisfied with your missions work. I pray that there is always a sense of longing and yearning to stretch your faith, trusting that “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”.
2. I pray that your testimony will precede you. In writing to the Thessalonian Christians, Paul, speaking about their faith, said “Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.” This is what I desire for you. I pray that when you introduce yourself and the gospel, people say, “We’ve heard of you and your Lord.”
3. I pray that you would be missed. You have heard me tell you throughout these five years that is important that you grow where God has planted you. I don’t mean that as some silly cliché. You are in the location you are for a reason. The people in our community are our responsibility. I pray that your involvement in, influence over, love for, and dedication to the town of Port Royal would run so deep that if something were to happen to the church that the community would minister to you.
I want to close by saying how privileged I feel to be your pastor. I can’t imagine being anywhere else. To be honest, it has been a quick five years. I did not write this letter to solicit praise or thanks. Instead, I wrote it to express my love and appreciation for you as my church family. I am excited about the future and can’t wait to see how the Lord uses you in the years to come.