All languages have several ways to say “Bye!” “Goodbye” seems rather final. “So long” implies a lengthy separation. “God’s speed” is rarely used anymore, but it suggests danger and the real possibility that one won’t make it back. Then there is “See you later.” But that still implies a period of separation. So what word or phrase fits my transition? I’ll get to that later…
I’m not leaving Pantano, but I am stepping off our staff. On August 1st, I would have celebrated 24 years on staff at Pantano. It has been such an honor to serve this great church for so long. I am blessed. I only hope my years of service have also been a blessing to you and others.
I’m so proud of our church. No church is perfect, but we are very healthy. I love our commitment to being kingdom-centered, not church-centered. I love how we are making a difference. I love our faithfulness to Jesus and his Word. I love our church.
So this is my final blog. I started this blog one year before becoming the Lead Pastor of Pantano 15 years ago – that was 2006 (Sixteen years of blogs!). Back then, very few folks even did a blog. I started it as a way to stay connected weekly. I’ve shared some personal struggles and insights I’ve had on scripture or from life and tried to communicate about what was happening at Pantano. One of my favorite blogs was back in 2013 when I talked about killing cockroaches in my in-law’s shower – you can read it here. As I start my sabbatical break, I’ll also take a break from my weekly blogging.
Pantano is still our home church. We love our church. Jolene and I will still be around when we are in town and we’ll be actively involved. Starting in January 2023, I’ll have a limited role in serving our staff and church while I figure out my next season of ministry and sources of income. I’m excited for what God has for me.
So what phrase do I use in this parting? How about “I’m off!” Maybe that’s the best way to describe this season of my life. I’m not retiring. But “I’m off” to a new focus in ministry. I’ll still be active in fulfilling our mission as a church – “Loving people to Jesus; launching passionate people to make a difference.” So “goodbye” just doesn’t seem appropriate.
I’d like to finish my final blog with some heartfelt thank yous. I’m so grateful for Roger Blumenthal. It’s been so amazing to serve together these last 18 years. Thank you for your wisdom, friendship, long hours of work, and for your support.
I’m grateful for an amazing staff. You are the best! I’m so proud of your maturity, wisdom, skill, and commitment to Jesus and his church.
I’m grateful for our elders. Thank you for being a great “boss” all these years and for your love, friendship, and support. Thank you for leading our church so well.
Finally, thank you, Pantano. I’ve already said it above, but I feel the need to say it again and again – I love you so much! We’ve lived life together. We’ve served together. We’ve been through the good times and hard times. We’ve made a difference… together!
So, I’m off with deep and profound gratitude.
I want to thank you all for the kind words and ways you honored Jolene and me on Sunday during Pantano’s 60th anniversary. We are so grateful to be a part of a church that has loved us so well. We are blessed!
Sunday I announced that I’ll be ending my active time on our church staff at the end of May. So what’s next for me? I’m reminded that the Bible tells us that none of us know the future – Since no one knows the future, who can tell someone else what is to come? (Ecclesiastes 8:7). Those are wise words for sure. While we can’t know the future for sure, that doesn’t mean we don’t plan and prepare for what’s next, as long as we remember that we don’t control the future. I’m trusting God to lead us into whatever our next will be.
I don’t actually see “retirement” as a biblical principle. It’s like I tell our Seniors when I meet with them – If you’re not dead, you’re not done. Well, I’m not dead, so I’m not done in ministry. I’m just entering a season where my ministry will have a different focus and pace.
Jolene and I did a life plan over a year ago. There were two key conclusions that we took away from that experience; First, in this next season, I want to slow down and create a lifestyle where there’s less stress and pressure. For 45 years, I’ve been in leadership roles with lots of pressure: Dean of Students, Missionary, and Pastor.
Second, I want to use my 45 years of experience to mentor, coach, and encourage other pastors and leaders. I really resonate with Donald Miller’s take on stories. He says every great story has a victim, a villain, a hero on a mission, and a guide. For 45 years, I’ve played the part of the “hero” – the one who tries to fix the problems and make things better for everyone. That season is coming to an end.
However, every “hero” has a guide. I’ve had great guides and mentors over the years. In this new season of life, I want to move out of the “hero on a mission” role and more into the “guide” role.
I’ll be invested in helping pastors right here in Tucson. I’ll continue to do some of the things I’ve already been doing in that area. I’ll have time to add a few other things, however, the details of all that are still being worked out. I’m also working with The Ascent Leader and will be coaching a transition cohort (pastors who are just transitioning into the Lead Pastor role). I’ll also be a guide for Trevor and our staff as needed or requested.
Jolene and I are not leaving Pantano. Pantano is our church home. You’ll see us around campus on Sundays. I’m so looking forward to relaxing and enjoying worship and absorbing the teaching while not having to lead and be concerned about the logistics.
Jolene and I will be on sabbatical until the end of the year. We’ll be traveling some and enjoying time with our granddaughters. After 45 years of ministry, I’m ready for a less busy season. When the new year begins, I’ll be able to serve our staff, and I’ll teach on occasion as requested.
Jolene and I are so excited and looking forward to our “next.” We enter this season without any fear or concerns. Our God has been faithful and has never let us down. He’s the same today as he was yesterday! I can’t wait to see how God will use us in this “next.”
I’m so excited to have Trevor DeVage here this week. It’s starting to feel real! Trevor is Pantano’s 9th Lead Pastor since we started back in 1962. Yes, that is right, this year we are also celebrating our 60th birthday as a church!
You don’t want to miss this Sunday – in person or online. I’ll be formally passing the baton of pastor, oversight, and leadership of our church over to Trevor. And then, Trevor will deliver his first teaching message to our church.
I had the benefit 15 years ago of having an amazing and smooth transition into becoming the Lead Pastor. Tim Coop, my predecessor, handed me the proverbial baton of leading our church. He was so gracious, supportive, and encouraging of me. I knew Tim had my back, and he set me up to succeed. I am forever grateful for him, his role in my life, and the life of our church. It’s my desire to do the very same for Trevor.
If you haven’t picked it up, I’m thrilled that Trevor is my pastor. I trust him. He has a godly character. I so admire his love for lost people. I’ve seen him loving people to Jesus in action. We share the same basic values and beliefs. He loves how we are a church that cares and invests in our community. Trevor checks off all the boxes that were important to me for whoever would succeed me. And it’s a huge plus that we are friends.
It is an absolute honor to have Trevor DeVage succeed me, and I’ll be sharing a bit more about that on Sunday.
Some of you are wondering what’s next for me. Let me provide a friendly reminder – I’m not leaving. Trevor and I see this as a season of transition from now to June. Trevor and I have been discussing my new job description and plan to have it finalized by April. Trevor and his family will move here in June.
I’ve requested a six-month work sabbatical from June to November 2022. Why? There are two main reasons. First, I will have been leading at Pantano for 24 years (in various roles) by that time. I believe I serve Trevor best by being absent from the office and meetings for a time to ensure that staff and our congregation see Trevor in his new role. I won’t be completely gone from our church. You’ll see me on Sundays, and I’ll get to engage in the things Pantano is doing as a participant. I’ll start my new job description in December 2022. As things become clearer, I’ll share more about what I’ll be doing in my next chapter.
The second reason this Sabbatical is important is that while I’m not tired and for sure I’m not done in ministry, I’ve been serving full-time as a pastor for 45 years. I think I ought to take a little break from work! My wife retires from the UofA at the end of February, and we need to have a little freedom to travel a bit, be grandparents or do a few things we just have not had time to do.
So, for now, I want all of our love, support, attention, and honor to be focused on the man God has brought to Pantano. Trevor will lead us into our next season as we continue to love people to Jesus and launch passionate people to make a difference.