So this Sunday will mark the completion of my 16th year as pastor of Trinity Lutheran, Pembroke Pines. Technically, August 1st will mark 16 years according to the paperwork, but I started a day early because I just couldn't wait any longer to get started. Trinity has been my only congregational call. This is somewhat unusual, to serve 16 years (and counting) in one's first call, at least in the Lutheran tradition. When I began my youngest son was one year old. Now I have an AARP card and he is rolling into his final year of high school. In another year I will have served as long as Trinity's longest serving pastor.
The years have flown by.
I have been privileged by God to walk with many people over these years. I have surely disappointed some, encouraged others, and by and large been myself and given myself, and made my mistakes and learned from them [hopefully] and pushed boundaries and comfort zones and sought to be faithful in the running the race set before me. At my worst I was arrogant and defensive and failed to listen to wiser counsel. My best is left for others to judge. Why this call works so well and for so long, I think, is the willingness of so many to take risks for the sake of the gospel. To seek what the Holy Spirit is up to and to embrace that with all of their hearts and minds and strength. As pastor I have tried to nurture this and encourage this and serve this vision.
Once I thought my "job" was to put the congregation on my back and climb Mt Zion through my own strength and ideas of what church could/should be. I was surely not alone among pastors in such thinking. At some point the living out of that kind of pastoring will break you, body and soul.
And having broke, I hope that I am better for it. I'm fairly certain years of therapy and counseling and medication have not been wasted on me. I have, on the advice of my psychiatrist, blogged the last few years of my journey at https://keithandrewspencer.wordpress.com/.
I am in awe of all that God has allowed me to witness and experience so far in this call: the noisy and boisterous joys, the quiet moments of faith, the challenges, seeing Christ in the most unexpected places, blessing upon blessing, even in the pain and occasional disappointment and heartaches. In all of it I have discovered more of who I am, and moreover, who I am in and through Christ and who Christ is for the sake of the world.
And I have learned it all with you.
For this, for the past sixteen years, for the future as God so wills, thank you.
Truly, thank you.
Ever in Christ,