Text of Bob and Karen's Announcement of Retirement - September 10, 2023

"Today, I want to take a few minutes and talk with you about shepherds and sheep, about Jesus the Good Shepherd and about my role as an under-shepherd of Jesus and the Lead Pastor of First Baptist Church At The Villages.

First, a Biblical context.

In the Gospel of John, the tenth chapter, Jesus describes himself as a shepherd and his followers as sheep.  In that relationship:  The shepherd knows the sheep and the sheep know their shepherd; The shepherd calls his sheep by name; The sheep listen to the shepherd’s voice and follow him because they know his voice.

The Apostle Peter, who heard Jesus describe this relationship between shepherd and sheep, uses it to encourage Pastors to be shepherds of the flock that is under their care, watching over them and being an example to them, as under-shepherds of the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

Now, about my role as an under-shepherd of Jesus and the Lead Pastor of FBCATV.
As your spiritual shepherd, I count it a privilege to know you, care for you, watch over you, and be an example to you—like a shepherd does with sheep and like Jesus does with us—serving you as an under-shepherd of the Great Shepherd of the sheep, Jesus Christ.

Three years ago, upon my turning 60, Karen and I began earnestly seeking God’s direction concerning pastoral succession.  We have been praying and continue to pray specifically about “finishing well” and who God would bring to lead and shepherd this flock of His people when I retire.  During that time, our experience with cancer became a part, but only a part, of those prayers.  Additionally, we expanded those prayers to include a look to the future of FBCATV and its next season of ministry, its second 20 years.  Together, these realities have heightened our focus on “finishing well” and our sense that this is the time to begin the process of searching for the next Lead Pastor of FBCATV.
If the Lord wills, my “last day” as your Lead Pastor will be when this process is completed.  God knows all things.  He knows the end date of all our lives—and everything that will happen between now and then.  It is my prayerful conviction that I will not leave you without a new shepherd.  Thus, there is no set end date—just a defined point of completion.

Karen and I shared this news with the church’s Executive Committee in April of this year.  In response, they have selected a consulting firm that specializes in church pastoral staff hiring to assist in the process.  Subsequently, the Executive Committee has completed a “Readiness Assessment” and received a detailed “Succession Planning Report.”  That report outlines three broad phases of this process:

  • First, Preparation.  This includes informing the church, as I am today, and then, the formation of a Lead Pastor Search Team.  This phase will continue through the end of this year with the congregation voting on the membership of the Search Team.

  • Second, Lead Pastor Search.  Launching in January of next year, it is anticipated that the search will take about six months.  This effort will be assisted by our consultant who will meet with many of you in small group settings.  It includes the entire congregation seeking God’s will in the selection of FBCATV’s next Lead Pastor and will conclude when that person is called by congregational vote.

  • Third, Transition.  Once the new Lead Pastor begins his ministry, there will be an “overlap” of about six months when I will work alongside the new Lead Pastor.  To some, this may be a new approach. But I believe it is the best approach to ensure continuity of ministry.  It will also enable me to effectively “pass the baton” of spiritual leadership.

In just a few moments, as you are leaving the Worship Center, our Deacons will be distributing to each of you a brochure that overviews this process and outlines each of these phases.

But, before that, I need to emphasize several important points.

     1. This is our church family’s top priority.  From now until the point of completion, we need everyone engaged in all aspects of this process: Praying—fervently and continuously—and Participating—in the life and mission of Jesus Christ and His church—Glorifying God, Engaging People, and Being Church.  Thus, it will not only be “Church as Usual,” but it will be “Church Better Than Usual!”

     2. Communication will be thorough and timely.  Trust is vital in this process and thorough and timely communication will aid that tremendously.  In addition to the brochure, you will be handed as you leave today, a video of this announcement will be posted on the church’s website at the close of today’s worship.  A page on the website will also go live at that time with details, timelines, and FAQ’s.

     3. God knows who He has determined will be the next Lead Pastor of FBCATV.  He knew that before the creation of the world.  Our goal in this search process is to discern God’s will and move with Him to realize the accomplishment of it.
     4. The future of FBCATV is bright—brighter than ever.  Countless times, at some of our most challenging moments over the past 17 years, I have said, “The best is yet to come!”  I’ve always believed that.  At this point, I believe it more than ever.  I am so excited about what the church’s second 20 years will be like.  I am so excited to welcome the next Lead Pastor whom God will use to bring His vision for this His church to fruition, all to His glory.
I wish I could have shared this news with each of you personally.  But over the next few weeks I hope to have the opportunity to talk with each of you and assure you of my and Karen’s love for you and our commitment to walk with you until this process is complete.

I close with these words from the Apostle Paul’s letter to his dearly loved Philippian church:

'I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you since I have you in my heart and all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God (Philippians 1:3-9).'"