I was briefly distracted this morning by our church's list of Pastors-- the succession of Pastors through the 173-year history of Hickory Withe Presbyterian Church. If you haven't taken the time to look through this list, you should; it's a fascinating list of men.
I am the 28th Pastor of Hickory Withe Presbyterian Church. Of the remaining 28, 22 of them served the church for less than five years, and three more served for right around five years. Only three Pastors in 172 years have served this church for more than five years.
One of these men is my new hero: Pastor S. S. (Scott) Gill served Hickory Withe Presbyterian Church for 44 years, 2 and a half months, from 1861-1905. Noticing those dates, I'm struck by the fact that, in his first year of ministry, Rev. Gill would have begun shepherding his flock through the difficulties of four years of the War between the States. Following that, he pastored them for another 40 years-- a simply astounding tenure in our day, and from the looks of the aforementioned list, an impressive tenure in his day as well.
I heard mega-church Pastor Rick Warren comment recently that, in his preparation for ministry, he contacted the 100 largest churches in the U.S. and asked them, "what makes a church healthy?" (Whether you agree or disagree with Pastor Warren's choice of source for this information, I hope you'll agree it's an interesting perspective to pursue.) One thing emerged from them: in all of these churches, the Pastor had been there for a long time. Thus, Pastor Warren began to pray specifically about his pastoral call: "Lord, I'll go anywhere you want, as long as you take me there for life." He and his wife Kaye said that, when they went to plant Saddleback Church, they were 25 years old and made a 40-year commitment to that area.
Marcie and I have long hoped for the same thing: that we might move only once after seminary. While we're barely four months into this pastorate-- let alone 40 years or more!-- and I still face ordination trials (tomorrow, by the way), I'm renewed in my desire for that by the example of Scott Gill.