I don’t know the average length of time a pastor stays at a church these days. I remember reading David Wells’ excellent 1993 book No Place For Truth: Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology, in which he wrote that it was about three years at that time. I’ve read some statistics indicating that by 2016 the average tenure for a pastor had increased to about six years. What if I were to tell you that my lead pastor has been faithfully serving our church for 25 years? That is almost unheard of these days, and quite a blessing to our church. Just last Sunday our congregation celebrated that milestone, thanking God for His faithfulness and that of His servant Pastor Bob Smart and his wife Karen.
My wife Tammy and I started attending our church in December, 1994, the year after Pastor Smart began serving there. We were a very small church at the time, with about 80 in attendance each Sunday. We met in rental property in a business park that included a rock radio station on the floor above us. In fact, a large boom box that the radio station used at events was parked in the parking lot that we shared. As you can imagine, that probably raised some eyebrows of first time visitors to the church.
At that time, Pastor Smart did it all – from wearing a headset to answer the phone (there was no full-time secretary), to emptying dirty diapers out of the nursery, to preaching on Sunday. There were no associate pastors, just a few faithful elders and deacons to help Pastor Smart lead the church. Over the years our church has seen steady growth, resulting in our move to a beautiful new church building in 1999 and the addition of a few associate pastors to help Pastor Smart lead the church.
Pastor Smart, who has encouraged many to pursue seminary education over the years, continued to grow himself, achieving a PhD. He has authored or edited several books, regularly teaches his Identity in Christ material, has taught pastors internationally and gone on a number of missions’ trips. Through it all, for 25 years, he has remained faithful to the local church.
Day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year he has been faithful. Last Sunday was not only our church celebration, giving God thanks for the Smarts, but it also marked another milestone. Pastor Smart preaches through books of the Bible, first a book in the New Testament, then a book in the Old Testament. Back and forth, preaching through all 66 books of the Bible, until this past Sunday when the last sermon, in the last book of the Bible (Nehemiah) that he was preaching through, was preached.
The calling of a pastor is hard. It is not flashy or glamorous, but ordinary, as Michael Horton has written. There are no established hours, and a pastor is always on call, even on their days off. A pastor rejoices with those who rejoice and weeps with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Pastor Smart has faithfully prayed for his people, studied and preached, taught and counseled. His focus has consistently been on Word and prayer. He has preached the word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2) and is worthy of double honor (1 Timothy 5:17).
Pastor Smart is also a very humble man, never wanting the attention on himself, but all glory to be given to his Savior. So that’s how I’ll end, praising God for using His servant for 25 years at our church.
Soli Deo Gloria!