Next week will be my last Positively Speaking newspaper column. I’ve cranked them out weekly for nearly 26 years (with quite a few re-runs along the way) but now it’s time to move on to a new chapter.
This is a bitter-sweet season in my life as March 12 will be my last Sunday as pastor of Hayward Wesleyan Church.
No, I am not retiring. I have accepted the invitation to join the faculty of Southern Wesleyan University in Central, South Carolina to prepare the next generation of pastors. By doing this, I’m multiplying my influence far beyond a local context. Southern Wesleyan University is a thriving Christian liberal arts college with around 800 students on campus and almost a thousand adult/non-traditional students. The campus is beautiful; the faculty engaging; and the students are a delight.
My title will be Professor of Discipleship, Multiplication and Renewal. Besides teaching a couple of traditional courses on campus, and I hope some new courses online, my new role includes travel, speaking, connecting and writing. Most weekends, you’ll find me conducting renewal services at churches across the country. In the summer, I’ll speak at camps, conferences and other venues, and write some books.
A significant part of the job is helping energize the SWU Religion Division, developing new curriculum to prepare ministers for effectiveness and excellence. I’ll teach my students how to be a pastor for a whole community (rather than just their congregation), how to start new churches, punch holes in the darkness, and serve in the overflow of holy love to transform the world. We’ll explore how to provide great training for international pastors, as well as non-traditional students in America.
I will also launch and lead a Center for Clergy and Church Renewal, to encourage pastors and congregations of all denominations. By providing retreats, seminars, online resources, and a listening ear, we will support weary shepherds on the front lines of ministry, helping them flourish again.
As my new position begins July 1. I’m taking a Sabbatical from March 13 until then. This gift of time without a heavy load of pastoral responsibility is such a blessing to me. It provides relaxed, creative space for me to dream and for my soul to breathe.
I’d like to express my deepest thanks to The Sawyer County Record for the opportunity to write each week for a quarter of a century, and to all my faithful readers, whose comments, notes and letters to the editor have been a great blessing.
Hayward is such a special place with beautiful people. I cannot imagine a better community to raise my family and learn what being a pastor is all about. Thank you for accepting Cathy and me, and for loving us and our kids so well. (Enough of that mushy stuff for now — I’ll write my thank you column next week!)
Some have asked if I will compile a few columns in a book. This is a daunting task, as my writing is not collected in any organized fashion. A couple of friends have volunteered to help me with this project — so we’ll have to see what develops. We will keep you posted.