I am at the end of my first month as senior pastor and what an incredible ride it has been. Since being voted as Senior Pastor of Apollo Baptist Church in Glendale, Arizona on August 6 my wife and I have sold our home in Mesa, purchased a new home in Glendale, and have met so many precious church members with whom we can’t wait to continue to fight the good fight.

There are countless things to write about being a new pastor, but they can be tabled for a later time because something momentous is about to happen at Apollo this weekend. After lovingly providing me with invaluable knowledge and guidance in my first month as senior pastor, Apollo’s former pastor of 36 years will officially retire this Sunday. The following are five ways Dr. Jim Porter has prepared his church for the next pastor:

#1 Addicting the congregation to Christ-centered, expositional preaching of the Bible.

Jim Porter did not retire because he couldn’t preach. He didn’t retire because he wasn’t relevant or too old. He retired because God told him it was time to use leverage his influence to appoint a new leader. Listening to his past sermons excited me because he does exactly what I do with the Bible. He reads it verse by verse, explains it, tells the people how it relates to Jesus, and calls the listeners to respond. It’s hard for a church to have a bad leader when they're taught what the Bible says.

#2 Establishing a dynamic care ministry.

One of the reasons God kept Jim Porter at Apollo for so long is his heart to care for those who are hurting, sick, or homebound. I have personally gone with him on his hospital and home visits. It was invaluable for me as an inexperienced senior pastor to watch him be Jesus to saints whose lives are either at stake and/or in their final stages.

#3 Leading the church in a decision to eventually appoint multiple elders to lead it.

For the last few years, God has really put it on my heart to pastor with a group of elders that help me lead the church. That is not how Baptist churches have historically been run, so I did not expect to be able to do that right away at a church with the long history of Apollo. However, by the first question of my interview I found out that Pastor Jim had already been discussing this with the congregation and they fully expected the new pastor to have a conviction that God had already put on my heart!

#4 Loving me and my family.

From the time they met us, Pastor Jim and his wife Frances have loved my wife and kids. My daughter, Naima, believes Ms. Frances is the greatest person on earth. They helped us pack at our old house. They helped us move in to the new one. They have hosted us in their home. We even went to a pastors and wives retreat together!

#5 Equipping me and my gifts.

From the very first time he heard a recording of me preaching, this 66 year-old man has not stopped encouraging me. He made sure that when I spoke the words of God I could be confident that other Godly men would respond. He has protected me from poor decisions and defended me in unpopular decisions. He has in all things sought to support my vision for the church and get everyone on board.

 

You may notice that two of the things on this list he did after I was chosen as the next senior pastor, but three of them were done long before he even knew he was retiring. In William Vanderbluemen's book "Next: Pastoral Succession That Works" he states that in a lot of ways every pastor is an interim pastor. Every pastor is going to leave some day and all the decisions made prior to that moment will have consequences for that moment. Jim Porter has obeyed the Lord’s call for retirement and to shepherd the church in the next generation of leadership. One day it will be my time to do the same. For now, it is my time to ride the waves of the Lord's favor because of the faithfulness of others. One day it will be my turn to pass the baton and I pray I will do so as well as the man before me.