I have been the Senior Pastor of Fellowship for 49 years. Last Sunday, I preached my last sermon as Senior Pastor.
Paul writes to his disciple Timothy:
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and exhort, with great patience and instruction. 2 Timothy 4:2
In seminary, my mentor, Dr. Lewis Foster, gave his version of this passage when he said, “Every time I read this passage it is like Paul talking to me personally. His words come right through the page to remind me that I am to be faithful in my preaching of the Logos (the Word), and that I need to be faithful both ‘when I have opportunity or feel like it’ (in season) and even when ‘times are difficult, and I don’t feel like it’ (out of season).”
I have remembered those words almost every time before I’ve preached. Last weekend ended 49 years of giving messages as the Senior Pastor of Fellowship.
Being honest, I realized it would be “The Last Sermon” as I was sitting in the back of the auditorium right before I spoke. My thoughts: “Wow, my last sermon. Let me estimate how many sermons. Forty-nine years times an average of 50 messages a year… probably around 3,000! (Rounded up slightly for those who can actually multiply.)
This week a good friend posted the following message on Facebook:
Yesterday was a very monumental day for Fellowship Christian Church. Our senior pastor preached his last message as Senior Pastor. Next week he will be passing the torch to Jeremy Hudson.
As time has gone by since yesterday afternoon, I have had more of an opportunity to grasp the magnitude of it. I keep going over how he just humbly and gracefully exited the stage after his sermon. No real big send off. Just like it was any other Sunday.
Pastor Grant Edwards, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being such a positive role model for Springfield, for all of these years! You have touched countless lives with your obedience to the Lord, with First Steps, the missions in the Philippines and Russia and Springfield and so much more.
I love your great faith and what your prayer life looks like. Thank you for always encouraging us to draw closer to our creator and to have a real relationship with him.
Thank you! I do not want to be self-congratulatory, but the above statement is one of the kindest things ever said about or to me. If I could have written the words 49 years ago summarizing my ministry, it would have been her statement:
… gracefully exited the stage after his sermon. No real big send off. Just like any other Sunday.
Nobody noticed it was The Last Sermon, and would not have noticed if I had not realized what was happening and mentioned it at the very end of the message… after the last service on Sunday.
I have considered the kind statement posted on Facebook, and the words of Dr. Foster and am thinking:
I didn’t want to exit with great fanfare.
It’s not about me, it is about The Word, preached faithfully when I felt like it and when I didn’t feel good about the message… even preaching dreadful sermons… but depending on The Word to speak.
Preaching is honoring Jesus.
It’s not my final sermon at Fellowship, only The Last Sermon as Senior Pastor. Let’s don’t get too maudlin.
Many have asked, “What are you going to do in retirement?” I look at my life now as stop and start. Stopping as the Senior Pastor and organizational leader of Fellowship but continuing as Founding Pastor.
I have always wanted to write more often and with researched depth. Hard to do with the organizational activities of being a Senior Pastor.
I consider my job now to tell others who are preaching, or those just sharing the message to friends, what Dr. Foster taught me… that the Apostle Paul is reaching out from 2,000 years ago, telling you to be faithful… even when it is inconvenient… to the Logos… the Word.