Last Sunday, August 29, 2010, was the hardest day of my life. Even when my father made me promise that I would preach his funeral (which I did—twice: once in Indiana where he lived, and again in Florida where I live and where he is buried), that was not as difficult and gut wrenching as what I had to do last Sunday.
Last Sunday, I retired as the pastor of the church that my wife and I founded 35 years ago: the Crossroad Baptist Church of Pensacola, Florida.
Think of it: all of my adult life (after college) has been spent pastoring this wonderful congregation. And the people that I spoke to this past Sunday evening are, without a doubt, the finest group of people I have ever known. They are my friends. Many of them I had led to Christ, or were saved under my preaching. Some have stood with me for twenty years; some for over thirty years.
My vocabulary is too limited to express the love and appreciation I have for these wonderful people! They stood by me through thick and thin. Even when God opened the door for me to run for President of the United States on the Constitution Party ticket, they stood by me. They stood by me when enemies attacked me; they stood by me when friends forsook me.
And last Sunday evening, I had to tell them that, after 35 years as their shepherd, God had led me to leave them.
I can tell you, tears flowed like rivers; and I believe my family and I cried more than anyone.
When I was 18 years old, I told the Lord that I would do anything He wanted me to do; I would be anything He wanted me to be; and I would go anywhere He wanted me to go. And I mean that today as much as I did then. Therefore, the only thing that could move me from the pulpit of Crossroad Church was a clear and definite call and leading from God. 35 years ago, that call led my wife and me to Pensacola, Florida. Today that call has led us to the Flathead Valley of Montana, some 2,500 miles away.
Therefore, within the next few weeks, my entire family will be moving to the Kalispell area of the great State of Montana. By my family, I mean my wife and I, my daughter and her husband and their 3 children, my oldest son and his wife and their 3 boys, my youngest son and his wife and their one child, and my wife’s mother and her husband. That’s 5 families and 17 people.
Yes, my grown children and their spouses have felt the same calling. We are not only a family; we are a team. And we are headed to Montana.