In This Town There’s a Church…

This Sunday is Father’s Day. Auspiciously, or ironically, it is also my last Sunday at the church I’ve pastored for 17 years, New life Church in Duncan, British Columbia.

17 years, 7.5 months, to be exact.

I run a gauntlet of emotions: sadness, thankfulness, anxiousness, fretfulness, anticipation, just to name the more obvious ones. All come wheeling toward me without warning. One minute I bask in peace, the next I churn with dread

It’s a weighty thing, to have given nearly two decades of my life to a work that, at 1 PM June 16, I must relinquish entirely. Though I’ve not once doubted the rightness of my decision to leave pastoral ministry in order to teach pastoral ministry, I’ve many times tasted the wild sorrow of that decision.

This Sunday, I deliver my last sermon at the church. I hope I have a calm heart and a clear mind to do it. I hope it’s a word in season, and a word that lingers. I hope it honors God.
I hope it blesses people.

But how do I sum up a ministry of 17 years? On what do note do I end it?

With a verse. An unlikely one. 1 Samuel 9:6:

But the servant replied, “Look, in this town there is a man of God; he is highly respected, and everything he says comes true. Let’s go there now. Perhaps he will tell us what way to take.”

The context: Saul (later to be king of Israel) and his servant are on an errand to find Saul’s father’s stray donkeys. They’re having no luck. It’s worse than a wild goose chase: it’s a stubborn donkey chase. Most of us can relate.

Saul’s freaking out, worried about his father being worried about him. Worrying about other people’s worry is worry squared. So the servant suggests they consult the Prophet-Judge, Samuel. Samuel’s reputation proceeds him. He is known for his godliness, his respectability, his truthfulness, his wisdom. Evidently, he’s also known for his humility and approachability: he’s someone who is not high and mighty that he minds dealing with commonplace practical matters – runaway barnyard animals, and the like. The man of God is no cave-dwelling mystic: he cares about ordinary people and their everyday problems.

With a little tweaking, this verse could serve as compelling vision statement for New Life:

The people of the Cowichan Valley say, “Look, in this town there is a church of God; it is highly respected, and everything they say is true. Let’s go there now. Perhaps they will tell us what way to take.”

In the years I’ve been at New Life, I have watched this church grow into exactly this reputation. I have watched the community turn increasingly to us, asking our help in practical matters, wanting us to speak a word of truth in love, seeking our counsel about what way to take.

With a church like that in town, there’s no telling how many stubborn donkeys will find their way home.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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3 thoughts on “In This Town There’s a Church…

  1. They are so very blessed to have had you as their pastor for all those years. And you them. It is often in the embrace of community that we find our true calling and they obviously have been your community. And your last sermon does indeed fall on an ironic day. Peace be with you.

  2. I am praying for you and your community during this emotional transition–that you are able to be fully present this Sunday, able to sense blessing as much as you bless. Praying that the Holy Spirit makes the rough places plain and gives you joy for those you are leaving, as well as for the place you are entering. Peace and Blessing to you.

  3. Hello Mark,

    My name is Zach Malott, Current pastor at Mescalero Bapist Mission. To jog your memory, I wrote the book review for your book, “Your Church Is Too Safe” which can be read at

    1) I find myself in exactly the same place, however, my last day at my church is July 1.

    2) I can feel you, brother, in terms of the shifting emotions of peace and dread.

    I feel that 1 Sam. 5:6 is an apt verse to describe the hope that is within us that allows us to move forward in such situations without relying on self to have the answers.

    Another way for us to state the obvious would be to personalize 1 Sam. 5:6 around a pastor’s heart to clarify the pastoral calling:

    “Look, within our Temple bodies there is a Son of God; He is highly respected by His Father and His faithful followers such as we, and everything He says is true. Let us go to Him in prayer now. For only He can tell us His will for the way we take.”