Later in life pastor finds calling in support position

Originally published at Western Recorder –

Lexington—He was the pastor of a church that grew from less than 200 to more than 300 in attendance in the 13 years he was their pastor. Already in his 60s, he could have easily chosen to stay at Central Baptist Church in Paris until retirement. However, Dan Russell chose to listen to God calling him away from his pastorate.

“Three years ago, Dan Russell was pastor of a good-sized church in Paris. It is a strong, vibrant church in our state.” Ron Edmondson, Russell’s pastor, said.

“Dan served on numerous state and associational boards and is well respected among Baptists. Dan’s church was healthy, they loved him; there was no pressure for him to go anywhere,” he added.

“Instead, Dan began asking if he was the right person to carry the church into the future, or should he step aside while the church was strong and let a younger person come in and take the church forward,” Edmondson said.

Russell explained that Central Baptist had begun to plateau. “We weren’t really reaching any young couples, which is typical of a lot of our churches. I began to investigate what we could do to get over the hump and move on,” he said.

“In that process, someone at the KBC gave me a book called ‘There’s still hope for your church’ by Gary McIntosh,” Russell recalled. “The Lord just used the book to convict me that it was time in my ministry for us to move on and allow for hopefully a younger pastor to move in, (which they did get a younger pastor) and begin to attract young families (which they’re doing).”

Before Russell had even announced the decision to his congregation, he met with Edmondson to seek counsel. Russell is now a part of the pastoral staff at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington as the care and adults minister.

“Dan has been phenomenal for our church in a senior adult ministry role. I hope he has no plans to retire soon,” Edmondson said. He encourages “churches to get some of those type people on their staff who still want to work full-time, but may not want to be in the senior role anymore.”

Russell offered this advice for pastors who find themselves in similar situations, “We really just need to look at the church and obviously seek God’s will. There is a time when our ministry is completed, and we need to be willing to sense God’s will to leave.”

He continued, “It may be that you need to step out of that situation. I think churches can gain a lot by bringing someone on staff that has all those years of experience in a support role,” Russell said, encouraging “churches not to close the door on a guy just because he’s in his 60s or 70s.

“To me, it speaks of a very kingdom-minded person who did what he felt was best for the church–not for his personal livelihood. I was so impressed by this humility. I wonder how many pastors are willing to step away when it’s time, rather than when it makes sense for them financially,” Edmondson said. (WR)