Why I’ve Stayed

I had an interesting interview a couple of weeks ago.  A doctoral student was conducting research, wanting to find out why a few pastors are able to stay in the same church for many years.  He knew I had been here at FSBCA for 17 and a half years.  He started by saying that I am “way outside of the norm” when it comes to pastoral tenure.  Most have a tendency to come and go after just a few years in the church, and many drop out of the ministry altogether after a few years.

He asked a simple question with several variations:   “Why have you stayed this long?” and “How were you able to handle the stresses and frustrations that typically cause a pastor to look elsewhere?”

I had to think about it to honestly answer his questions.

(Of course, there’s another question that in this day-and-age of “replace leaders every few years” has to be asked.  Why has the church kept me around this long?  Someone else will have to answer that one.)

There are, of course, a few personal reasons why I have stayed:

  • I don’t like to move.

  • I’ve never wanted to disrupt my children’s education.

  • I’ve made good friends in this church.

  • I’m involved in the community even beyond the church.  (This is now my home.)

And the church has done some things that have made it easy to stay.

  • The church pays me a decent salary.  FSBCA isn’t a rich church, but they still manage to pay me a good salary and provide insurance and retirement.

  • The church has given me a generous vacation and time off policy.  My annual family vacations and occasional weekends away with Dawn are great fun.  They also are an incredible stress reliever that allows me to relax and recharge.

  • And, occasionally, the church has blessed me far beyond my expectations.  They helped me pay medical expenses when my daughter was diagnosed with cancer.  And then they gave my daughter a “baby grand” piano which is still her most prized possession.  A few years ago, the church sent Dawn and I on an Alaskan Cruise.   They have surprised me many times with their generosity!

But there is something even deeper.  Even though life at FSBCA hasn’t always been easy, and we’ve had our challenges and our share of “grumpies” like all churches, the people of FSBCA have been the kind of people I like to pastor.  They are real disciples of Jesus who don’t just talk about their faith, they put it into practice by supporting their church with their time, their money, and especially with their service to Jesus in reaching out to our community.

Over the years, I’ve challenged the church to do more than just teach and preach and do “typical church stuff.”  I’ve wanted us to be involved in our community and share God’s love in very real and very practical ways.  And the church has responded.  I was reviewing 2016 recently, and I was reminded that our church was involved in many different ministries, led by real disciples of Jesus:

  • We take an annual mission trip to the Island of Dominica to build homes and do evangelism.  

  • We hand out brown bag lunches to the hungry four days per week.  It started as a few bags per week.  We gave out over 6,000 lunches last year.

  • We run a basketball league that impacts the lives of about 400 people (players and spectators) every year

  • We provide Christmas presents and a Christmas party to nearly 300 children every year who have a parent in jail through our Angel Tree Ministry. 

  • Our New Life Pregnancy Center (a partnership with Arizona Baptist Children’s Services) did 56 pregnancy tests last year and provided 2,325 bundles of diapers and clothing to young moms, and had over 300 parenting class attendees last year. 

  • We provided free medical care (nurses, doctors, and medicines), providing 2,506 patient visits in 2016, as part of a partnership with Mission of Mercy. 

  • We provide a free annual Fall Festival that touches the lives of about 1000 people every year. 

  • We help people with addictions and addicts in our Celebrate Recovery Meeting. 

  • We’re working with other churches (and Lutheran Social Services) to provide food and shelter to ten adults per night. 

  • We cooperate with a ministry called New Song Center for Grieving Children to provide grief counseling to children of those who have lost a parent.  And we help 70 children twice per month. 

  • We provide complete Thanksgiving meals to 100 families each year, in partnership with Albertsons and the City of Avondale.

  • Our Benevolence Fund helps people in our church family with emergency needs.  In 2016, we helped with $19,000 worth of emergency aid.

My point is pretty simple.  I feel like I’m leading real disciples of Jesus Christ, and that’s what I’m called to do.  Our church, we often admit, is far from perfect, but we’re on the front lines of doing God’s work.

I like that.

And when a pastor likes what His church is doing, He feels good about staying.

 

About Pastor Jack

Pastor Jack Marslender is the pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Avondale. He is married (Dawn) and is the father of Tina, Rebecca, Kimberly, Melinda, Angela, Maria, Kenneth, Kevin, and Lorissa. He is also the grandfather of Wyatt, Emilie, Everett, Olivia, Dylan, Charlotte, and Aiden.
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