In 2009, the annual General Assembly of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) met in Houston, Texas. It was hot. It was extremely hot! While I maintained my planned running schedule, I spent most of my free time in the cool lobby of the convention hotel. It was in that lobby I met Glen Foster. Glen served as pastor of Pantano Baptist Church in Tucson, Arizona, and as Regional Coordinator of CBF West. I knew very little about the work of CBF Baptists in the west, but Glen gave me a quick education. CBF West covers half the land mass of the United States and contains a third of the total population of the United States. (Feel free to read that sentence again.) However, CBF West is made up of (are you ready?) only 19 churches scattered across Alaska, California, Arizona, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, Hawaii, Idaho and Colorado. (In comparison, South Carolina has over 40 CBF churches and Georgia over 80!) Glen shared with me the needs of CBF West, the limited resources, and his great hopes. He was brutally honest about the overabundance of financial and human resources in the church-saturated Southeast and his desire to see more investment in the West. That day, I told Glen, I told God, and I told myself that I would somehow commit a part of my life and ministry to God’s work in that region. I was determined not to add my gifts forever and singularly to the pile of pastoral resources already available in the Southeast. I have maintained that commitment by annually making trips to the west to work with CBF churches there—primarily in California but also in Arizona. I have decided to continue this work in my retirement. (I imagine this is no surprise to anyone.)
Since announcing my retirement, I have received generous offers from various ministries throughout the Southeast. I am choosing, however, to accept an invitation to co-pastor 19th Avenue Baptist Church in San Francisco, California. This vibrant congregation of about 60 members supports four additional language congregations, as well as numerous other missional ministries throughout the city and state. They will provide me a home, a modest stipend, a slower pace, and time to write. I will offer this church and her community the gifts with which God has blessed me. I’ve pastored some great churches in the Southeast—none greater than First Baptist Greenville. It is time for me to do some mission work in the world. I covet your prayers and your support in this endeavor…and I trust you will come and visit!