Some say you can determine the success of a pastor by what happens AFTER he leaves a church (If it does well… he was successful.  If it fails, that is his legacy also).  I would agree that the longer a pastor is at a church… the more they take on his personality.  Until about year six a man is just the preacher (He has to do baptisms, weddings, make visits, counsel, & do funerals… THEN he becomes the Pastor).  After year six the congregation usually begins to take on more and more of his demeanor, attitude, and personality as the years go by.  When a man has been at a church 15, 20, or 25+ years… they think and act pretty much alike most of the time.  That is a decent rule of thumb in most situations.  That could be good OR bad… depending.  I served one church where the pastor prior to me had a 27 year tenure…

So what does that say?  When a pastor leaves a church there is a lot that is said… not said… and should be said.  Presently I am pastor of a church where the last four pastors served for 10+ years each.  I have been here now for almost 18 months and I have been able to get a pretty good read on both the congregation AND the legacy of the previous pastors.  Here’s what I’ve concluded about the people of Huffman Baptist Church (Pictured above).

They have deep respect and honor for the office of Pastor (Did you get that… the OFFICE OF Pastor).  For them it translates to the man who holds the office.  The congregation expects him (Rightfully so) to not tarnish the reputation of that office.

They have a good understanding of the Pastor’s call to lead and feed the flock… so they give him time to do those things properly.

They have a good understanding of what it means to pray for… love… support… and encourage their Pastor (This is rare today).

The leadership supports the Pastor as the God Called leader of the congregation (This is a blessing!).

The Deacons support the Pastor as the God Called leader of the congregation (This too is a blessing!).

What have I learned about the men who have been pastor here?  The most prominent pastors were… Dr. R.B. Culbreth (He baptized me),  Dr. Harper Shannon, and Dr. Tim Lovett (My immediate predecessor).

These men filled the office of pastor in an exemplary manner.  All of them are still fondly remembered today as godly men of moral character.

These men preached God’s Word.  All of them were faithful to this most important part of God’s call on their life.

These men loved people.  While all three showed it in different ways and varying degrees, but there is no doubt that they “watched over the souls of Huffman Baptist” well.

These men left a legacy that is evidenced in how God’s people have treated each successive pastor with respect and honor.  I am the beneficiary of their ministry AND thankful to the people of Huffman Baptist church!

There are many dynamics at work when pastor’s leave a church.  The best test regarding a pastor’s ministry is not how good of an administrator he was… not how well he led people… nor how effective he was at visiting.  The best tests are:  1) How much closer to God were the people when he left?  2) What was their walk with God like when he left?  3) How much more did they know of God as a result of his ministry?  4) Did he preach the Word of God or was he better at something else (If a man doesn’t faithfully preach God’s Word FIRSThe has no business being a pastor!).

This much I know… I am thankful to God for the people of HBC and to the men who preceded me that upheld the office of pastor well.  I am blessed!

January 2013 update: It is interesting the difference a few months make. More later… maybe… God willing.

June 2013 update: Click HERE (6/14/13) and HERE (6/17/13).