A Remarkable Partnership

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I consider Bob Johnston one of my mentors. In my early thirties, Bob had a little more experience but a lot more education. He frequently made time to encourage and challenge me. He regularly allowed me to borrow commentaries from his library. His kindness and generosity helped me become a better pastor and preacher.

In 2018, Southern Seminary published an article which reported that on average a protestant pastor serves a congregation for just four years. Not counting my current church, I have averaged nearly eight years at my previous congregations.

I learned recently Bob was retiring after serving the First Baptist Church of Rolla, Missouri for 32 years. Though my eight-year average is double what is typical, Bob has served his church eight times the national average. Thirty-two years is an incredible amount of time to serve a single congregation but the Johnstons have not merely served— they have served well.

For the last couple years Bob has been dealing with serious medical issues and his health was a major part of his decision to retire. I believe if he were not dealing with these challenges he would likely have remained at the church he and his wife Holly love so much.

My wife Kelly and I visited the Johnstons last summer. As we chatted they both spoke passionately about their church’s three decades of ministry to numerous inter-national graduate students attending the Missouri University of Science and Technolo-gy. The love they have for their congregation was obvious as they shared story after story about the families they and First Baptist have served during their lengthy tenure.

As I thought about a scripture which might sum up this remarkable couple’s life and ministry in Rolla, my mind went to the Apostle Paul and the words he wrote to one of his most beloved churches: “Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God… for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.” (Philippians 1:3, 5, NLT)

When pastors and churches become partners in ministry they are more than just effective, they are inspiring beacons of the good news of God’s love. Bob and Holly’s lengthy commitment to their church and their church’s long-term commitment to them is more than an inspiration, it is a godly example of perseverance for other churches and church leaders to follow. Bob, Holly and First Baptist Church of Rolla, thanks for your remarkable partnership and for allowing God to effectively use you together for all these years.

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