In a relay race, runners “pass the baton”, i.e., they hand off the baton to the next runner. That is what is happening here at Friendship. After ten years, Kay and I will say goodbye to Friendship. Actually, Kay is already in the States, close to family and friends. I will depart on August 1st. A year ago, we had not been able to recommend a lead pastor to follow me. While we had applicants, nothing was convincing. So I agreed with the elders to stay on for another year, if I could have the summer in the States and also return there for Christmas. It had been such a long time away from family that I needed more time with them. The elders graciously agreed--not knowing how the arrangement would work, or whether we would be successful in finding the right successor.
Happily, it did work, and I believe we did find the right successor in Peter Kim. He and his wife Polly bring so many things to the table that fit the church. Some of them are:
1. Peter’s university ministry both in California and Beijing bodes well for the church. University ministry has many parallels to our own. It is young and transitory. It also requires the ability to understand the cultural context from a missional standpoint. You have to be conversant with the questions posed by intelligent young people and do your best to answer them from a Biblical perspective. You also have to learn how to relate the gospel to a changing cultural context. In my denomination, the PCA, some of its best pastors got excellent preparation as college ministers first.
2. Peter has also had pastoral experience so it is not a totally new field of endeavor for him.
3. Peter has made links with Redeemer City to City (RCTC) whose philosophy of ministry fits ours perfectly. He will also have ongoing mentoring from people like RCTC’s Vice President for the Asia-Pacific region, Jay Kyle and others, and be able to continue to connect our own church to a city vision of church planting and urban gospel renewal.
4. Peter speaks Mandarin which will open up all kinds of opportunities and help develop stronger ties with the Mandarin congregation whom we work side by side with. Also, Polly is Taiwanese, so there is no problem with visas. And then they desire a long-term tenure. Many English churches have pastors who rotate in and out. A strong church needs consistent vision and leadership, and Peter will be able to build on the foundation we have tried to establish in these ten years.
5. Peter understands the centrality of the gospel to everything. After getting through eleven chapters in Romans, the apostle Paul, in essence, says, now let me show you how the gospel works everywhere and in everything (chapters 12-16). Peter and Polly have been discipled in “Sonship”--the discipling program that impacted me more than anything else in the past twenty years, and which is all about applying the gospel to everything.
In short, I couldn’t be happier about the transition and, along with your good elders and deacons, I feel confident that the church is in good hands. On the first Sunday of September, Peter Kim will be installed, with Pastor Paul Kong preaching and leading the installation.
As for me, I don’t really plan to “retire.” The word “retirement” doesn’t appear in the Bible! And while I don’t think I want to try to be a lead pastor anytime soon, I will look for opportunities for ministry among my family and in the community where I will live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I will likely take the first few months to rest and pray and then explore some of the following possibilities:
1. To disciple my children and grandchildren. We have ten grandchildren, and I want to seize the day to help them let the roots of their lives go down deeply into Christ and the gospel. I also want to love my wife well who has been so servant-like in all these years and has gone with me wherever I felt the Lord calling me.
2. Lancaster has a large immigrant population and two universities. My multi-cultural experience and love for students should find an outlet there.
3. We will join a local church. It is probably already picked out and we will seek to serve there as well as we can, or maybe help a young church planter.
4. I hope to stay in touch with Redeemer City to City and contribute any way that I can. The church planters here in Taiwan are close to my heart.
5. I hope to use social media to stay in touch with many who have come and gone from the church to share resources with them.
6. Most of all I hope to keep finding my identity in Christ. It is easy for ministers to live off their activity--for ministry, preaching, and work to become their idols. Do I have the ability to simply sit before the Lord, and pray and serve in menial ways? I hope so. Upon retiring, Martyn Lloyd-Jones (usually recognized as one of the greatest preachers of the twentieth century) was asked when how it felt no longer being “the man”, i.e., the great preacher at Westminster Chapel and speaker at conferences around the world. He replied by quoting Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, “Rejoice not that the demons are subject to you, but that your names are written in heaven” (10:20). You can pray for me that I might have that same gospel poise.
In the meantime, be assured of my love and prayers. I don’t think I could have loved Taiwan or Friendship Presbyterian more. I think I will miss it every day of my life.