Jerry Vines, the pastor of one of the largest congregations in Florida announced a surprise resignation on Sunday, May 1, 2005.
"The time has come to announce my retirement as your pastor," the former Southern Baptist Convention president said to more than 4,000 congregants that evening. "I plan to devote to whatever remaining time the Lord Jesus gives me to a ministry of bible preaching, teaching, and writing."
Vines, who pastured the Jacksonville-based church for nearly half of his 50-year ministry career, said he plans to stay on-board for nine more months to help the pulpit committee select the next pastor.
I plan to continue to serve with all the energy and fervor of my soul until the conclusion of our 20th Pastors Conference, February 7, 2006. This will give time for the pulpit committee to prayerfully find Gods man to be our pastor and, hopefully, give me some time to assist him in a smooth transition, Vines said.
Following his announcement, Vines told media members that the time is right for both him and the church to go ahead with his resignation.
"When it comes to retirement, as a pastor, it would be far better for people asking the question 'Why did he,' than asking "Why didn't he,'" I feel now is a good time. I'm in good health; the church is in good health, he said.
The following is the full text of Dr. Jerry Vines statement to his congregation:
Twenty three years ago this July God brought me, with Janet and our children, to First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Florida. Little did we know the great blessings and joy the Lord would bring to us. These have been glorious years. Thousands have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. Christians have grown in their faith. Hundreds of young people have gone forth to serve our Lord.
Through these years I have found the secret of Gods Miracle of downtown Jacksonville: You love Jesus with all your heart. You love one another and your pastor. You love lost people. This is the reason God has blessed in such a phenomenal way.
Your loving kindness to Janet, our children, and grandchildren means a great deal to me. They all love you deeply.
My staff is gifted and committed to the Lord Jesus, to me, and to the church. I thank them for their willingness to follow my leadership. The deacons and leaders throughout the church are Gods choicest servants. All of you will continue to serve as our congregation faces a glorious and bright future.
After much prayer, and confident of the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the time has come to announce my retirement as your pastor. In no way am I retiring from the Gospel ministry. I plan to devote whatever remaining time the Lord Jesus gives me to a ministry of Bible preaching, teaching and writing, and a ministry to preachers, as He opens doors of opportunity.
According to the by-laws of the church, the chairman (Nelson Sturgill) and vice-chairman (Randy Harrison) of the deacons and the finance committee chairman (Dave Bristowe) are to appoint a pulpit committee not to exceed nine people. This committee will be presented at the Wednesday night service, May 4, 2005.
Our church is healthy and strong. The time has come for a new and younger leadership to lead the church in the challenge of sharing the story of Jesus with a rapidly growing and expanding city.
I plan to continue to serve with all the energy and fervor of my soul until the conclusion of our 20th Pastors Conference, February 7, 2006. This will give time for the pulpit committee to prayerfully find Gods man to be our pastor and, hopefully, give me some time to assist him in a smooth transition.
Janet and I express to you our undying love, greatest appreciation, and deepest thankfulness for all you mean to us. With love and gratitude.