Dear Grace Baptist friends and family:
Greetings from Atchison, Kansas and the campus of Benedictine College! As ever, God continues to be good to me, but I do miss the Little Apple and all the blessings that came with it. Those blessings include, but are not limited to, the coffee at Bluestem Bistro, Aggieville on Game Day, Kay Bollman’s cooking, Dave Huebner’s sense of humor, nice conversations with Dorothy Tarrant, the greatest youth group kids in the known universe, and of course, all of you. “I thank my God every time I remember you” (Phil 1:4 ESV).
Not long ago, I received a call from an elder at Grace Baptist notifying me that the elder board would be voting to revoke my ordination to gospel ministry. The man who called me was warm and friendly, affirming and encouraging, and indeed, he talked to me like I was his own son—which is appropriate, since he’s always been like a father to me. He explained to me that the elders’ action was not intended to be punitive or mean-spirited. Given my decision to join the Catholic Church, he said, the elders viewed it as a reasonable and appropriate measure.
I am writing this letter to let you know that I wholeheartedly agree. I consider the action to revoke my ordination as entirely appropriate and just. I am no longer a Baptist minister; so, it is entirely reasonable for Grace Baptist Church to end my ordained status.
Of course, this does not mean that I think my ministry among you was performed in vain, nor does it change how much I love this congregation. The last year of my life, I have reflected on how little I gave to Grace Baptist and how much I received from it. I frequently failed, but God—and you—frequently blessed me anyway.
My confidence is this: the work that God began in me at Grace Baptist, he finished. My weaknesses and shortcomings were no obstacle for his sovereign work in my life. So, I am thankful. I am thankful for my time at Grace Baptist, thankful for all of you, and thankful that “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (Psalm 115:3 ESV).
In light of his recent resignation, I also want to take a moment to express my love and support for Pastor Bob Flack, Lynn, and their family. When I was at Wheaton College, I read a book by Kent Hughes called Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome. The majority of the book is spent defining what biblical success is. Success is not having a charismatic personality. Success is not having style without substance. Instead, success is…faithfulness, serving, loving, believing, prayer, holiness, and attitude. According to that description, Bob Flack was an incredibly successful pastor at Grace Baptist Church. To the extent that he continues to persevere in faith, hope, and love, I believe his best years are ahead of him. As you send him off, please make every effort to richly bless him.
Sadly, the character qualities Pastor Flack possesses are rare—even among pastors. So, I will pray hard for you, brothers and sisters. Finding a replacement will not be easy. But I believe, too, that God wants to bless the future of Grace Baptist Church. I encourage you to rally around the current staff as they seek to minister without a senior pastor. Serve them as they faithfully serve you.
Finally, I understand that many (if not most) of you may not understand or agree with my decision to join the Catholic Church. But I hope we can agree on this: whether it is a local church in Manhattan, Kansas or the universal Church headquartered in Rome, we are all of us desperately dependent on the grace of God in Jesus Christ. God knows his people make a mess of things. As a wise saint once said, “the greatest testament to the grace of God is the continued existence of his Church.” Let’s all pray for one another, that “our love may abound more and more” (Philippians 1:9 ESV) and that “we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” (4:13 ESV).
The peace of Christ be with you all,