(Editor’s note: The Tribune asked Pastor Don Thomas to share his thoughts as he prepares to preach his last official sermon at Trinity Bible Church on Sunday, and he provided the …
(Editor’s note: The Tribune asked Pastor Don Thomas to share his thoughts as he prepares to preach his last official sermon at Trinity Bible Church on Sunday, and he provided the following.)
When asked to reflect on the highlights of my 24 years as pastor of Trinity Bible Church, where do I begin?
There have been so many blessings, but perhaps the biggest of all has been the blessing of being able to witness what God has done in the lives of his people.
When you minister in a church for a short time you leave without seeing the fruit of what God is doing over the long term. After 24 years at Trinity Bible Church, I have been blessed to see newborn babies grow up to trust in and serve the Lord.
It’s been amazing to see young teenagers in those early days, now serving as deacons.
It also has been exciting to see how God used a church that knew nothing about radio (other than how to change the station) start KFGR. Over the years we doubted whether anyone was actually listening. Fast forward to a recent meeting I had with a group of Christians in Cody who shared with me their stories of how listening to KFGR transformed their lives. God has truly been faithful!
My thoughts about retirement are simple: I don’t believe in it! After a careful check of my Bible, I found only one remote reference to anyone retiring: In Numbers 8:25, the Levite priests retired at the age of 50.
God’s design is that we were all created to work and be faithful to our calling. John Piper’s graphic illustration about shells has never left me. He writes in “Don’t Waste Your Life”:
“Bob and Penny ... took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, playing softball and collecting shells.
“That’s a tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. And I get 40 minutes to plead with you: don’t buy it. With all my heart I plead with you: don’t buy that dream.
“The American Dream: a nice house, a nice car, a nice job, a nice family, a nice retirement, collecting shells as the last chapter before you stand before the Creator of the universe to give an account of what you did: ‘Here it is Lord — my shell collection! And I’ve got a nice swing, and look at my boat!’”
Thirty-five years ago, God called me to preach his word. I want to be faithful to his calling as long as he graces me with breath and strength.
As for my thoughts about leaving Trinity Bible Church (TBC), I jokingly respond, it’s about 24 years overdue. When TBC was first forming, they asked me to stay in Powell as their pastor. At that time I told them “no.” I believed God was calling me and my family to a different community. They responded by asking me if I would just stay until they found a pastor. I told them that I would.
Well, 24 years later, they have done it! I am excited to see Pastor Brian Onstead stepping into the Trinity pulpit to begin the next chapter in Trinity’s ministry in Powell. He is a gifted preacher and will be a blessing to both the church and community.
Several months ago, I began the next chapter of my life of service by helping plant Redeeming Grace Church. We have experienced a warm welcoming response from the Cody community. On Sept. 1, I will begin a new preaching ministry at Redeeming Grace Church as we gather each Sunday at Cody Middle School. Readers can learn more about RGC at www.RGCCody.com.
As I prepare to leave Trinity, I am thankful how God has used the TBC elders and church family members to spiritually grow me. I began my ministry with many rough edges. Over the years, God has used TBC to sand many of them down. God has raised up gifted leaders who have given me wise counsel and held me accountable in my walk with God.
If you are not a member of a local church, you are missing out on this important role of the church to grow us to be more like Christ.
My final sermons at Trinity Bible Church are a short series entitled, “Parting Words.”
I would like to add a few parting words to the community of Powell. What a blessing it has been to raise my family in Powell. Mary and I want to thank each and every one of you who have impacted our lives. What a joy it is as grandparents to have six of our seven children and 19 of our 21 grandchildren living close by.
I am also thankful to the Powell Tribune for allowing me to write articles for the past two decades. The one common theme that I tried to weave through each of them is the hope of eternal life that comes through Jesus Christ.
As my parting words to my Powell friends and neighbors, I commend you one last time to Jesus Christ — the only savior, whose sacrificial death on the cross brings forgiveness and eternal life to all who will simply place their faith in him. The saving arms of Jesus Christ are open wide and ready to receive you.