Today is the final Sunday for Johnny Kilgore, our beloved minister of music and senior adults who has served Ridgecrest faithfully for 30 years. When I came to interview with Ridgecrest I asked the two pastors on staff at the time, Jason Duckett and Johnny, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” Duckett said that he saw himself as senior pastor of a church; and today he is. Johnny’s answer was simple, “I’m going to retire”; and today he is.
I am deeply honored to have worked with Johnny these nine years. He is a loyal man of God with an insatiable appetite for quality. He quickly wins the trust of others. He covers criticism with praise. Johnny always smiles. He never counts his hours and leaves nothing undone. I should add that he eats faster than anyone I have ever seen.
I don’t know how many years the Lord will give me to serve His church. However long that may be indeed I will always count working with Johnny as one of the major highlights. Not many pastors can say that they were on staff with a man who had been with the same congregation for 30 years. It is like working with an encyclopedia. If I ever needed to know why things at Ridgecrest are as they are, all I had to do was ask Johnny. He knew every formative experience for this congregation. Johnny has been a leader at Ridgecrest over half of the church’s life. His ministry with this congregation is multi-generational and it will be long lasting.
As I have been working towards this Sunday for many months I have asked myself what I can learn from Johnny’s example. I am not sure how much of a lesson is in this, but the experience has helped me realize that thirty years is not long. I have been here almost a third of the thirty already. There are many lessons I can piece together from Johnny like how to work with people. Stay positive. Smile even when it hurts. Never give up on anything or anyone. Do everything as unto the Lord. Yet perhaps my favorite lesson in all of this can be stated most simply, stay. Sometimes being a pastor is not so much in what you do, it is in how long you stay. The longer you are with a congregation the more your words mean. Perhaps it is because you know better what to say. Perhaps it is because you have said it for thirty years. Perhaps it is because it takes decades for people to listen. I’m not sure which is the contributing factor, but you never have a chance if you don’t stay. Johnny has stayed with Ridgecrest through its victories and its sorrows. Though Johnny is not the preaching pastor of this congregation, he is, for the most part its pastor. And for every preaching pastor who has served at Ridgecrest Johnny has not only been a faithful assistant, but he has been for them a family pastor. Johnny presided over the dedication of our second daughter. He has been the piano teacher of our oldest. He has prayed for us when we needed him. Johnny has listened to me be a person. As odd as that statement may sound to some, for the pastors who have served with Johnny they are grateful for his listening ear and wise counsel. Sometimes it is good to be a man again.
Johnny will be dearly missed, but I am sure he will stay connected. After all, that is the type of man he is. Johnny has laid a great work on the foundation of Christ at Ridgecrest. It will remain and we will continue to build.
Thank you Johnny for your friendship, service, and dedication. You have certainly contributed to my life and family. I am grateful to have served with you as pastor.