On June 27, Jan and I attended the farewell service for Daybreak’s founding pastors Wes and Claudia Dupin. I’ve attended one-hour services that seem like three; but on that day, the nearly three-hour service seemed like one. There was comedy, video, in-person tributes, meaningful worship and strong messages.
Wes and Claudia poured their lives into Daybreak, Hudsonville and West Michigan, as well as global initiatives for 32 years. This followed Wes’ initial years of service in the evangelistic ministry of his father, Clyde Dupin.
While a celebration of the Dupins, the event honored their love for God, each other and those they served. Wes and Claudia intentionally included incoming lead pastor Geoff and Arianna Eckart in the service. Arianna will be a full partner in his ministry — as Claudia was with Wes.
Celebration can provide an opportunity for reflection. I found myself thinking of pastors across The Wesleyan Church who serve faithfully, many in relative obscurity. Over the long haul, whether in one church or a series of churches, they steward their gifts and glorify God with their service.
Each fall the calendar prompts us to observe a day of reflection and celebration of pastors. TWC along with other denominations believes gratitude for our pastors shouldn’t be limited to just a day and encourage the entire month of October be observed. This annual rhythm of reflection, celebration and affirmation helps to strengthen pastors, congregations and their relationships with each other.
So, here are a couple admirable qualities present in the Dupins and illustrative of the credible service of so many others.
The Dupins stewarded well their gift of evangelism.
The Apostle Paul writes, “It was he (Christ) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up …” (Ephesians 4:11-12). The pastoral leaders of our churches have different strengths – Paul mentions apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and teaching.
For the Dupins and Daybreak, evangelism was their primary passion and priority, a true gifting. Hundreds came to Christ through innovative and relational sharing of the gospel. In the process, they equipped all God’s people for their works of service.
Pastors have different giftings … that is God’s design. I have such a privilege to each year pray for dozens of new pastors to experience God’s anointing for their service as “ordained ministers” in The Wesleyan Church. While all are ordained for ministry, those ministries will not be identical. We appreciate when their steward well their primary gifting, and when they equip others to do the same.
The Dupins prepared Daybreak for the day they would leave.
As has often been said, “there is no success without successors.” This certainly means who will lead next is significant, but it also means a congregation is prepared for new leadership.
Inevitably when someone serves a congregation from its beginning and for over three decades, the church will reflect the passions and priorities of that person. Daybreak is passionate about reaching lost people as a congregational value. Their selection of Geoff Eckart as their next lead pastor, who for years has had an incredibly fruitful evangelistic ministry through Claim Your Campus and Never The Same camping ministry — which he continues to oversee — aligns with that congregational value.
It requires humility for a pastor to pour herself or himself into a church for many years without building that church around them. The more celebrity-centered a church is, the less Christ-centered it will be.
We honor pastors who lead well and then leave well. More than a few have diminished the impact of years of service by not finishing well. Impactful service followed by intentional succession ensures the legacy left is not just about a person, but about the mission … the missio Dei.
This summer also marked the retirement of another fruitful long-term pastor – Arlie Davis and his wife, Sharon. This article could easily have featured this ministry couple as they have served with distinction, conviction and compassion.
So many others can be highlighted as worthy of honor. The Wesleyan Church is stronger because of the cumulative effect of pastors with different giftings, contexts and tenures who have lived for an audience of One and for the ultimate “well done.”
I want to give a shout out to my pastor, Scott Rhyno … such a faithful shepherd who is so completely surrendered to the Chief Shepherd (I Peter 5:4).
To those reading this article, why don’t you consider how you’re going to acknowledge and encourage your pastor?
Our beloved pastors, we don’t want you to live to prove yourselves to us or please us — it is not our preferences that matter most. Together we live and serve to give glory to God.
Wayne Schmidt is General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church.