In January, Pastor Jim Bennett will step into a new phase of ministry. He will become Immanuel’s Pastor at Large and assume a set of pastoral responsibilities that allow him the flexibility of part-time hours and that prepare him for retirement in January 2019. It is hard to image another pastor surpassing his 44 year tenure at Immanuel. Recently, Pastor Michael and Pastor Jim exchanged a short Q&A to talk about the transition.
Pastor Michael: 2018 will mark a ministry change for you. Why make the switch?
Pastor Jim: Well, I have been talking about retirement for a while now, hoping to reduce my hours with a view to that occasion. Assuming this new position as Pastor at Large will meet church staff needs and provide a practical transition to this new phase of life.
Pastor Michael: What will it mean to be Immanuel’s Pastor at Large?
Pastor Jim: To me it will mean that I will be able to continue to serve and love on our Immanuel people as one of their pastors. My ministry as Pastor at Large will include some former and some new responsibilities. I will continue to teach and lead the Joint Heirs Class, provide fellowship opportunities through our Church Wide Fellowships, function as an elder to my people, coordinate our Soma Life Groups and Growing Kids God’s Way classes, and provide personal counseling to those who request it. In addition, I will provide pastoral care and oversight during the pastor’s sabbatical, visitation of our special care saints and those who are hospitalized, provide oversight and assist our Bereavement Committee with our funeral meals ministry and other miscellaneous ministries per the Pastor’s request.
Pastor Michael: Jim, reflecting on 43 years of ministry, what thoughts come to mind?
Pastor Jim: When Betsy and I are reminded of our 43 years of service at Immanuel, two words often come to mind – gratitude and opportunity. Few pastors have had the privilege of serving and ministering to the same church for a lifetime. Betsy and I are indeed grateful for that trust because it has given us the opportunity to care for and invest in a generation of Immanuelites in three phases of their lives: as teenagers (Youth Pastor), as parents (Pastor of Family Ministries) and now as grandparents (Pastor at Large). Years ago I heard a phrase that I have parroted as my ministry philosophy – Stay Long and Build Strong. We pray that the Lord will be pleased with our efforts and one day commend our ministry as one that made disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ for His glory.
Pastor Michael: At the 2016 Together for the Gospel conference you were recognized as the longest tenured associate pastor among 10,000 attenders. Can you describe the benefits of longevity?
Pastor Jim: Recently, Betsy and I cleaned out a closet that contained over 43 years of notebooks, materials and supplies. This process reminded us of the endless number of seminars, retreats, picnics, evangelistic outreaches, conferences, church wide events, bus trips and more that were provided for our beloved Immanuel family. And, it was the faces and lives of God’s people who were impacted by these ministries that gave me and Betsy a sense of inexpressible joy. The privilege of being used by the Lord as a channel of blessing to His people has provided both of us with an almost overwhelming sense of accomplishment and personal satisfaction. But be assured, we both agree with the Apostle Paul, “We are what we are by the grace of God.” This has been God’s ministry and hopefully, we have been but tools in His hands for His glory and the good of His people.