PADUCAH — Before Dan Summerlin was called as pastor of Lone Oak First Baptist Church in 2002, he told the search committee that he never wanted to be an “old pastor,” but wanted to spend the final quarter of his life teaching, mentoring and helping younger pastors.
For Summerlin, that time has now come. On Sunday, Jan. 29, he announced his retirement after more than 20 years at Lone Oak.
“I believe with all of my heart it is God’s will to retire from full-time pastoral ministry this year,” Summerlin told Kentucky Today.
Summerlin, who will turn 64 in May, said no one at the church asked him to consider retirement. He said it was the Lord’s direction and his decision.
“It will be hard to actually leave. That part is going to be hard. But the decision, once you realize it’s God’s will, is kind of easy to follow,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for over 40 years. I enjoy it. I just think it’s time for a younger person to come in and have a 10- to 20-year vision for it.”
One reason Summerlin said now is the right time is because the church is so strong financially and spiritually.
“We have no debt. Last year, we not only made our budget, but brought in enough money to feed this year’s budget. We are strong in volunteers. We have more volunteers in missions and ministry. We have a solid staff. We have all the staff positions filled,” Summerlin said.
“I believe we’re leaving the church stronger for the next guy, and also he’ll have the momentum to do God’s work for the next few years.”
KBC Executive Director Todd Gray said Summerlin will leave behind a tremendous legacy.
“There have been few pastors in recent Kentucky Baptist history that have had the level of impact of Dr. Dan Summerlin. Dan has served as KBC President, he has led the Administrative Committee, he has been on boards of Kentucky Baptist agencies, and has been the recipient of the Cooperative Program Distinguished Leadership Award,” said Gray.
“Dan has been a friend, confidant, counselor and mentor to Kentucky Baptist leaders, including myself. Above all, Dan has served with distinction for two decades as pastor of Lone Oak First Baptist and is leaving the church in an excellent position to move forward in their mission. I congratulate him on his retirement and look forward to seeing how the Lord uses him in his next season of ministry.”
Summerlin said his retirement will allow him to devote more time to his family and to disciple young pastors. He said mentoring is a long-time passion that developed when he was a young minister and older men poured their lives into him.
“That was invaluable,” Summerlin said. “They talked me off the ledge so many times and told me how to handle things. I wanted to repay that, so I started doing that.”
More than 15 years ago, Summerlin started a mentoring group of young pastors that meets once a month. KBC Church Evangelism Associate Ian Carrico is among those who came under Summerlin’s wing.
“His concern for discipling young pastors is rooted in his conviction from God’s Word and his love for the local church. He is genuinely concerned about pastoral health and understands how important this is toward a healthy church and ministry,” said Carrico.
“I feel better equipped to walk confidently into the future. If I am ever at a crossroads in ministry or face something in ministry, I would always be well served to ask myself: ‘How would Dan Summerlin handle this?’ Within this question, lies the answer: his investment. I love that brother.”
Summerlin will step aside on May 28. He said Lone Oak has a solid transition procedure in place. The church will form both a transition committee to select an interim pastor and a search committee to call the new one.
“Some of the leaders have asked me to help with the search committee. I’m not picking someone — I’m not picking a successor. They want me to help the committee get a good start and advise them on questions they might have,” said Summerlin. “The ministry will continue on, the work will continue on, and I expect a very smooth transition.”
Whomever Lone Oak calls as its next pastor, Summerlin expects the church’s strong commitment to the Cooperative Program to continue.
“The Lord has blessed us, and we need to help other churches,” he said.
“There are so many benefits to the Cooperative Program and, also, I think it’s just a good demonstration of faith. We tell our people to give and tithe and sacrifice, and I think the church needs to see us doing it, too — giving money to missions. That’s how we look at it. We look at the Cooperative Program as missions.”
Summerlin said his last service will be dedicated to leading the church in the Lord’s Supper, and his final sermon will likely center around the death of Moses.
“In the book of Joshua, God tells Joshua and the people three times, ‘Moses is dead.’ And the reason is — get over it. It wasn’t about Moses anyway. There’s always another leader — because it’s about God.”
This story originally appeared in Kentucky Today, the online news website of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
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