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Leadership Transition Ceremony

Read this message transcript from the Leadership Transition Ceremony, May 17, 2020

Harold Bullock: This is an important day for us at Hope Church. I’d like to take just a brief look backward, and then, turn to something very exciting. Half a century ago, 50 years, I was working on my doctorate in chemistry at the University of Southern California. During that year, I’d begun to learn how to walk with Jesus Christ. Later in the year, I was reading Scripture one day, and the Lord through the passage I was reading directed me to vocational ministry. He gave me a general direction of something my life might be about and an indication that the path was going to be difficult. It seemed like He said He would be working on something new through me. In 1971, a year later, I married Deborah Law. She knew my calling, and she was willing to join me in it and join in fulfilling what it seemed the Lord said we were to do. At that time very vague, things clarified as we moved forward. In 1974, we moved to Fort Worth to complete graduate school in theology, a seminary education. In 1977, we graduated from the seminary, and we had the outlines of what God wanted to do we thought. General outlines of developing a church of people who would team together to treat each other like Scripture said and would team to reach unchurched people in this area and then train leaders to start new churches… 

In 1978 when I was 31 years old with the blessing of James Avenue Baptist Church, we began Hope Church. A group of 13 joined us, young people who had a sense of the vision. They were unsure where God would lead all of them, but they joined us to make Hope Church happen. The church grew somewhat, and then in 1979, we had our first child, Jessica. Over the next decade, we added Gina and Jon. Today, half a century later than when I was working on my doctorate, Deborah and I have appeared before you and we appear before you with joy. It’s time for the pastoral leadership transition of Hope Church to pass from me to Matt Sturdevant. Deborah and I have had the great challenge of creating Hope Church and work beyond it. Hope Church is a church that, as consultants have recently told you, is actually different. It has a different culture to it. It’s a church where people really have teamed together and worked together out of their hearts in harmony to reach a lot of people for Christ here in Tarrant County and then to raise up another righteous generation. 

As we had kids, your kids are very precious to you, and kids have grown up. We’ve been able to raise up another righteous generation out of the children that we bore. We’ve also been able to love, as a big group of us, encourage, train, and then send men and women, hundreds actually, whom God has used to serve in ministries or churches that already existed or to start new churches or to serve in foreign missions in many different countries. Deborah and I have been blessed to have you guys as friends...friends and fellow witnesses of Christ’s kindness. We have seen the kindness of God and faithfulness; we have seen the faithfulness of God. You have been friends whom our kids knew as they grew up. Your walk with God testified; you were another witness, another voice saying to our children, “Yes, this thing with God is real, and it’s worth it.” We are very grateful for that. Your example confirmed this reality as our children grew to adulthood. Then, while none of us have been great, together actually as we have teamed, we’ve done some things that have been historic for our related group of churches.

Now, another generation has arisen; a younger bunch is already teaming together in Hope. They want to advance God’s work and God’s blessings into the planet. This is a dream come true. It’s a heritage come alive and aggressive and wanting to do the work of God. During the first decade of the 2000’s, I wondered repeatedly whom I might pass the leadership to one day. I didn’t know. I couldn’t see. But the way God works, we never can cross a bridge until we get to it. Don’t worry about crossing bridges until you get to them. It’s a waste of time. Instead, if we walk forward with God trusting Him, then whenever we get to the place in life where we need to cross the bridge what we discover is is that God has already been at work. While we were trusting Him, He was creating what it would take to cross that bridge. He was preparing the way all the time. So in the first decade of the 2000’s, I couldn’t figure who might do this. But about a year ago, it became apparent that I should step out of the senior pastorate. God showed that I should transition out during this year, and we’re at that time now. 

As we stand here today, the Senior Pastor Selection Committee has chosen unanimously one person, and the Hope Board of Directors has voted unanimously that yes that person is the person. Then, God has led Matt Sturdevant himself on a journey to confirm, “Yes, this is what I want you to do.” So we stand here with everything prepared; it’s amazing how God works. About 20 years ago, Matt came to Texas from California to ask my permission to romantically pursue our firstborn, Jessica. I gave him permission. I liked him. I thought perhaps God had introduced me to the man who would marry my daughter. I had no idea that God had introduced me to the man whom the church would select, the man whom God would raise up to follow me as lead pastor. Funny how God works… While you’re wondering, He’s already in the process of creating. God has been faithful to us in this. Today, I celebrate God’s amazing, sovereign wisdom and His faithfulness to us. In the course of time, Matt was called by the Lord to leave the business realm and move into the church work. He came on staff at Hope. Then, under my leadership, he led the staff for several years. 

He’s qualified himself to lead, and God has raised him up for this day. It’s with great joy that I stand here today as a witness to God’s work and to the faithfulness of the leaders and people of Hope to listen to God. God’s original call to me and Deborah continues. This is the day of leadership transition, but the call for us continues. I’d like to show you something. This is an awesome sword. It’s actually made by a company that was an ancient sword maker. I bought this whenever my son was younger. Boys love swords, and I was wanting to train him in the things of God. I bought this for me; he had another one. But to set an example for him, I one day, as a symbol of God’s call on me, I swore an oath on this sword. Before my family, I swore that I would live and die as a spiritual warrior, and that still remains for me. The warfare continues. Let me put this back. The warfare continues for me and Deborah. 

Our plan is that I’m going on sabbatical for a rest, and then sometime later, I’ll return to Hope Staff as Founding Pastor. I will be supporting the lead pastor, Matt Sturdevant. There is much work that I need to do with our network of churches. That work will benefit Hope Church especially, but it is time for someone else to lead the charge here. There’s also another sword I have carried, and it’s the sword of leadership. The pastor of a church has to be both a shepherd to care for God’s people, and he also has to be a spiritual warrior because we are in the kingdom of God. And, the enemy has made a concerted attack against us. We attack his dominion and set people free from it. The enemy brings the brunt of his attack against the leader of the church. So, Deborah and I have faced that many times. His strategy is to strike the shepherd and scatter the flock. He does it many different ways...attempts to. There’s a warfare.

It’s time to commission Matthew Warren Sturdevant as the Lead Pastor of Hope Church. Before I do, I want to declare something to Hope Church. I, for the last 42 years that I have led, I have not been sinless. My wife can testify to that, and actually, I’ve had to ask many of you for forgiveness. I have not been sinless, but these words of the apostle, Paul, have been a guide for me. I have kept them. These are his words as he was wrapping up part of his ministry. “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold…” And by the grace of God, I have not. “...In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work, we must help the weak…” I have tried to work hard continually through the years. My abilities and my focus has changed, but the hard work has stayed. “...Remembering this, we must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” I think our desire, mine and Deborah’s desire, has been to set a pace for you in generosity because God has been generous with us. He blesses us to bless others. It’s the words of the Lord Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” I just want to declare before Hope Church today, though I have not been sinless, these guidelines from the apostle, Paul, as far as I understand it, I have kept. 

I would like to call Matt Sturdevant to join me now. Hello, Matt. You probably already recognize him, but this is Matthew Warren Sturdevant. The one chosen by the leadership and the congregation that we appointed as the lead pastor of Hope Church. Today, Matt, I wanted to give you some things. Let me get them from the table here. These two things, again a sword, but also a shepherd’s crook… These are symbols of the lead pastor’s responsibility. The shepherd’s crook is a symbol of your responsibility to care for God’s people, and then the sword is a symbol of the fact that you’re going to be leading the charge in spiritual battle. You must do battle yourself. Swords are unique in that you can’t do long distance warfare with them. This is up close and personal, so these are the symbols of responsibility to care and responsibility to fight. These appear in the crest of the Antioch Project, and they symbolize just exactly what I said. The Antioch Project is our ministry-staff training program. 

It is an honor to be the lead pastor at Hope, and it’s a stewardship. God Himself bestows it, and God Himself exercises oversight of it. Today, you’re being given responsibility and an honor. The honor goes to you; it goes to your wife and to your family. These have been marks of spiritual leaders for years. In recognition of the Lord’s direction of the leaders of Hope to you and the Lord’s direction of you to understand this was His will, then on behalf of the Hope congregation and in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I pass these to you, Matthew Warren Sturdevant, to care and to war in the good fight. I charge you as Paul charged Timothy long ago. This is out of the Phillips translation. “But you, man of God, keep clear of such things. Set your heart not on riches, but on goodness, Christ-likeness, faith, love, patience and humility. Fight the worthwhile battle of the faith, keep your grip on that life eternal to which you have been called...I charge you in the sight of God who gives us life, and Jesus Christ who fearlessly witnessed to the truth before Pontiac’s Pilate, to keep your commission clean and above reproach until the final coming of Christ.”

Matt Sturdevant: I receive these tools as I accept the responsibility as lead pastor of Hope Church. I’m going to put these back over on the table. I’ve been thinking about this moment, what I would say on this day, since I knew on January 5th that I’d accepted the position and sent my letter back to the Board of Directors. How could I sum up all that I’d been thinking and feeling in just a few moments. As I assume the role of lead pastor here at Hope Church, there are two things stirring in my heart. On one hand, I feel a great weight of responsibility, and I’m deeply humbled to be given this opportunity. I realize that this is not just a job, but it’s a stewardship that the Lord is giving me. The Lord led the selection committee and the Board of Directors to unanimously offer me the position of lead pastor. The Lord also led me and my wife on a journey leading us to accept this position, and I’m confident of God’s leadership in it all. 

I also realize that in becoming the lead pastor of Hope Church, a church that was started over 42 years ago by Harold and Deborah Bullock, that I’m assuming leadership in a work and among a people in whom and by whom there has been a tremendous investment over time. Harold and Deborah Bullock have invested more than 42 years of their life into starting, building, and growing Hope Church and the people of Hope. Many of you have walked with them for a number of years creating what is now Hope Church. When I think of Harold and Deborah Bullock, I think of Hebrews 13:7. It says, “Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives and follow the example of their faith.” They have both walked with Jesus very closely through some extremely difficult times in their lives, and as they walked through those times, they have lived an example. They have been an illustration of the truth of God’s Word, the Truth that they have been teaching us. 

Part of the good that has come from their lives is Hope Church, and now that stewardship of leading Hope Church has been given to me. Though I’m sobered by the thought of the stewardship, I also realize that I have been extended an honor, an honor of lead pastor. I receive this position, this leadership position, and will make it my duty to keep the honor of the position unblemished. So on one hand, I feel sobered and humbled. On the other hand, I feel very excited as I think about the future. My wife, Jessica, and I have been a part of Hope Church since 2002. We came here shortly after we got married. I’ve served on staff here since 2006, after the Lord called me to leave business and move into vocational ministry. In the last 18 years, we’ve been a part of Hope Church. We started our family here, and we’ve been able to team together in ministry with many of you over those 18 years. 

As a church staff, we’ve spent the last two and a half years working to clarify our direction and our identity so that we could aggressively reach into our community. Over the last year in particular, we’ve gained a great deal of traction from moving into the future. When I think about the future and the opportunities the Lord has for us as a church in one of the fastest growing regions in the country, I get excited. I believe that God has so much to do in us and through us at Hope Church as we work together to expand the Kingdom here in Fort Worth, Texas. When Hope Church began the journey of looking for the next lead pastor, no one could have imagined that we’d be in the middle of a global pandemic while this transition was happening. Although the last two months haven’t gone like we’ve planned or originally hoped for, we’re still confident that this is the Lord’s direction, and we’re leaning into what He has for us in the middle of this time. I look forward to the challenge and the opportunity that lies ahead for all of us as we team together to invite people to discover and experience God’s ways.