Ken Whitten, senior pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in the Tampa suburb of Lutz, has been in the ministry for 40 years.
I recently had the chance to spend some time with him, and one of the things I wanted to know was how he felt the role of the pastor had changed during his time in ministry.
He was quick to point out that, biblically speaking, he thinks the expectations of the role are unchanged. Practically speaking, however, the challenges he and others like him face have never been greater.
“I’ve never seen a day where we live in a more complicated society,” he said, before telling the story: “I had lunch [recently] with a gal who’s married to another gal; they have a baby now, and she was a member here. And I said it wasn’t for me to shame you; I’m not going to preach at you; I’m not going to lecture you. I want to hear your story.
“I found out she’s tremendously miserable, and I probably surprised her a little bit. She probably did expect three points, a poem and a prayer. And maybe even an offering, who knows? But as a pastor I surprised her in just loving her.
“And she texted me later on and said: ‘I really enjoyed that.’ And, you know, I’m not sure that 10 years ago Ken Whitten would have done that. I think 10 days ago Ken Whitten would have.”
I’ll be sharing more tidbits from my interview with Pastor Ken on our website in the coming days. A video of our conversation will appear on goFBW.com later this month, and an edited version of our conversation will appear as the “Behind the Pulpit” feature in the February print edition of the Florida Baptist Witness.
Kevin Bumgarner is executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness. He can be reached at kbumgarner@goFBW.com and followed on Twitter at @FBW_editor