I just found out that my great friend, Pastor Tim Stearman, has retired from active daily ministry.(Denver First Church of the Nazarene was my "spiritual home" while I was stationed with the United States Air Force, in the Denver area back in 1987. I have cassette tapes and CDs from all of those services for the last twenty years--I really do! This church remains in a very special place in my heart.) He was the Senior Pastor at Denver First Church of the Nazarene. Here's the synopsis from the Rocky Mountain News:
How do you sum it all up? On Sunday, his last day at Denver First Church of the Nazarene, Pastor Tim Stearman summed up 15 years with a riff of memories that began with "laughter in the walls and moments nicked in time . . . eating hot dogs on the lawn . . . indoor fireworks on the Fourth of July . . . "
The crowd, remembering along with him, answered back with a standing ovation or two. Longtime member Janice Smith whispered, "I used to come for the music. But with Pastor Tim, I come for the preaching."
When Stearman arrived at First Church he was in his mid-40s, never owned a house (he and the family always lived in a parsonage). Now, he and his wife, Jane - they met in the high school marching band in Wichita, Kan. - are retiring from daily ministry. The future includes staying in Denver for the short term, travel, substitute preaching and enjoying their daughters' families and three grandkids (another due any day).
As for the ovations, it's not the first time a ruckus has been raised in the auditorium-style sanctuary. Throughout the '90s, the handsome church at 3800 E. Hampden Ave. was a go-to place for citywide concerts and celebrity evenings (singer Glenn Campbell was a favorite guest), thanks to a collaboration with a local radio station. Eventually, the partnership with the station dissolved and the economy - well, we all know. All around, change was in the air.
At the holidays, following a six-week sabbatical, Stearman announced his retirement. It was a big surprise.
"I've done this 38 years and I'm tired," he told me in a phone interview a few weeks ago. He said he had some issues related to his weight (not for nothing, people liken him to a teddy bear) and some anxiety issues he wanted to solve.
"It's stressful being a pastor these days," he said then. "You have people walking into churches with guns, and there's so many more legal ramifications. You can't share things about a member's prayer requests - you could get sued for saying what ails 'em! You're just cautious about everything."
There was the tension of several staff layoffs. Stearman had hoped to persuade the church to buy land for an expansion, but the idea was nixed. He told me, "I don't think I would have stayed anyway, but it was an effort on my part to secure their future." Instead, he came to see that the church "needed a new vision, and I needed a new challenge."
So, on Sunday, he prayed: "Father, all that's past is past. Our future - we don't have a clue about that, but we believe you know, and you're going to walk into that future with us."
A future without Pastor Tim? Wilma Fleshman isn't quite ready: "We'll never have another as good," she sighed.
What a great legacy this fine servant of God has left! I remember his two immediate predecessors at Denver First Church: (General Superintendent) Jim Diehl--who is such a wonderful blessing to me in so many ways; and the late W Donald Wellman--the first Nazarene pastor I ever called "my pastor"--when I was stationed in Denver in the United States Air Force.
Tim Stearman is not only a great preacher, but a prince of a man. I don't know him very intimately, but our relationship has been warm and encouraging over the last sixteen years. When he became the senior pastor at DFC, I wrote him a letter, telling him all that his new "family" had meant to me over the years.
I later heard, from someone in the congregation, that Pastor Stearman had read that letter to the congregation one Sunday evening....I'm flattered, shocked, and humbled.
My great friend Kevin Moses, (who was also my roommate for almost 3 years, and probably my closest friend alive today) was flying through Denver ten years ago (this May) on his way to California with me. (I was going to a wedding, and Kevin was just going to California, since he had never been before). We were on separate flights. He would have a layover in Denver. I called my friend, Pastor Tim, and asked him to give Kevin a tour of Denver First Church.
On the appointed day, Kevin shows up, and Pastor Stearman gave him the royal treatment. I was thrilled beyond thrilled, and my eternal thanks are due to this great shepherd.
So, now Denver First is looking for a new senior pastor....May the Lord bring HIS shepherd to these great saints of God.