An Interview with Greg Fine, Pastor of FBC Higginsville
A few months ago, I was wasting some time on Facebook and came across a retirement announcement of long-time pastor Gregg Fine of FBC, Higginsville MO, fifty-plus miles east of Kansas City. Greg has been on the list of MBC pastors that we would query about stewardship topics. When I saw the announcement, I wanted to see if we could talk about what I came to think of as the stewardship of time. I specifically was thinking of pastoral longevity, and I wanted to know Greg’s thoughts. So, I set up a Zoom call so two Boomers could talk about ending ministry well. Greg started ministry out of seminary in Carthage as a Youth Pastor for eleven years before accepting the call at First Higginsville. At his retirement, Greg will have spent over forty years in ministry in the Missouri Baptist Convention, serving two churches. I hope you enjoy a few of my notes from our interview last week.
Mark Brooks: Greg, thanks for allowing me to interview you. I think we should give a fair disclosure; you and I go way back to our High School days in Tulsa OK!
Greg Fine: Nathan Hale High School! In fact, my mother, who is 101, still lives in the house in Tulsa I grew up in. I get back there often to see her.
Mark: Greg, since we are Facebook friends, I noticed one of your posts about your upcoming retirement. Tell us what the timeline for your retirement is and how it all came about.
Greg: Back in April, I had a conversation with the church and said a year from now, in April of 2024, I will reach my full retirement age of 66 ½. I wanted to start a conversation and call for praying about what the church believes God’s will is with regard to the transition to new leadership and to have them praying, whether they want me to continue serving until they find my replacement or whether they want an intentional interim. The church decided that I would continue serving, and they formed a search committee that is now looking for God’s man. My end point is April, but if they find someone sooner, I will retire after 29 years.
Mark: Twenty-nine years!
Greg: Well, I reached twenty-nine years this past August. I told them if I went past January, I was going to say I had been there thirty years!
Mark: Preachers do round up! But that leads me to what I wanted to talk to you about. Right after I saw the post on Facebook, I thought of interviewing you on the topic of the stewardship of a pastor’s time at one church. To spend so much time in one place and to retire from that church is, I believe, an incredible accomplishment that we need to see more of. After twenty-nine years, what would you say is the value of pastoral longevity at one church?
Greg: One of the benefits is stability. Providing the day-in and day-out leadership. Longevity gives you the ability to invest in people. For instance, I’m marrying kids of people I married. You have the opportunity to see God move in people’s lives in a generational aspect. Baptizing parents and then twenty years later baptizing their children. That is a great value to the church. For me personally, it gave stability to my family. It allowed my kids to be in one place and develop roots.
Longevity allows you to walk with people through this journey, and you have been there in those moments of joy and celebration and in those times of crisis. All that bonds you together. I think the longer you stay, the deeper the relationship builds.
Another value is trust. Trust doesn’t occur overnight. And the longer you stay leading with integrity, the more that builds trust. Longevity gives you a history, done correctly, a positive history that becomes mutual. Decision-making gets easier with trust. Again, it benefits both the church and pastor.
Mark: What do you think were the keys to your nearly thirty years of pastoral longevity?
Greg: A big part of this was the church itself. The people here were so loving and welcoming. One of the dynamics of the church, and this is a small rural area, is the strong family ties across generations. So, you better be careful what you say because they are all related together. But that has turned into a positive thing as both my wife and I live far from our families, and this church just adopted us. They’ve been like grandparents to my kids. I consider them family.
I had been in my previous position as a Minister of Youth for eleven years before I came here, so I had learned a few lessons about staying a long time in one place. You don’t come in pretending you have all the answers and everything done before you was wrong and needed changing. I didn’t come in the first week and say, “Here are six things we need to change.” We did make changes, a lot of them, but the changes we made were made over time after establishing trust. Which goes back again to being invested in them, which helped. I think when you do things with integrity, then people will follow.
So, I feel so tremendously blessed on so many different fronts. To be able to be in the same church, the same community, to raise our family in the same place, to me, gives credence to stability, and again, the FBC Higginsville family has been a tremendous blessing.
Mark: Thanks, Greg, for blessing us with this testimony of how you invested time into a church. It’s clear from talking to you that both your family and you benefitted from being in one place. I’m thankful for your stewardship of time of thirty years of service to FBC Higginsville and Missouri Baptists.