Gary Derbyshire

6 Firsts I Can't Wait to Do as a Senior Pastor

Gary Derbyshire
August 31, 2018

August 2018 has certainly been a month of firsts for my family: first time trying to sell a house, first time taking a kindergartner to school, and first day of a new semester of seminary. However, the greatest first of this month is certainly the one that happened on August 6, the first time being called by a church as a senior pastor. As I sit here in my office at Gateway Fellowship for the last day, packing belongings, and sending last minute how-tos to the interim leaders, here are six firsts that excite me about my new calling as a senior pastor:

1. Succeeding a great senior pastor.

In my first interview with Pastor Jim and the search committee, my wife and I were so blessed by the obvious fact that this church loved its pastor. And their pastor loved them. Pastor Jim has led this congregation for longer than I have been alive. Yet, his heart was not to prepare God’s people for Himself, but to prepare them for Jesus. From the time he started, 36 years ago, he has put this church on a healthy diet of expositional preaching and biblical theology. This is an invaluable foundation many young pastors don’t ever get, much less have it dropped into their lap.

2. Preaching every week to the whole congregation.

One of the most determining factors behind my calling to the senior pastorate was a burning desire to preach. And not just preach, but preach to the same group of people, of any age, any ethnicity, any background every week.

3. Establishing a vision for the church.

From the time I was very young, I have always had a creative mind. I delight in thinking of new ways to do old things. I love thinking of old ways to do new things. It excites me to find what people are good at and watch them do it. I will be transitioning between doing this in a limited capacity for specific ministries, to doing it for the whole body of Christ. It is a task I leap at the opportunity to do.

4. Committing myself to faithful leaders who can teach others.

The Apostle Paul once told his church planting disciple, Timothy, to commit what he had taught him to “faithful men, who will be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2).” As I look to the wonderful task of being spent for God’s bride, I am so looking forward to leading others to be spent with me.

5. Commissioning missionaries and sending short-term mission teams.

As a Missionary Kid from Thailand, I was raised on the mission field. I grew up knowing most people within a hundred miles of my home would never even hear the name God in their own language before they died if I did not tell them. The Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 commands all Christians to play a part in bringing the nations to Christ. I can’t wait to lead God’s family in reaching the nations.

6. Seeing the Gospel change people.

Ok, I am cheating a little with this one, since any Christian can do this. Still, I am going to say it anyway. This is what gets me up every morning: the prospect of getting to share the Gospel with another person. Our world is broken and dark, but all it needs is Jesus. Our country is divided, but all it needs is Jesus. Our city is hurting and buried under sin, but all it needs is Jesus. God is putting on a stunning show of redeeming sinners to Himself and I believe pastors, at the very least, get a front row seat.


I am so grateful to the Lord for calling me into the pastorate. Furthermore, I am grateful He is keeping me in Arizona. Though I grew up overseas, I was born in Arizona, my extended family is in Arizona, we furloughed from the mission field in Arizona, I went to college in Arizona, started a family in Arizona, and have spent 10 years of student ministry in Arizona. For a Missionary Kid from Asia, I am about as much of an Arizonan as I can be. As my family transitions out of our post at Gateway Fellowship, says goodbye to so many dear brothers and sisters, we rejoice at God’s hand through it all. There will undoubtedly be many challenging times again as Apollo Baptist Church and the Derbyshire troop begin this season of firsts together. There will be plenty of hills and valleys along the way, but I know we will face them, as all churches through history have always done, with the same hand of our Sovereign God upon us.

Gary Derbyshire

Gary is the Senior Pastor of Apollo Baptist Church in Glendale, Arizona. Gary's biggest life influence is his loving parents, who originally taught him the Gospel and biblical exposition, and still live as missionaries in Asia. The next biggest influence is his loving wife, a gifted worship leader and evangelist to their children.

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Gary Derbyshire