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Jim Stewart reflects on 30 years at First Baptist before retirement

Posted by Shana Adkisson on

When Jim Stewart was about 12 or 13, his grandmother told him he was going to be a minister.

“I just laughed,” Stewart said. “Over 40 years later, here I am.”

Stewart’s ministry will come to a close at First Baptist Church on December 31 when he retires as Associate Pastor of Education and Family Life.

“I never imagined in 1985 that I would still be here in 2015,” Stewart said.

Stewart admits the decision to retire wasn’t an easy one, but he feels that God has called him in another direction. Stewart’s retirement plans include staying in Norman and offering his clergy skills on a part-time basis to churches who are without a minister. Stewart also plans to minister at an area children’s home.

“I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life. I have been behind the stained glass windows of the church and it’s time for me to go outside and to the rest of the world. I don’t have any grandiose ideas of traveling around the world. My vision of that is going back to a faith-based children’s home to work with families and children and single parents trying to rebuild their lives, pouring a little bit of myself into them,” Stewart said.

On January 4, Stewart will preach in a special combined worship service that will feature the Lord’s Supper and a very special baptism.

“As a minister, I have gotten to baptize all three of my children. And, God willing, on January 4, I’ll get to baptize my granddaughter,” Stewart said.

There is something sobering, Stewart said, as he moves closer to his retirement.

“You think ‘Have I done all that I’ve wanted to do?’ And I think the answer will always be no. I don’t ever want to be accused of doing everything I set out to do. I’m not sure that’s healthy,” Stewart said. “I think there will always be a point where your dreams exceed your grasp. There is always something else out there.”

Stewart believes that his time at First Baptist has allowed groundwork to be laid for future members of the congregation.

“I like the model that I’m planting trees the shade of which I’ll never enjoy. That’s kind of the way I’ve approached my ministry,” Stewart said.

Stewart said that retirement has a surreal feeling.

“Just to think that you have been here long enough to have had kids in summer camps and sports programs at the Family Life Center, and then you have been here long enough to have their children (in camps),” Stewart said. “Some of those kids that I had that were in the summer camps when I was at the FLC then worked in our camps. Then they went away to school somewhere and then they got married and a few of them have come back and asked me to do their wedding. That’s pretty gratifying.”

Stewart admits that his career wouldn’t be possible without the support of his wife Vicki.

“I raised my stock considerably when I got married. She always said she wanted to marry a minister. She had no idea that would mean she would have to give up aspirations of being on one of the top 10 financial wizards list. But she didn’t care,” Stewart said.

The relationships he’s built over the years at First Baptist will be what Stewart misses most when he retires.

“Probably the biggest part of a minister’s job is empowering other people to use what gifts they have and to serve in whatever capacity God is calling them in. It has been very gratifying to see people over the years step up to the plate and say, ‘I can do that.’ Not everybody says yes, but for those that do, I think they are the ones who really end up being the winner in that deal because they see a part of themselves that they didn’t see,” Stewart said.

The best days in the history of First Baptist are yet to come, Stewart adds.

“God is still going to do some things here. I’m going to try to support the staff and the church the best I can,” Stewart said.