You must be a registered user to access our website. Please complete the registration form at no cost, or login if you are already a registered user. Be assured, your registration information is secure and will not be sold or made available to others.
To learn why registration is now required, see this editorial on the website changes. Once you have completed the registration process, to include verification of your email address, a cookie will be placed on your computer to automatically complete the login process in the future.
Registered users, click here.
New users or if you have never registered before, click here.
BRANDON (FBW)—Pete Vande Weghe, pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Brandon, insists he’s not retiring.
Instead, he’s “redirecting” his ministry as he makes plans to end a 26-year tenure at Southside Baptist.
“We are too healthy and well to retire and we’re not ready to retire to a rocking chair,” the 70-year-old longtime pastor said.
The Southside congregation honored Vande Weghe Dec. 16 as part of Founders’ Day, and charter members and former staff members turned out to honor their pastor on the “joyful, not tearful” day, as Vande Weghe put it.
It was a milestone in a profession Vande Weghe said he did not foresee as a youngster, but became “part of a progression” as his life unfolded.
“God calls us one step at a time,” he said.
Vande Weghe moved from New Jersey to Riviera Beach with his father when he was 13, and soon headed down the wrong road, but his own account. He met a young woman in high school, however, and that meeting changed the course of his life. The former Lois Grate invited him to First Baptist Church in Riviera Beach.
“I had no use for church at the time, but I went to be with her. She had something in her life I did not have,” he said.
He travelled to Miami with her family in 1959 to attend a Billy Graham Crusade, and he made a profession of faith during the meeting.
He and Lois were married in 1962, one year after high school graduation. Within three years their son, Bob, was born and Vande Weghe was moving up the ranks in the electronic business while attending college at Palm Beach Junior College at night. And his life was to become more complicated.
While taking sermon notes on a Sunday morning, he wrote, “I think God is calling me to ministry.”
Hesitant to tell his wife about his call, but when she wasn’t surprised when he finally broached the subject. During the same sermon she had written in her notes, “I think God has called Pete to ministry.”
“What an incredible confirmation of my call,” he said with a catch in his voice.
Vande Weghe began attending Luther Rice Seminary, now located in Lithonia, Ga., as a career student at night while he continued selling semi-conductors for ITT.
After an 11-year career with ITT, he switching his day job to General Dynamics and continued studies while becoming corporate director of materials, and managed material in five plants in five states from his office in Tampa. From the beginning he told his company he would leave in five years when his seminary work was complete.
“I never felt like I had missed God’s calling. It has all been part of God’s plan. Being in the business world made me a better pastor. I understand the pressures of business, and what life is all about,” he said.
While a seminary student, Vande Weghe expected to serve as a church administrator where he could put his business acumen to work, but his first ministerial position after graduation in June 1981 was as minister of education and evangelism at Northwood Baptist Church in West Palm Beach. He also served five years in a similar position with First Baptist Church in Dover, where he also served seven months as interim pastor.
“Those months made me realize that was where God was leading me,” he said.
He accepted the pastorate of Southside Baptist in June 1986—“the right decision,” he said. He was charged with “taking a church that had split and taking them back to health.” He said Southside Baptist, with 800 resident members, is now “a good, solid, Bible-believing church.”
“Three generations in the church know sound doctrine and its importance,” he said. “We teach that all Christians are soul-winners—not just staff, and we have to take every opportunity to share our faith.”
Although Vande Weghe would have been content to continue a full-time ministry, two “wake-up calls” convinced him to change his plans. First, the Social Security Administration let him know that could not continue to “put money in.” It was time to “take money out,” they told him.
The Vande Weghe’s vacation cabin in Trion, N.C., had been used by several other ministers for respite during the years, but only rarely by its owners. When someone asked him, in his wife’s presence, what would happen if they never got to use it, he learned her feelings on the subject. That was the second wake-up call, he said.
“She said that I had worked 70-80 hours a week since we married, and she wanted some time with me. I will slow down at her request. She deserves that,” he said.
Vande Weghe will continue to preach at Southside Baptist until the couple’s house in Brandon sells, or until the church calls a new pastor. They then will leave their son and two grandsons in Florida and move near their daughter, Dawn Fleischman, and her two daughters in the Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C. area. They plan to live in their isolated mountain cabin during summer months.
His “redirecting” plans include supply preaching, evangelism and chaplaincy work. He will continue what he has enjoyed most during his ministry—“being a personal pastor, spending time with the people,” he said.
“We’ve built buildings and numbers at Southside, but it’s really still about the lives of the people,” he said.
You must be login before you can leave a comment. Click here to Register if you are a new user.