Gainesville pastor awaits ‘re-assignment’ in pastoral transition
Apr 11, 2014
By CAROLYN NICHOLS
Florida Baptist Witness

GARY CRAWFORD
Courtesy photo by Bill Thompson/WBC
GAINESVILLE (FBW)—Gary Crawford, senior pastor of Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville, announced last month he will lead the church in its transition to a new pastor. His announcement to the church came one month after the church celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Crawford has served as pastor for 32 years of the church’s history, and he acknowledged in an e-mail to the church membership Feb. 25 that the process of transition “has been a tearing of the soul, an emotional rollercoaster,” but a “prayed-through decision.” 

The senior pastor said he asked the church to begin formulating a transition plan after the death of his wife, Freda, in 2009. While on a mission trip to Africa in 2011, Crawford spent a day of prayer in the bush, and said he asked God, “What’s up for the future? I need your guidance.” 

God then revealed a timeline for transition “that bumps into the present,” he wrote in the e-mail.

In his Feb. 23 sermon, Crawford cited Roman 4:11: “By faith, Abraham, when called to go ... went not knowing where he was going.”

“My next step is to wait for God’s leadership and to lead the church in this transition. It’s one step at a time—faith over fear,” Crawford told Florida Baptist Witness. “This is not retirement. I’m not resigning or retiring. I’m waiting for a re-assignment as the Lord leads.”

CELEBRATION Florida Baptist Convention’s John Sullivan (left) and Gary Crawford at the 50th anniversary celebration of Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville. Courtesy photo by Bill Thompson/WBC
Wayne Harvey, director of the Santa Fe Rive Baptist Association, described Crawford as “a phenomenal leader who has helped mold the lives of a lot of people.” 

Harvey said the 64-year-old pastor has been “one of the movers” behind the 13-year effort to establish a Gainesville campus of Florida Baptist Children’s Homes. The successful effort “was helped tremendously by his personal support,” Harvey said of Crawford.

As Westside Baptist begins the process of searching for a new senior pastor, Crawford asked church members—some of whom have known no other pastor—to prepare their children and youth for the transition as “a good thing the Lord is doing as He moves us forward.” Crawford preached on “faith in times of transition” in worship services on March 6 and 9.

Crawford said he hopes God will lead him to a ministry that will combine his “passions for leadership training, coaching and missions.” In the meantime, he looks to overlap ministry at Westside Baptist with his successor as he “holds everything loosely.”

Crawford asked the congregation to “trust God and one another for a bright future,” and he assured them of his continued love.

“I love you deeply,” he wrote. “I must love you enough to help lead you to your next pastor.”

 

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