Today marks the end of Will Toburen’s pastoral ministry at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C. However, Will’s legacy will continue at Calvary for many years to come. Will served as an Associate Pastor and Senior Associate Pastor at Calvary for well over a decade. He will now join the pastoral team at the Summit Church in Durham as the Executive Pastor for Discipleship Ministry. I’ve talked with the Summit’s pastor J.D. Greear recently and he, along with the rest of their team, is excited to welcome Will to their staff. What a great addition to an already stellar team!
When I came to Calvary as a seminary student in the Calvary School of Pastoral Leadership in 2006, Will along with Al Gilbert immediately pulled me in and began investing in my life. These two men have a very special place in my heart (and heart of hearts). They have both shaped my own life and ministry in ways they may never fully know. As for Will specifically, I view him as an older brother in the Christian life. A much wiser brother.
Will’s belief in me, his loving support, and his timely challenges have been formative and affirming – something that every Christian needs and few have the opportunity to receive. Not only has Will become a dear friend, he was part of our wedding ceremony, supported our adoption process, and always encouraged me to grow in ministry through preaching, teaching, and dozens of other ministry opportunities in the local church. Since I cannot be at Calvary for his last Sunday, or attend his going away fellowship, I would like to offer a few thoughts on Will here.
Will is a gifted preacher. I would put him up there with almost anyone. While Will is one of the best, he will never seek his own fame – he gladly points to the Father. I watched Will bring passion and humility to the pulpit for almost 7 years. First and foremost, Will always preached with Jesus as the center of his sermons. Will understands the gospel and works hard to apply the gospel through every text he preached. Will was also humbly honest from the pulpit. One of the things I valued dearly in his ministry was his willingness in admitting where he had failed and where he could work harder in his own personal life. Unlike some preachers who believe that one must always “have it together” to maintain strong leadership, he lead through repentance and humility.
While he was strong in the pulpit, he was so gentle with the people. Calvary loves Will. He grew up at Calvary. He was taught in Sunday School by many of the people who eventually sat under his preaching. I could always sense the mutual endearment when Will would visit some of those dear saints in the hospital or when he would stand by them as they slipped into eternity. I have watched Will weep with those who weep, hold congregants hands when they needed a pastors love, and celebrate the joys of life with many of the people. These are lessons I will treasure for the rest of my life. When I think of servant leadership – many of my lessons were learned under Will.
As a West Campus team we would meet once a week to pray, plan, and hold each other accountable. Each week Will would not only ask us hard questions, but he would also ask for our feedback on his life and ministry. He was always quick to go above and beyond to serve others. He rightly sought chances to grow and learn from others, even guys like me who were well under his ministry age. As I look back I can only conclude that Will wanted to be the most God honoring pastor that he could be. He wanted to preach the word with clarity and with Jesus as the hero. He also wanted to be sensitive to the Spirit when it came to his own life. And being open to allow others to speak into his sanctification process speaks volumes of his character and love for the church.
Strong in the pulpit, gentle in the hospital room. Always growing, and desiring others to grow. Like all of us Will has his faults, but he acknowledges them seeking to grow in the gospel. More importantly, Will loves Jesus, loves his family, and loves the church. I am grateful for our years of ministry together. I am also thankful for our friendship. I look forward to seeing what God has in store for this gentle giant of the faith.
I love you as a dear brother Will, and pray that God would continue to bless you as you begin this new chapter. Rock that sweater vest in your new ministry setting.