PADUCAH, Ky. (KT) -- More than 800 people gathered Friday night to celebrate the ministry and legacy of Dan Summerlin, who has retired after 21 years as senior pastor of Lone Oak First Baptist Church.
Summerlin's impact not only on his church and community, but on Kentucky as well as the United States and into foreign lands, was lauded by a bevy of speakers -- some in-person and some by video.
Lone Oak recorded 943 baptisms during Summerlin's time there (2002-23), with a high of 72 in 2004. The church had double digit baptisms in every year but one -- 2021, which was impacted dramatically by Covid. During his time there, the church's annual budget has increased from $1.5 million to $4.19 million. It has had two major building projects, including one in progress now. The church has invited in missions locally, in Kentucky, nationwide and to the nations to the tune of just under $10 million. It has sent mission teams to five continents, and has seen 23 missionaries and ministers sent out from Lone Oak.
It was said that the retirement celebration was bittersweet as the church expressed its gratitude for Summerlin's service and wished him well as he takes his next step, which involves being "a professional grandparent, an interim pastor, a seminary professor, or a trainer and equipper of young men for pastoral ministries."
"We were overwhelmed by the love and support we received at our retirement celebration," Summerlin said. "I was blown away when I entered the auditorium and saw the room packed. The program was funny, sad, inspiring, and uplifting. Hearing from former staff, national and state Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leaders and missionaries and pastors around the world brought smiles and tears to my wife and me. Hearing our son and daughter talking about our influence on their love for the local church was a highlight of the night.
"As people talked to me, I kept hearing two statements over and over: 'Thank you for preaching the Word,' and 'Thank you for being there when I needed you.' What a reminder for pastors of the two most important things we do. We have been blessed serve an incredible loving, mission-minded church and I am honored to have been called the pastor of Lone Oak First Baptist Church."
Minister of Music Mark Swadley recalled 16 years ago when another church and Lone Oak FBC were interested in calling him. He contacted Bill Mackey, who was the Kentucky Baptist Convention (KBC) executive director-treasurer at the time, and asked his opinion of the two churches. "He said, 'One is a good church, but Lone Oak FBC is a great church, and Dan Summerlin is the prince of pastors."
Todd Gray, KBC executive director-treasurer, attended the Friday celebration and told the crowd that during Summerlin's time as senior pastor of Lone Oak FBC, the church has sent more than $5.5 million to support Cooperative Program funded ministries.
"Dan has served as KBC president, chaired the Administrative Committee, received the Lifetime Leadership Award, served on the board of Sunrise Children's Services and much more. He has been a friend to SBC entity leaders as well as having served on the Executive Committee of the SBC. There are few leaders in recent history who have had more impact on the stability and direction of the work of the Kentucky Baptist Convention than Dr. Dan Summerlin."Possibly even greater than all that is the impact Dan has had on young pastors across the state. He has served as a mentor to many young ministers in Kentucky and has made himself available as a source of counsel when needed. I am grateful for Dan Summerlin, his love for his family, his ministry to Lone Oak First Baptist and his ministry to me personally. My prayer is that God will raise up 1,000 more just like him to help us advance the Great Commission in Kentucky and around the world."
Congratulatory videos were shown from state and national leaders. They included ...
• Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, said Summerlin's time at Lone Oak First Baptist is "a testimony to your faithfulness and commitment. You are loved ... respected and appreciated throughout Kentucky and our entire Southern Baptist family."
Ezell, a graduate of Lone Oak High School, said Summerlin has "led Lone Oak FBC to be a light for the gospel" and applauded him for his support of missionaries. "Truly the impact of your legacy will not be known this side of eternity."
• Willie McLaurin, interim president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, said Summerlin's "heart and passion of fulfilling the Great Commission has been on display every day. I am thankful for your godly leadership, faithful partnership and lasting friendship.
"Your heart for missions and service to KBC and SBC has made a significant impact on churches here at home and around the globe. You and Eileen have modeled to other ministry couples what a true picture of partnership in ministry looks like."
• Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board, talked about the blessing Summerlin and his wife, Eileen, have been to Lone Oak as well as other churches where he has pastored.
"You have been a blessing to Kentucky Baptists in your many leadership roles -- the wisdom and the dedication you have brought to that work. You have been a blessing to Southern Baptists in your leadership across the Southern Baptist Convention. You have been a blessing to the International Mission Board as you have led churches to be so deeply involved and strongly committed to the work of getting the gospel to the nations. You have been a blessing to me as a personal friend -- you have been one of my greatest encouragers in ministry. Watching you and Eileen has blessed Michelle and myself as we thank God for your faithfulness, for the way you are finishing well, for the integrity of your heart and for the way you have lived your life in fellowship with Him and serving the bride of Christ."
• Hershael York, pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church and dean of theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said Summerlin "is an exemplary pastor with a real heart for people, for the Lord -- and is a true shepherd and undershepherd under the Lord Jesus Christ.
"You have done it so well. You have not just led your congregation, you have led many of us as Kentucky Baptists. It has been a joy to walk alongside you and see your devotion to the Lord Jesus and the way you use the influence God has given you to help others be faithful.
"You have always been an encourager to me, you have made me want to follow Christ more closely, to love the Lord's church more -- I know that story is told many times over because you have had such a great impact on our state, our nation, your work with NAMB, your presidency of KBC, so many things.
"I know that we preachers don't ever really retire -- we're on call until our Lord calls us home. I know your commander might give you a different post, a different task, and I know you will always bring honor and glory to the Lord Jesus because that is your heart."
• Pastor Rene, speaking for Cuban pastors, said the "Eastern Baptist Convention of Cuba has prayed for you. We love and respect you, and you have been a true friend. From the time we have met, you have dedicated yourself to being a pastor counselor through beautiful messages, through the clear explanation of how you interpret the Bible text and messages from heaven to and for us. We guard in our hearts every treasure from the messages you have spoken during each trip you have taken to Cuba."
• Other video messages were from Rick Lance, state missionary and executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions; Ian Carrico, former pastor in western Kentucky who now serves as a church evangelism associate with KBC, and David and Janet Hooten, IMB missionaries.