John Lepper's Retirement Reception

Over 50 people gathered from across the state at Faith Baptist Church on Saturday afternoon, August 16, to celebrate the retirement of John Lepper, former coordinator of the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship. He served for 16 years in this position.

Attendees celebrated with a KBF cake, and Jan Causey presented John and his wife, Connie, with a commemorative plate on behalf of KBF. John provided remarks at this reception, which are printed below.

Reflections After Forty-Five Days Into Retirement
By John Lepper
Note: the following was shared with those present at the reception for John Lepper at Faith Baptist Church, August 16, 2014.
I awoke this morning in a reflective mood and sat down at my computer and tried to capture some of these reflections.
First let me say thank you for the opportunity to serve as coordinator of Kentucky Baptist Fellowship for 16 years.  I consider my time at Kentucky Baptist Fellowship the opportunity of a lifetime—so far.  
Many retirement celebrations are held near the last day of retirement.  Due to a three-week vacation and other circumstances, this reception is a month and a half after my actual retirement.  
The children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before finding the promised land. The temptation experience of Jesus took place in the desert and lasted for forty days.  We understand this experience of Jesus as decisions regarding how he would use his life.  Jesus emerged from the desert, clear about his mission in life. 
So when a person retires, he or she goes to a metaphorical desert to discover a new calling, a new purpose for life.  William Bridges, author of the classic book: Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, calls this in-between time the neutral zone.  On this day, I cannot announce my mission for the next chapter of my life as clearly as Jesus did following his desert experience.  However, I do have a bit of clarity, fuzzy though it may be, about my new call and how I hope to use my gifts. 
I have done some serious thinking and rethinking in this 45-day neutral zone about my calling for the rest of my life.  I have been on a mission of rediscovery, trying to find, as Fredrick Bechner says, “the place where my deep gladness meets the world’s deep need."
It was no surprise to me and it will not be a surprise to you that I have discovered and rediscovered that my calling has something to do with helping individuals and couples in crisis and helping churches in transition. 
I had the privilege of attending the 2014 Global Leadership Summit with my pastor and others from my church.  Here’s a portion of my notes from the Global Leadership Summit when Bill Hybels was inviting those present to respond to God’s call to what he called the “grander vision.” 
Bill Hybels said something like, "Invite by silent prayer for God to take over from here and talk directly to you for just a few moments. Clear your mind out a little bit. Ask God to put a thought in your mind that is one you do not generate. Ask God to make an impression you do not manufacture yourself.  Make this your prayer: ‘Oh God, speak to me. Talk to me about what is my piece in that grander vision you want me to play.’” 
After a period of quiet reflection, here’s what I wrote: 
"Use my family systems skills, knowledge and passion to help couples in crisis and churches in the interim. Write a book."
Here are some things I’ve accomplished these 45 days:

  1. Enjoyed time to do personal stuff like spend quality time with Connie and travel to three European countries on a three-week vacation to visit family.  This was an unforgettable travel and family reunion experience.
  2. Reactivated a counseling practice. Like my dermatologist has been fond of saying (who happens to be my same age), “I’m semi-retired, I just see patients now.” 
  3. Developed a one sheet "flyer" about a Bridge to the Interim workshop. Used this to communicate with numerous people in other states about my availability to provide a Bridge to the Interim workshop for congregational leaders following the departure of their pastor. 
  4. Made myself available to serve as an intentional interim and responded to a couple of inquiries in this regard. In response to one inquiry, wrote a two page statement of my understanding and call to intentional interim ministry. I have not heard from this committee since their inquiry but I am grateful to them for providing this very worthwhile exercise, which helped me sharpen my focus and my call.
  5. Came to realize Connie has been making a list.  I think it’s called AJR or maybe JJ—“After John Retires” or just “John’s Jobs.”  I checked off one of these by building a planter/retaining wall and followed that up with two visits in one week to my friendly chiropractor. And no, I am not available to do landscaping work for you.
  6. Had several conversations with the chair of deacons in another state about their interim situation. Agreed to fly there for more conversation (scheduled for the weekend after Labor Day).

So, I suspect that with all this in the “pipeline” I’ll be very busy by fall.  I’ve enjoyed this “neutral zone” and look forward to the next big chapter.  
During these 45 days, Kentucky Baptist Fellowship has been in its own neutral zone.  It is my hope that the KBF, with the guidance of the Coordinating Council, will make an intentional effort to do the work of the interim, the neutral zone.  It is my hope that KBF can clarify its mission for the future and move forward in a positive way, making a significant difference in Kentucky and beyond.