This is taken from the recent edition of the EPC News
Pastor to President – Part 1 An interview with Don Sweeting
by Jeff Jeremiah
After twelve years of ministry as the Senior Pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church, Dr. Don Sweeting has taken a call to become the President of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. In the first of a two part interview, he offered these thoughts about his ministry at Cherry Creek. Don will be our keynote speaker at our Friday night worship service at General Assembly.
Don, what has been the vision of Cherry Creek during your time as senior pastor?
For the last eight years, the vision of Cherry Creek has been to be an EPC church with an Acts 1.8 impact; that is, to be effective witnesses in our Jerusalem (Greenwood Village), Judea (SE metro Denver), Samaria (Urban Denver and cross cultural domestic missions), all the way to the ends of the earth (all kinds of overseas work).
We are intentional about both parts—to be an EPC church and to have an Acts 1.8 impact. We love the EPC. We are thankful for its “truth and love” ethos, for its connectionalism, and for taking a confessional stance under Scripture, but with a sense of proportion that is embodied in both the Essentials and the Westminster standards.
As a church, we exist to lead people to the joy that is found in Christ. So besides our commitment to being reformed and Presbyterian, we are committed to being evangelical and missional and to thinking hard about our presence and witness where God has planted us.
How have you led Cherry Creek towards a missional and reformed future?
We started this difficult task by asking, “What does it mean to be missionaries to our growing post Christian culture?” and “What is really effective evangelistically?” As we wrestled with our answers to these questions, we realized that churches give off “aromas.” When there is unity and a desire to bless others in the name of Christ, this becomes a good aroma, and it makes reaching our community easier. For this reason, early on, we intentionally pursued a path of asking God to heal us and mend broken relationships. This was key to getting us launched in our vision. Then we went about rebuilding relationships with our community. We asked, “What does it mean to bless our city, our neighborhoods, and even the churches all around us?” This has opened lots of doors.
The heart of being reformed means letting the Word of God and the gospel reshape us—to move us from our natural deformation to transformation or reformation. This is about the healthiest thing any church can do. Our esteem for God becomes greater. His grace becomes more amazing. We are more enamored with Christ. And as a result, we become increasingly gracious people who long to bless others so that they too will bless and glorify their father who is in heaven.
You have “finished well” at Cherry Creek. What has that been like? What did it require of you, of the staff and of the congregation?
It is wonderful to leave a church with mutual feelings of gratefulness, celebration and blessing. In fact, there is nothing like it. It is a foretaste of that day when we will stand before Him and long to hear His “well done.” It is a season where you get to see some of the fruit of your ministry.
By the way, “finishing well” does not mean it was always smooth sailing. Like every church, we’ve gone through rough spots to get to this place. In general, I think finishing well for pastors requires letting go, intentionally preparing those who will take our place, mentoring younger leaders, and working hard to make for a good transition when God calls us elsewhere. For congregation and staff it requires that they trust that God is in control and will care for His church. For all, it requires us to remember that this is not our church, but His. There will come a point, sooner or later, when we will hand it back to Him and be gone.
What motivates you for ministry?
In life and ministry, we are motivated by all kinds of things, some good, some not so good. But by God’s grace, more and more in my life, I am motivated by the glory of God, the greatness of the gospel, the joy of knowing Jesus, the faithfulness of saints who have gone before us, and a desire to beautify the church so it can be effective to the Lord in its mission.
What do you want people to remember about your ministry at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church?
Pastor-author Kent Hughes reminds us at the beginning of every one of his commentaries that good preaching involves logos, pathos and ethos. A good ministry involves those things as well. I want people to remember that my time at Cherry Creek was characterized by logos—that is, a strong commitment to the Word—exalting Christ as the living Word and proclaiming the written Word with a gospel focus and relevance. I truly believe that both people and churches do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. I also want people to remember my time as one characterized by pathos, or passion. That we had a passion for Christ—an urgency for ministry in his name and a love for people. And third, I want others to remember that, only by his grace and the help of the Holy Spirit, that we tried to live what we proclaimed—that there was congruity. That’s ethos. I hope that when people looked at the way I treated my wife, or the relationship I had with my kids, that there was credibility. That both grace and truth were present in my life—not perfectly, but truly. And because of all these things, our church was a blessing to the congregation, to the community, to the wider world, and in some small way brought joy to our Lord.