How do you follow a legend? This question has been on my mind for the past 18 months, since our family learned we would be moving to Christ United.
If you’re on the distribution list to receive this, you certainly know that Don Underwood is a legend in more ways than one. Here at Christ United, he led this congregation through almost four decades of incredible ministry, pursuing our mission of loving God, serving others, and transforming lives. But beyond our congregation, both in the North Texas Conference and The United Methodist Church as a whole, Don has long been a leader whose wisdom, courage, and integrity impacted far more lives than he will ever know.
As young Navy ROTC students at Notre Dame many years ago, we were given sage advice by the instructor of our leadership class, advice that has stayed with me all these years. (Pardon the male-centric language — he was talking to a room comprised almost exclusively of young men.) He told us, “You never want to be the guy who follows ‘The Man.’ You want to be the guy who follows the guy who followed ‘The Man.’”
Meaning, of course, that following a brilliant leader is a very daunting task indeed.
As you might imagine, I’ve thought about that advice more than once since I was appointed to follow Don. But life in the church is very different than life in the Navy (thank God!). And after 18 months of prayer and reflection, it’s clear to me how we — together, as a community of faith — will build upon the foundation that has been laid here.
We will continue to live the values that Christ entrusted to his disciples almost two thousand years ago. By living our lives in a manner worthy of the gospel (Colossians 1:10). By focusing on the Great Commission to reach new people (Matthew 28:19-20). And by holding fast to our long tradition of being a big tent church — where all are welcome, where differing perspectives are honored, and where we’re all focused on the mission of making, nurturing, and sending disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
That world looks very different than it did when Don first stepped into the pulpit of the church on Glencliff Drive back in 1983. Our congregation, our community, and our nation have changed in ways that no one could have imagined 37 years ago. But the values that have guided followers of Jesus from the beginning will continue to guide us in the future. So that you and I will continue to have a vibrant and life-changing family of faith to pass on to the next generation.
I look forward to the journey with you.