After celebrating his 20th anniversary at First Baptist Church of Flowery Branch in May 2018, the Rev. Chuck Nation began thinking and praying about his future and the future of the church. Those prayers led to him feeling the call to retire, which he’ll do Feb. 24 as the longest-serving pastor at the church.
He’s been in ministry for more than 40 years and doesn't plan on letting retirement change that.
“I just have served here a long time,” Nation, 65, said. “I’m not actually going to retire from preaching or serving the Lord, but I felt like it was time to listen to the Lord and let somebody else move in and take the pastorate.”
He said an interim pastor will likely be chosen from within the church while it looks for a new pastor to step into his place. Although he told the church his plans to retire at the beginning of the year, Nation said he thinks it still came as a bit of a surprise.
“I just feel like the church needs to hear a fresh voice,” Nation said. “After a certain length of time folks maybe get too comfortable, and it's good for them to hear a different preacher … I just want to be obedient to the Lord and try to follow him.”
Although he won’t be around the church very much since he said it wouldn’t be fair to the new pastor, Nation said he’s not going to leave ministry. He plans to travel and preach “wherever the Lord opens a door.”
He’ll hit retirement running as he has plans to preach at an afternoon worship service at Cresswind the week following his last Sunday at First Baptist.
Throughout his years at the the church, Nation said the community in Flowery Branch has “grown exponentially,” allowing him the opportunity to serve more and more people.
“I look back at pictures and I’ve probably had three different congregations,” Nation said. “A lot of people have passed through the doors, and I feel like we’ve reached a lot of people.”
All of those people made retiring a difficult decision, but Nation said there wasn’t a specific moment where he knew it was time to step down. He said it’s just something he “strongly sensed” as he prayed about it.
“Ministry is a calling, not a career,” Nation said. “I believe the highest calling of God is to be a servant, so I just want to serve. I told the Lord years ago when I first answered and surrendered to the call of ministry that I would go anywhere he wants me to go.”
And when he said he’d go anywhere, he meant it. His band, The Chuck Nation Band, a gospel group he has with his wife, Susan, and daughter, Libby, along with a few friends, has taken him and will continue to take him to many different places.
The band will be in Argentina in June, China in July and all over the Southeast throughout spring and summer.
As he travels, he takes as many opportunities to preach as possible.
“I feel like I still have something to say,” Nation said. “And there’s a big difference between a preacher who has to say something and a preacher who has something to say. So, I still have a message I want to proclaim.”
Taking time to play music is only one of the things he said he’s looking forward to in retirement. Another is more time with his family, especially his 4-year-old granddaughter, Lauren.
“I’m really looking forward to having flexibility to do things with them that I haven’t been able to do in the past,” Nation said.