By Brent Hoskins, The Journey at LBC
For 25 years Pastor Steve Dighton has led the congregation of Lenexa Baptist Church (LBC) with unparalleled devotion, preaching from the church’s pulpit around 1,300 times directly from God’s Word, just as he was called to do. He has prayed for LBC’s members and countless others. He has a seemingly infallible ability to greet members by name, despite the significant number. He has shown dedication, compassion, humor and generosity. Above all, however, Steve Dighton — the man from humble beginnings in Ada, Oklahoma, led to Lenexa to build the conservative flagship church in Johnson County, Kansas — has daily shown a love of the Lord that is inspiring to all who know him.
On Saturday, Feb. 21, more than 1,000 members of LBC and friends from across the country gathered to express their gratitude and love during a special day in honor of Pastor Steve and his wife Mary, marking the occasion of a new phase in their life journey. Culminating months of transition as Chad McDonald becomes the new senior pastor on March 1, Pastor Steve is transitioning into retirement after 25 years of service as LBC’s founding senior pastor, now becoming senior pastoral advisor. In his new role, Pastor Steve will preach at least 10 times each year. He will also be available to coach and mentor Pastor Chad and the campus pastors. In addition, he will be available to advise and assist other SBC churches as needed.
The Feb. 21 celebration began with a reception in Koinonia Hall allowing LBC members and many friends from outside LBC — including a contingent traveling from Ada — to express their personal thanks and appreciation to Pastor Steve and Mary. The lengthy reception line was an unmistakable testament to the impact the Dightons have had on the lives of others over the past 25 years. A two-hour celebration followed in the Worship Center, in part showcasing the talents of the LBC choir and a number of soloists, so often praised by Pastor Steve through the years. There were also solos performed by former member Fran Jacques and former LBC worship leader David Stanley, who returned to Lenexa to join the celebration.
As the celebration got underway, Pastor Steve welcomed those who had gathered for the special evening. “It is really a night of celebration; of God’s great favor on our ministry and what we have enjoyed in serving you here at Lenexa Baptist over these past 25 years,” he said. “I want you to know I am grateful for every one of you. It says in Philippians 1:6, ‘He who began a good work in you will bring it into completion in the day of Jesus Christ.’ As I thought about a verse that was really fitting for this evening, it seemed that the Lord directed me to Psalms 118, verse 23. It says this, ‘This is the Lord’s doings and it is marvelous in our eyes.’ And the very next verse says, ‘This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.’”
Pastor Steve then began to recount the history of LBC, beginning with the milestone of Jan. 21, 1990, when Westside Baptist Church voted 78 to zero to call him as senior pastor. The next year, the church became independent of the sponsoring church, Emmanuel Baptist, ultimately changing the name to Lenexa Baptist Church in 1994. Throughout the celebration, he shared memories of the challenges, transitions and victories of the growth of the church, eventually leading to the three-phase construction of today’s LBC, now with 6,000 members.
In addition to the songs performed by the choir and soloists, the celebration featured videos of a number of honoring messages from Southern Baptist pastors and leaders. They included such dignitaries as Dr. Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas; Dr. John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention; Dr. Bob Mills, executive director of the Kansas Nebraska Convention; Thom Rainer, president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources and author of the 2005 book that features LBC, Breakout Churches; and O.S. Hawkins, president and CEO of GuideStone Financial Resources and a former pastor of Pastor Steve’s hometown First Baptist Church of Ada.
There were also video testimonial tributes to Pastor Steve from two long-time LBC members and servant leaders, John Lauster and Jim Stockwood. In his testimony, Stockwood noted that during the first message he heard Pastor Steve preach he wrote down 30 scripture references. “My wife asked me, ‘What did you think?’ I said, ‘The man preaches nothing but the Word of God and God is going to honor him; we’re going to raise our children here,” he recalled. “That’s been almost 18 years ago and a lot has changed in this church since that time, but I have seen God’s sovereign hand of blessing on this church and on Pastor Steve.”
Near the end of the celebration, Mary Dighton addressed those who had gathered, sharing her memories and reading tributes from family members, referring to Pastor Steve as the “man of my dreams, the man of my forever.” She also cited the four main goals of Pastor Steve in recent years that have now been achieved: (1) To see 2,000 people baptized at LBC; (2) To see the church become debt free; (3) To consistently have more than 3,000 in attendance each Sunday; and (4) To find the right successor.
Returning to the pulpit following Mary’s comments, Pastor Steve took the opportunity to share words of encouragement for his successor. “Mary touched on that last goal of mine; to find the right successor, and boy did I get one,” he said. “Chad McDonald is my dear friend and nobody is more thrilled about the next chapter in this wonderful church. As you know, he has a humble spirit, he is a visionary, he cares about people and he is an excellent preacher. I am convinced this church is going to prosper and do great things and I am honored to have him follow me as the next senior pastor at Lenexa Baptist Church.”