CANCER DIAGNOSIS AND HANDING OFF OF THE BATON
In early 2015, after experiencing several months of illness, John was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. He made the announcement to the church congregation on Sunday morning March 15, 2015. What followed was a rollercoaster of highs and lows, both for John and for the church, as he underwent surgery, radiation therapy and chemo therapy. John continued to preach and minister to the church as his health allowed, with the full support and prays of the congregation. John had many friends in the community, several of whom were pastors themselves, so guest speakers were ready and willing to fill the pulpit on Sunday mornings when he wasn’t feeling well. During this time, the congregation appreciated hearing from Pastors Jerrard Heard, Dusty Vroom, Philip Heidt, Andy Noch, Rich Freeman and others.
It was during this time that John gave considerable thought to who would follow him as pastor and what direction the church should take. Over the years the church had maintained a small (50 to 100 people on average) but loyal congregation. It had always been a family community in El Segundo and also insulated, in a good way, because it allowed for families to grow and thrive here.
John believed that First Baptist Church could benefit from some fresh direction moving into the future. “I’ve sort of been a chaplain and they need more of a captain,” he said. “Every pastor brings to the table a certain skill set and that leadership may be better served by someone else going forward.”
As John’s health stabilized somewhat towards the end of 2015, he encouraged the Board of Deacons to form a Transition Team to look into leadership options for the church following his eventual departure. After considering several possible paths for the church, and at Pastor John's recommendation, the Transition Team began meeting with Elders at Water’s Edge Church to look into the feasibility and desirability of merging the two congregations. This lead to many hours of meetings, several presentations to the respective churches, and much prayer.
After considerable discussion, the members of the Transition Team and Board of Deacons of First Baptist Church, and the Elders from Water's Edge Church, felt that there was a good match between the two congregations. While the two churches were different in their denominational memberships, they were nearly identical in their theology. First Baptist Church had an older congregation, a building and facilities, and was in need of a pastor. Water’s Edge Church had a younger congregation with many young families, a seasoned pastor and support staff, and was in need of a permanent place to worship. The merging of the two churches would meet the needs of both and provide for a more diverse overall membership in terms of Christian maturity, background and family composition.
The leadership of the two churches presented the recommendation to their respective congregations and on November 4, 2017, in separate business meetings, the members of First Baptist Church and Water’s Edge Church voted overwhelmingly to merge their respective memberships, staff and resources to form a new church.