July 2021 will mark 24 years since Dr. Doyle Sager came to serve as Lead Pastor of First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Missouri (FBCJC). Doyle discerned his call to ministry 54 years ago as a 15-year-old boy. If you asked him, Doyle would say one of his greatest joys and passions in five decades of local church ministry is the opportunity to mentor, encourage, and support emerging pastors. We are two of those pastors.  

True to his word, Doyle has welcomed and nurtured our pastoral gifts in FBCJC’s circles of influence, inviting us to offer leadership in our congregation and community. Because of his tenure and character, our congregation and community deeply trust Doyle. Rather than hoarding the privilege and honor of trust, Doyle has instructed and entrusted to us sacred responsibilities of influencing, leading, and shepherding our congregation as partners in ministry. Specifically, Doyle is generous with the pulpit, affording us opportunities to preach throughout the year. In the year leading up to the pandemic, Doyle arranged for us to alternate preaching monthly. Doyle’s generosity with the pulpit is a rare and beautiful gift. 

Ministry in our time of pandemic is challenging. In addition, Doyle received a devastating cancer diagnosis in August 2020, deepening our church’s grief and posing deeper challenges still. Yet, when Doyle began his medical leave, we did what Doyle always invited and prepared us to do: we led. Because of Doyle’s investment in us, trust in us, and intentionality with us over the years, there are many things we’re not doing for the first time as our staff team supports our congregation in this season of unknowns. And Doyle’s investment in and visible commitment to shared leadership prepared our congregation to continue working together during his leave to be the church Doyle taught and dreamed for us to be – a church compelled to be Christ’s love and hope.

Throughout BWIM’s 2021 Month of Preaching, it is not lost on us that a female pastor will preach every Sunday of February at FBCJC, as we have since August 2020 when Doyle’s medical leave began. This is possible and supported because of Doyle’s generosity and intentionality over the years. Our congregation continues to be immensely supportive and encouraging as their two female pastors preach. Even in a congregation where not everyone fully supports “women pastors,” our voices are familiar and helpful. What a gift. We give thanks to Doyle for preparing us – both pastors and congregation – for this season.

When we imagine the ways women can and will be afforded the opportunity to share their gifts of preaching and leading in the local church, we think of Doyle, and we give thanks. It happens in the small and big gestures of power-sharing, a truth Doyle lives in the way he mentors and nurtures other pastors. Although it’s not possible in every church, Doyle models what is possible for some churches. Because of his generosity, FBCJC has the resources it needs in this challenging season of ministry.

This February, we give thanks for leaders empowering and blessing those coming behind them on the ministry path, leaders like Doyle Sager.

Melissa Hatfield is pastor of youth and missions and Hannah Coe is pastor of families and faith formation at First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Missouri.