(Updated Sept. 24)
Dave Stone, senior pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky., has announced he will retire sometime in the next six to nine months. Teaching pastor Kyle Idleman will replace Stone in the lead role at the church.
“This is a process that has been in the works for a number of years,” Stone said in a story published on the Southeast Christian Church website. “My wife, Beth, and I decided on this timing about five years ago. We felt that 2019 would be the wisest time for the transition to take place.”
Stone made the announcement the weekend of Sept. 15-16. He became senior pastor in 2006, replacing Bob Russell, who served the church for 40 years. Prior to stepping into the lead role, Stone served Southeast for more than 15 years.
Stone said he always appreciated how Russell handled his retirement by passing the leadership baton to him when he could have continued to lead. Stone said he wanted to carry out the exchange to Idleman in much the same way.
“He [Russell] had plenty more to give, but Bob was always thinking more about the future of the church and not just the present,” Stone told the church. “What a great example he set for me in that regard, and it motivates me to want to follow that same godly wisdom.”
He said the six- to nine-month timetable to step down had been “bathed in prayer.”
“I am passionate about ministry and I will remain passionate about ministry,” Stone said. “I am in good health. I truly enjoy this role. I just have seen how beneficial it can be for a church to transition to new leadership and younger leadership and a new set of eyes and with a fresh perspective.”
Stone also noted the dangers of being pastor of such a large church. Southeast is among the largest in the country with an attendance of about 25,000 at its six campuses.
“The longer you have that title, if you’re not careful, if I’m not careful, I can begin to love the title too much. And over time, I can start to love the notoriety more than the responsibility,” Stone said. “And so if I have any integrity as your pastor, and as a Christian, my decisions must be guided by a concern for the future of the church rather than just dwelling on how exciting things happen to be right now.”
The next senior pastor of Southeast will be Kyle Idleman, who has served the church for 17 years.
“Kyle is uniquely gifted for this role,” Stone said. “He’s been an elder for 12 years. Last year he preached the same amount that I did, [and] this year he’s preached more than me. He’s doctrinally solid. His integrity, his humility, his preaching/teaching and writing [are] exceptional.”
“His imprint can be seen throughout this church,” Stone continued. “We are going to be so blessed to have him at the helm.”
Both Stone and Idleman come from preaching families.
Stone is the son of Sam E. Stone, former editor of Christian Standard, and the brother of Jeff Stone, lead minister with Bright (Ind.) Christian Church. All three men served as president of the North American Christian Convention.
Idleman is the son of Ken Idleman, former president of Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Mo., and former senior minister of Crossroads Christian Church, Newburgh, Ind.