VINTON–Dr. Bob Moore, who has served for 40 years as the pastor of Bonsack Baptist Church, retired from his position on April 24, or at least sort of.
Actually he will continue to work part time for the church through the end of the year and also will take on new responsibilities as a field strategist with the Southern Baptist Convention Virginia Baptist Mission Board.
In the past month, Dr. Moore has been honored with two “Dear Pastor: Letters from Our Heart” concerts, at a banquet with about 600 in attendance which also inaugurated the opening of the new community life building, with the commission of an anthem “The Love of God,” a proclamation from Roanoke County, and “Celebrating a Legacy of Faith: 40 Years of Ministry” at two services on April 24.
“The past few weeks have been the ‘send-off of a lifetime’,” said Moore in his final sermon as Senior Pastor.
The “Dear Pastor” concerts featured some of Dr. Moore’s favorite hymns interspersed with excerpts from letters congregation members had been invited to pen for him upon his retirement. The letters are being bound for him as a retirement gift.
The first selection, “At First We Weren’t Sure about You,” described the congregation’s initial reaction to Moore when he came to preach a trial sermon on September 12, 1976—young and “long-haired.” Once they heard him preach, the matter was settled. They found him to be dynamic and passionate; he was called and took over as pastor on October 4.
Other letters during the concert talked about the quality of his prayers—“you prayed with us and for us, through thick and thin, with loving care—you loved your flock.”
Some mentioned that their Bibles are full of notes because his sermons are “Bible-based” with “keen insight into scriptures,” which has led to a “mission-minded Bible-teaching church.”
Another member noted that Moore has “been a role model to us, no matter what the calamities or hardships—ours or yours, you choose to live with an attitude of gratitude.”
His attributes of leadership, character, and integrity, as well as his sense of humor, were frequently mentioned in the letters.
“You have worn many hats at Bonsack Baptist and have been excellent at each of them,” said one.
During the two worship services on April 24, Dr. Chris Cadenhead, who is succeeding Moore, demonstrated Dr. Moore’s legacy vividly by asking members of the congregation to stand if they had been baptized by Dr. Moore, married by him, had a child dedicated by him, gone on a mission trip with him, been on staff, or heard him preach a sermon—until virtually everyone in the room was standing.
“Now that’s a legacy,” said Cadenhead. “See the lives he has touched.”
Before Moore’s sermon, Roanoke County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jason Peters honored him with a proclamation from the county declaring April 24 “Dr. Robert G. Moore III Day in the County of Roanoke.”
The proclamation read in part, “Dr. Moore has unselfishly served his church, his family, and his community with faith, love, tears, and laughter as his own family for forty years.”
Peters didn’t just stop by with the recognition—he has been a member at Bonsack Baptist for nine years. In fact he and his wife Candye were married by Dr. Moore.
When Dr. Moore was first hired at Bonsack in 1976, church membership was below 100. Today the average attendance on a Sunday is 1,000 with 2,400 on roll and 75-100 new members joining each year.
It was a small rural church when he became pastor. With his vision and under his guidance an educational wing was added in 1980, a new sanctuary and fellowship hall in 1991 followed by a renovation project in 1994, a new children’s building and renovations of existing educational and office space in 2004, and a new $10 million community life building in 2016. The church has also acted with foresight to purchase adjacent properties to insure the potential for future growth.
Building programs sometimes can lead to dissension in churches. Dr. Moore avoided that dilemma at Bonsack Baptist because he was able to communicate his vision that growth and reaching out to the community are biblical mandates.
“Jesus instructed his followers to go out into the world and make disciples,” said Moore. “Church growth is biblically based—to send out missionaries and to establish ministries. How can we be content to be small, when Jesus encouraged us to grow?”
Moore has inspired the confidence in his congregation to bring vision to reality, especially when they see lives changed because of their efforts and sacrifices.
He says that he is most proud that Bonsack Baptist has been able to grow consistently for 40 years—“in love, with common vision and common purpose, serving Jesus.”
Moore grew up in Norfolk and then attended Virginia Tech, where he started out with a major in chemical engineering. He became involved with the Baptist Collegiate Ministries and realized that he had a passion for working with people and helping them grow in faith, and a gift in communication. He felt a compelling call to change vocational direction and subsequently switched to his major to English language and literature.
He grew up in a nurturing Christian home. His grandparents served as missionaries to Mexico so he had a foundation in the ministry.
He received his Master of Divinity degree and his Doctor of Ministries degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Dr. Moore believes the secret to his success in the preaching aspect of his career has been following the example of Jesus in using parables–by teaching through storytelling and making the scriptures relevant to real life.
“The gospel is about life,” said Moore. “I take parts of the Bible and translate them into an everyday understanding of life—parenting, marriage, honesty, character, issues of life, grief, trauma, depression, stress, and anger, and combine those topics with measured scholarship. The Bible has answers to our questions.”
Moore told the congregation that while he absolutely loves his job of teaching, preaching, and pastoral care, that all lives have chapters and it is time for him to embark on a new one.
While he hopes to continue his pastimes of photography, woodworking, and golfing to some extent, he doesn’t want to devote his life to “sitting in the woods taking pictures, fighting his way out of sand on the golf course, or making sawdust all day in woodshop.”
He does plan to take some time traveling with his wife Joanne and nurturing his grandchildren (they have 3 children and 3 grandchildren with another on the way), but he plans to find a new purpose in his position as a field strategist working with 120 regional churches, helping those who are in the search for new pastors or those who are struggling to move beyond conflict.
In his sermon, he thanked his staff and the members of the congregation at Bonsack Baptist for the support and loving care they have shown him and his family over 40 years. He asked them to “love Dr. Cadenhead as you have loved me.”
“I feel grateful for the privilege of serving a great church for a very long time with the greatest staff you can imagine,” said Moore.