by MATTHEW NASH
For his final sermon, Pastor Scott Culver, 63, said it’s going to come from the heart.
After 33 years in full-time ministry and 28 of those at Dungeness Community Church, 45 Eberle Lane, Culver speaks as the church’s lead pastor for the last time on Sept. 27.
The church holds a luncheon after the 10 a.m. service honoring his eight years as lead pastor and 20 as an associate pastor.
However, being a pastor wasn’t always in Culver’s sights.
His plan was to either teach history or the Bible in some capacity at a Christian school.
“I told God when I graduated (college) I’ll be anything but a pastor,” Culver said.
He said growing up his stereotypes of pastors made them seem legalistic, staunch and boring. But that image began to change, he said, going to Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, Calif., where the pastors were anything but boring.
He was born to missionary parents and spent the first five years of his life in the Philippines before moving to Southern California. Culver went to Taylor University in Indiana on a baseball scholarship and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in history. He considered seminary but opted for a two-year program before serving at Independent Bible Church as youth pastor for five years.
Culver went on to pursue his Master of Theology and Master of Divinity from Regent College in Vancouver, B.C.
In Dungeness, Culver started on July 15, 1987, as an associate pastor serving with Pastor Neil Smith.
He remained in those duties for 20 years serving in administration, adult, family and mission ministries.
When he shifted to lead pastor following Smith’s retirement, Culver said his role really changed to emphasize teaching, preaching and developing core values and strategic plans for the church.
In his time in Dungeness, the congregation has grown, the church remained financially stable and he says they’ve funded every cross-cultural team from the church. But numbers aren’t the difference maker for him.
“A lot of pastors are all about the numbers — How many people are coming to your church? And how many programs are you running? — But are people growing deep spiritual roots in Christ? Are they deployed into ministry?”
“Success is people walking close with the Lord,” he said.
Culver says he “may be the pastor, but the ministers of the church are the congregation. They are the ones working in the trenches, carrying out ministries, thinking up new ministries.”
On a mission
One of Culver’s biggest contributions he and others say is bringing more of a mind for missions locally.
The church is involved in 13 cross-cultural missions worldwide, Culver said, and he’s led teams to Poland, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Jordan, Mozambique, North Korea and Mexico numerous times.
“It livens up the church,” he said. “People come back excited to go, with some going there with a tourist’s heart and coming back with a missionary’s heart.”
Bill O’Brien has attended Dungeness Community Church for 22 years and said Culver has helped many people through missions.
“It was contagious and it grew and grew,” he said.
Those efforts continue to bear fruit, O’Brien said, as one of Culver’s original missionary teammates plans to lead a small team to Nicaragua soon.
Associate Pastor Wayne Yamamoto has served with Culver since November 1994 and recognizes the effort he’s made in developing the church’s global outreach.
“I haven’t met anyone who has been to North Korea with the exception of a group from DCC,” Yamamoto said. “He has brought to DCC a compassion for countries that haven’t heard of the love of Jesus.”
Along with international missions, Culver said he’s proud of the emphasis the church has put on supporting local efforts such as providing firewood for those in need, continuing a care closet, supporting the Sequim Food Bank, Care Net, Habitat for Humanity and more.
Culver said he’s also proud to have helped define a vision statement for the church and the Elder program with about a dozen men helping make decisions for the church with a lot of dialogue with the congregation.
O’Brien said some of the programs in the church Culver started many years ago, such as ongoing groups, meals and newcomer programs, have continued and that he helped nurture a positive spiritual environment.
Culver feels he’s leaving the church at the right time.
“I realized my gas tank isn’t very full and I don’t want to stay too long … The church can plateau out,” he said.
One Bible verse that helps him is Isaiah 41:10 — “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (NIV).”
“The reason it resonates with me is because I’ve been tired the last few years,” he said. “I counsel people frequently that battle discouragement … they need to be reminded to walk close to God and pour your heart out to him.”
Culver isn’t sure what’s next for him aside from resting for at least a year and spending more time with his wife Donnalee and four children and nine grandchildren.
He’s open to helping a Christian organization that works stateside after that time but plans to caution himself if it becomes too much pressure.
Fishing, tying flies, painting and making jewelry also could come back to his to-do list. “I’m not one to sit around a lot,” he said.
As his last day on the job comes closer (Sept. 30), Culver said he’s often asked where he’ll go to church.
“That depends on who comes (to pastor),” he said. “I don’t want to be in the way.”
Culver’s replacement hasn’t been determined but a Pastor Search Committee is in place, he said.
For more information about Dungeness Community Church, call 683-7333 or visit www.dcchurch.org.