Tomorrow, May 1st, Lakeside Community Chapel in Clearwater, Florida will celebrate the 30th anniversary of its Pastor-Teacher, Steve Kreloff. Steve has actually been on staff at the church since 1976, but became the pastor in May 1981. In a day when the average tenure of a pastor in the United States is six years, that is simply astounding. The emphasis of his ministry has always been, and continues to be, the verse-by-verse teaching of the Word of God.
Steve is a Jewish Christian who, while a student at the University of South Florida, received Jesus as his Messiah, Lord and Savior. He is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and Tampa Bay Theological Seminary (now known as Dallas Theological Seminary’s Tampa Bay Extension). He is the Bible teacher on the Verse-by-Verse Ministries radio broadcast, heard daily in the Tampa Bay area on Salem Communications radio station WTBN.
Lakeside will celebrate by having Steve’s best friend since the days they attended Moody Bible Institute together—Phil Johnson—speak in both morning services and briefly in the evening service. Phil is the executive director of Grace to You (the media arm of Dr. John MacArthur’s ministry) and the founder of Pyromaniacs, one of the most widely read blogs in the Christian blogosphere. There will also be other speakers and special presentations in the evening service, followed by a reception.
I have had the privilege of being Steve’s friend since my wife and I began attending Lakeside shortly after we were married in 1976. He was our Sunday School teacher at the time, and the Minister of Evangelism at the church. We are the same age; our birthdays are less than a month apart, but he is older! He took me under his wing and we began a year long one-on-one discipleship relationship. We worked our way through theological, family, and ministry issues. We were both learning and growing spiritually. We developed a friendship which has stood the test of time.
When I became an elder at Lakeside, it was Steve who recommended me to the other elders as being qualified for the position. It was Steve who stood by me when I went through a particular difficulty in ministry that shook me to the core. We suffered together through difficult church budgets and church discipline issues, saw other church leaders come and go, but Steve has continued to serve faithfully and diligently. His character is impeccable and his heart to teach God’s Word so that people grow and change to be more like Christ has never wavered. Our children grew up together, our wives served in various church ministries together, and we grew old together.
As I said earlier, Steve has always made the verse-by-verse exposition of the Scriptures a priority of his ministry. To do that effectively, his sermons are typically 50-55 minutes in length. Each sermon is a model of how to open up a passage so that the listener goes away with a thorough understanding of what the Bible writer intended when he originally wrote the passage. It’s hard to be bored or concerned with the length of time he is speaking when you are truly listening, because he opens up the Word in a way that holds your attention and deepens your understanding of the Scriptures. Because of his skill in teaching God’s Word, he has taught courses on expository preaching to other pastors all over the world. Only eternity will reveal how many people have benefited from Steve selflessly teaching other men how to do what he does with the text of God’s Word.
Steve is a model of what a pastor should be for his congregation. His greatest desire is to please His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and to minister to his flock in the same way that Jesus would. It has been my privilege to serve with him since 1983 as one of the elders at Lakeside. I pray that the Lord will give us many more years together.