First Presbyterian Church of Lexington “exists to glorify God by engaging in worship, pursuing justice and nurturing everybody who enters our doors,” says Rev. Mark Davis.
From the time he was called to serve as FPC’s pastor in September 2010, Rev. Davis has worked hard to help his congregation fulfill that vision statement. Now, with his retirement on the horizon this fall, he’s confident his church’s commitment to faithfully serve God and the community will continue long after he is gone.
New Covenant Trust Company is proud to have worked alongside Rev. Davis to help secure FPC’s legacy of service.
Highlights of Four Decades in Ministry
Rev. Davis will retire after nearly 40 years of pastoral ministry on Sept. 30, 2023. His career is marked with long pastorates at only three churches, the first of which was in a very small community in western Wyoming. The second contributed to transformation and lasting change over 21 years in Boise, Idaho.
His final call to FPC came when a Lexington couple in need of comfort after a tragedy heard him preach one Sunday in Boise. They were moved by his sermon, and their church back home was in need of a pastor, so they asked him to consider the call. What followed was a series of serendipitous — and some may argue, divinely inspired — events that landed Rev. Davis in the Bluegrass State, where he plans to remain after he leaves the pulpit.
When he first arrived in Lexington, much of the church’s recordkeeping was still done by hand. There were few formal policies and procedures, and the church building was in need of renovation and repairs. During his time at FPC, Rev. Davis has helped to implement financial and personnel policies, change an outdated organizational culture, update infrastructure and increase organizational transparency.
But aside from the day-to-day tasks of running a church organization, Rev. Davis says what has been most spiritually gratifying to him has been leading Bible study. He loves the interactive discussion that results when he and his congregation study God’s word together.
“I can’t tell you how much I learned by listening to people,” he says. “I don’t think I’m going miss preaching at all. But I will miss Bible study.”
Doing Good Requires Good Stewardship
Perhaps most rewarding to Rev. Davis has been the positive effect FPC has made on the Lexington community during his ministry. And that’s thanks, in part, to the guidance of New Covenant Trust Company.
When Rev. Davis arrived in 2010, he had to spend the first couple of years de-tangling the church’s balance sheet. At that time, FPC had lots of small funds that weren’t making much of an impact.
“A congregation like ours that was founded at 1784 should have an endowment of $25 to $30 million,” he says. “When I came, it was $250,000. Then, there was a separate fund called an endowment, which had been underperforming for 20 years.”
As part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Foundation, NCTC’s services were made available to Rev. Davis and FPC. With Rev. Davis’ leadership and NCTC’s expertise, the church was able to streamline its investments and now has five funds under management with NCTC, including an endowment and a building fund.
“We’ve done hundreds of thousands of dollars of deferred maintenance” paid for by the returns on the building fund, says Rev. Davis. “Since we started around 2014, we’ve expended about $2.5 million. When I arrived, and with the generous help of many people, the balance in that fund has really grown.”
Improvements to church property under Rev. Davis have included restoring some of the original elements of the church building, adding windows, replacing damaged sections of roof, renovating/upgrading classrooms and the music center, and rebuilding the church’s renowned 168-foot steeple, which had fallen into disrepair.
But it’s the impact of FPC’s Cornerstone Fund that Rev. Davis is most proud of. “This fund is to be used solely for the purpose of transformative community engagement,” he says.
Some of FPC’s transformative financial support has gone to the Seedleaf community gardening project and Arbor Youth Services, the only fully inclusive domestic shelter for children under 18 years old. The Cornerstone Fund also helped launch Born Learning Academy, which supports at-risk kids and families. The fund also provides flood and other disaster relief throughout Kentucky. And the list goes on.
Rev. Davis says NCTC’s faithful stewardship of church funds has made many of these good works possible.
“NCTC introduces the question of mission in addition to the questions of finance,” he says “One might be inclined to think of them purely through the lenses of finance and returns. And that matters, but what really matters for the purpose of the vision is the ministry and the mission of the congregation or the larger church.”
“My experience is nobody at NCTC or the Presbyterian Foundation has ever suggested that we should do anything except what we think is best,” he adds. “And they help us discern what is best. They’re able to provide a national, sometimes global perspective. NCTC is a fascinating blend of people who are deeply committed to Christian ministry and witness, and are really wicked smart about money.”
Rev. Davis’ impact on his church and the Lexington community is sure to resonate for many years to come. And fortunately for them both, he’s not going far. He and his wife, Beth Scherfee, live on a serene five acres just outside the city.
In addition to relaxing, traveling and spending more time with Beth, Rev. Davis plans to continue to serve the PC(USA) after he steps down as a pastor — he was recently elected to a four-year term on the Self-Development of People Committee of the General Assembly, a ministry that affirms God’s concern for humankind.
Please join us in wishing Rev. Davis well in his retirement. If you’re interested in learning how NCTC can help your congregation make a greater impact and secure your church’s legacy, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 800-858-6127, Option 6.