Entering a new phase of life
Dr David Catchpoole’s retirement from CMI
It is important to state up front that this entire document has been vetted by David himself. Much of it is in fact extensive quotes from his eight-page ‘retirement letter’ to me of 12 August 2014. (The rest may not all be exactly the way David would have put it, sometimes due to his own modesty, but he has approved it as accurate and not misleading.)
David’s last official day in the Brisbane office of CMI was 9 September 2014. This was some three years after he very graciously gave me notice of his intention to retire from the ministry at this present time. Such a long ‘notice’ period is an almost unheard-of thing in normal employment situations, and incredibly appreciated from an employer’s perspective. It is especially so when it involves such a valuable senior staff member.
The important task of trying to fill the gaps this will leave has been made very much easier by David’s very supportive and helpful input into that process. I think I was always aware that should he ever leave CMI, David’s shoes, like those of pretty well all of my senior colleagues in CMI globally, could never be filled with ‘another like unto him’. But at least this three years gave plenty of time to think, plan, pray and work so that at least the tasks he did so well might be filled by others in different combinations.
Preventing the possibility of rumour
A big reason for me taking the unusual step of posting this detailed commentary about David’s departure (with his enthusiastic collaboration), is because we have experienced more than once unsavoury fabrications seemingly designed to damage the ministry. Over the decades that CMI has been in operation (following that first edition in 1978 of what later became Creation magazine), such things have come not just from unbelieving sources. Any ministry that stands up for God’s Word on the ‘front line’, as it were, is always vulnerable to such things. And while one needs to be careful to not just cry ‘spiritual persecution’ (since that can be the refuge of scoundrels in Christendom too), anyone reading this who has been involved in Christian ministry for any substantial period will likely know what I mean.
In short, when a very popular speaker and writer like David departs the ministry, after almost 16 years of prominent and extensive ministry, if it were to be without explanation or reassurance, that would be fertile grounds for rumours. These could damage not only the ministry but possibly also David’s reputation. (You know, either that there was a falling out with CMI, or that he had committed some grievous sin, or some such.)
David was of course aware of this when writing his detailed letter to me, and that was part of the motivation for him, too. He wrote in it,
“Lest my retirement spark untoward and false external rumours as to my departure (which, on the basis of past history of the creation movement in the western world, might well be expected), I am happy for CMI to selectively quote relevant extracts from this retirement letter, as needed and as appropriate … in order to show such rumours are unfounded.”
His letter contained not only a formal explanation of his decision (which I pretty well had been given long ago, and had no problems with), it was also full of much that was encouraging, including practical issues and tips to help minimise the problems associated with having to fill various areas of the operation.
The pressure of dedication
So why leave now? One reason was that David was never one for doing things ‘by half’. Being full of passion for this outreach, he could not help but throw himself into it 150%. I recall as just one example among many how he ‘knocked himself out’ on a speaking trip to Indonesia (he can present/preach in fluent Indonesian) for 8 weeks, travelling from town to town, often on crowded ferries between islands and in many small rural areas. He was speaking every night and sometimes more than that, knowing that this would be a unique chance to leave behind an enduring legacy in that populous nation (whose Christian community is larger than the entire population of Australia, yet is under great pressure from both evolutionism in education and from being a minority in an Islam-dominated society).
Similarly, his desire to give people the best possible presentation meant that he would pour himself into each talk, preparing for it uniquely like no one else I have known. This was taking a toll on him. The same in a way was true for writing. David was always incredibly conscientious, and conscious of the importance of making each article the best it could be, for our Lord’s sake and that of the Kingdom. There was no just ‘throwing something together’ for him. And he was very conscious of the unavoidable pressure of deadlines.
David writes in his letter that though such tasks involved “undisputed excitement and satisfaction and privilege”, the news that they were also very exacting for him might be a surprise to many of our supporters.
We of course try to always balance the load on individuals against the needs of the ministry, however imperfectly. We trust that ongoing, the Lord might burden more people to become donors so that we are able to meet more of the needs there are without overburdening individuals. Please pray also, ongoing, that suitably talented individuals will continue to be raised up by Him and brought to our attention, as David was. And as a number of others have been in recent times, praise God, though it will be a while before some of them make their first public appearance. (Sneak peek: at the January 2016 Creation Supercamp—stay tuned!—no less than three such potential new CMI staffers are scheduled to make presentations.)
Leaving on a high note
“I’m happy to be leaving while my enthusiasm for this important task has enabled me to still perform well in that regard. Truth be told, for the past 12 months the knowledge that my ‘finish line’ was in sight was a major impetus in helping me mentally to keep going.”
David, who is a trained agricultural scientist, also mentioned his longstanding passion (which he had relegated to largely “daydreams”) to:
“ … ‘be a farmer’ one day. So, I’m hoping to somehow achieve that during the next decade, recognizing my chances will be better if I embark upon that venture at 55, than if I were to leave it until I’m even older… . (In reality, I’m not sure how it’ll all pan out, as it’ll have to dovetail in with my wife’s plans, which are more concrete and more immediately achievable than my dreams, and which will involve us having something of a periodically ‘Grey Nomadic’ lifestyle.”
David also mentions his
“ … desire to continue to serve the Lord in a manner that utilizes my God-given talents for that purpose yet while self-funded (in line with the time that the Apostle Paul was self-funded as a tentmaker). My pleasure in writing for CMI’s web and Creation mag was often tempered by (a) having to write to an urgent deadline on a commissioned topic needed to urgently fill a content gap, (b) the constant background awareness that my being paid to do this satisfyingly mind-absorbing task was being sacrificially funded by donors. … This greatly ramped-up the pressure associated with creative writing—and creativity in my case isn’t something that I can always switch on at will.”
He goes on to say that though he obviously cannot promise when or how often,
“ … my intention is certainly to take satisfaction and pleasure in voluntarily writing and submitting non-commissioned articles to CMI as a ‘tentmaker creation writer’, as the writing urge takes hold of me, from time to time.”
David says that he is of course “formally hanging up the microphone and the dinosaur tie” as far as speaking ministry is concerned, but, he says, “as I’ve indicated to you previously, I would love to be invited to speak at a future Supercamp (i.e. not the next one in 2016, but the one after), presuming I’ll have generated by then something suitably post-CMI kudos-laden and interesting to say, beyond any basic creation teaching incorporated into my presentation.”
He goes on to make other kind offers for emergency help if in a position to do so in very dire circumstances, which we are very grateful for, but trust we will never have to take him up on.
Wishing me personally all the best, David writes, “I pray of course for CMI’s continued fruitfulness in the Lord” and refers to the future time when another generation of CMI leadership takes over, “which, presuming they don’t depart from CMI’s core charter, I’ll be happy to continue to support.”
It is of course with a sense of considerable emotion that I write all this, as you can imagine with a friend and close colleague for such a period of time. But I am so grateful to know, from everything I have shared with you here, and more, that the whole ministry still has a very special friend ‘out there’, long term.
As far as his time here is concerned, I’m sure that those of you who have experienced his ministry will understand why, when I dwell on his time here, the biblical phrase, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant’ comes to mind instantly. Thanks, David, for the privilege of having been your colleague, your employer, and your friend and brother in Christ.