Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Beloved Port Richey pastor retires after 33 years

Pastor Jim Poyner, left, will pass the reins of the church he “planted” to son Paul Poyner.


Pastor Jim Poyner, left, will pass the reins of the church he “planted” to son Paul Poyner.

PORT RICHEY — The walls in the Rev. Jim Poyner's office at Gulfview Grace Brethren Church are bare and prepared for fresh paint. The renovation is evidence of transition — almost a metaphor, said his son, Paul, for the big change ahead for both of them.

After 33 years as the church's pastor, Jim Poyner will retire Dec. 7 and his son will replace him.

"There's a time to accept a church, and there's another time to realize I've slowed down," said Jim, 70. He realized his limitations on Valentine's Day this year after a surgeon implanted a pacemaker and defibrillator in his chest.

"I looked at (my son) and said, 'Paul, … the church needs you.' "

• • •

In high school, Jim Poyner planned to be a veterinarian. But at a basketball game, he pushed a glass door open and it shattered.

"It cut a tendon and a series of nerves," he said. He permanently lost feeling in his right ring finger and pinky. "I wouldn't be able to do any kind of delicate surgical procedure," he said.

After the injury, he discerned that he wasn't supposed to be "a doctor of animal's bodies," but "a doctor of men and women's hearts." So after high school, he pursued the ministry.

He married Charlotte in 1965, graduated with a bachelor's degree in English from Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind., in 1966 and entered Grace Theological Seminary, also in Winona Lake. During seminary, he was drawn to mission work. He expected to finish his master's degree and move to Africa as a full-time missionary, but when a pastor visited the seminary and delivered a series of talks about being a pastor, Poyner's focus shifted.

"In that week's time, God clearly changed my attitude," he said.

He knew, then, he would stay in the United States and start a church. He graduated with his master of divinity degree in 1970 and moved to Dayton, Ohio, where he "planted" a church he led for 10 years.

During that tenure, he took a trip to Florida for a conference.

"The heat and humidity overcame us," he said. "I remember saying to Charlotte, 'one thing is for sure, I would never come to Florida to pastor a church.' "

• • •

In January 1981, he received a call from Grace Brethren Missions Council — then the "church planting arm" of Grace Brethren, an international network of independent churches that share a statement of faith. The counsel introduced him to Lonnie Miller, owner of Ja-Mar Travel Parks in Port Richey. Miller wanted to start a church for the park's residents.

"He said, 'How'd you like to come to Florida?' " Poyner said. "I enjoyed thoroughly the opportunity to plant a church from scratch (in Dayton), so I wanted the challenge to try again."

He accepted Miller's offer, and his family moved, despite Florida's heat.

"I've never met a pastor that loves people more than he does, and I really mean that," said Miller, 71. "He always had a special love for the people in the park."

For the church's first three years, the congregation met in the recreation hall at Ja-Mar while saving money for what would become Gulfview Grace's sanctuary, which was built on land Miller donated. Poyner led the church through three other building projects: a fellowship hall, an addition of rooms that connect the sanctuary to the fellowship hall and a family life center, which doubles as a gymnasium.

He also watched his son grow with the church. Paul Poyner, 39, worked as youth pastor at the church for 16 years until June 1, when he became interim pastor and his father stepped down to assistant pastor because of his health.

The pacemaker-defibrillator "is nice," Jim Poyner said. "It's like having a guardian angel. If you have a heart attack, it's going to save your life. But it's gone off seven times, and that causes some anxiety. I didn't know if I was going to live there for a while."

His son applied for the permanent pastor position and in September, after an interview process, the church's board of deacons and elders voted he should replace his dad.

"Knowing Paul is coming has made (retiring) much easier," Jim said.

And Paul said his dad's influence on the church won't change.

"My dad's DNA is in our church," he said. "The reason we are such a caring, loving church is because of who he is."

Arleen Spenceley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6235.

>>If you go


A retirement celebration for Pastor Jim Poyner is at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 7 in the Family Life Center at Gulfview Grace Brethren Church, 6639 Hammock Road, Port Richey. Includes a free dinner. RSVP by Dec. 1 by calling the church office at (727) 862-7777.

Beloved Port Richey pastor retires after 33 years 11/26/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 6:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Florida football has become something to be endured, not enjoyed


    The Jim McElwain era at Florida is something to be endured, not enjoyed.

    Florida Gators defensive lineman Khairi Clark (54) leaves the field after the Florida Gators game against Texas A&M, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville, Fla. The Florida Gators lost to the Texas A&M Aggies 17-16 MONICA HERNDON   |   Times
  2. Who wants to trade? Hillsborough offers to swap land with Ybor-area property owners for potential Rays ballpark

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Trades are common when assembling a professional baseball team. Apparently, they're also useful when assembling land for a professional ballpark.

    Aerial photo of Ybor City centered around Centro Ybor and 7th Avenue. Hoping to assemble the land for a ballpark near Ybor City and the Channel District, Hillsborough County officials could government property with landowners there. LUIS SANTANA   |   Times.
  3. Hurricane Irma thrashed Tampa Bay homes sales in September

    Real Estate

    Hurricane Irma not only downed thousands of trees throughout the Tampa Bay area: It also sent home sales plunging in September.

    This home on Tampa's Davis Islands home sold in September for $5.2 million, making it the priciest sale of the month in the Tampa Bay area.
[Courtesy of Judson Brady Photography]
  4. Cannon Fodder podcast: Most important stat in Bucs-Bills game


    Greg Auman talks about the uncertainty at quarterback for the Bucs as they go to Buffalo in his latest Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Interceptions, such as this one by Brent Grimes against Arizona, will be the most important stat in Sunday's game.
  5. Encounters: In the quiet of exam rooms, women have been saying 'Me too' for years

    Human Interest


    Meet her with her clothes on.

    Don't make her greet you in a paper gown, slits down the front and flimsy ties. Shake her hand, if she wants to, and introduce yourself. Pause between sentences. This will make it clear that you are listening; that you will listen, to whatever she has to say. Observe what …

     Pam Kelly, a gynecologist at Tampa General Hospital's Family Care Center at HealthPark, teaches future doctors at the University of South Florida how to identify and treat victims of sexual assault. Gabriella Angotti-Jones  | Times