After 36 years, Desert Reign pastor says goodbye

Don and Deborah Metcalf have left Desert Reign after establishing the church in 1983. Photo by Alex Dominguez

Don and Deborah Metcalf have left Desert Reign after establishing the church in 1983. Photo by Alex Dominguez

DOWNEY — Originally moving to Southern California from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Pastor Don Metcalf and his wife Deborah started the Desert Reign church from their then home in Bellflower. However, they recently made the decision to move on.

“We started Feb. 3, 1983,” said Don. “We started the church from scratch…it’s been a great journey. Whatever you build, it’s for the lord. It doesn’t belong to us, and we’re passing it on to really good staff here, and they’re going to do a really good job of probably building it even bigger than we did, and doing more for the community than we’ve been able to do so far.”

The Metcalf’s final day at Desert Reign was Sunday, Feb 3; exactly 36 years to the day from their start.

Upon first starting the church, Don says that the big challenge was finding “where to assemble.”

“We’ve met in almost every kind of venue you can imagine…there were times where we didn’t have anywhere to meet,” said Don.

The Desert Reign campus as it is known today was completed in August of 2009 and has continued to grow.

“The way we look at it is we’re not really building buildings, we’re building lives,” said Don.

Deborah added that starting the church represented a significant milestone for her husband.

“It was a dream, a desire that he’s always had since he was like 18 years old,” said Deborah. “His dream has been to start a church from scratch, stay there for a lifetime, and in his old age be able to help other pastors in other churches with what he’s known and learned during his journey. So that’s the final stage of the dream that we’re hoping unfolds for us.”

Photo courtesy Desert Reign Church.

Photo courtesy Desert Reign Church.

Don says that he and his wife “are not retiring, we’re shifting gears.”

“We have no plans to retire,” said Don. “I’ll be connected here, but I’ll be a minister at large; I’ll be a consultant…We’re going to be going really all over the country [to] mostly small churches just to help the pastor rest, get council, or help him get unstuck when his church is not growing or sliding backwards. We really do just want to help pastors and encourage them, and that’s what we’re planning on doing.”

The Metcalf’s say that stepping away now is for the “church’s benefit.”

“There’s the church’s side of ‘why now,’ and then there’s our side of ‘why now,’” said Don. “The church’s side is ever leader has their gifts. I feel that God used us and our gifts to get it to where it’s at…I think it’s time for somebody with fresher vision and more vitality, younger, more energy…I feel like we owe it to the church to move over and let somebody take the reigns and run full boar like I used to.”

Deborah added that she felt that a younger pastor could connect more to the younger generation as well.

Don added that there is also an “emotional price tag.”

“This church has got 4-500 people that we feel like they’re our family,” said Don. “You gotta get out of the way and let the next guy have his freedom, yet you’re leaving your friends, you’re leaving your family. I didn’t want to do that at 75 years old. I wanted to leave when it’s earlier enough for us to do other things…when I’m 75 I’ll be spending all my time going to doctor’s appointments…we wanted to quit early enough to be able to have options because we know there’s going to be an emotional toil to no longer being the center of things. In a way it’s going to be like going from 100 miles per hour to a dead stop in one week, and so you have to get yourself geared up emotionally for that.”

Don – who has served as Lead Pastor at the congregation – will now pass on his role to Pastor Dan Dutch who has been with Desert Reign for 25 years.

“Everybody knows him, everybody is very happy with how we are transitioning,” said Don.

NewsAlex Dominguez