Today was the big day: the day the people of Riverview voted whether to extend a call to me to be the next pastor of Riverview or to look elsewhere. After a spirited business meeting, the vote was taken and the measure passed by a significant margin. The church's constitution states that a pastor must receive 75% of a congregational vote in order for a call to be extended, and the results came in well over that mark.
The agenda for the meeting allowed for questions and comments from the congregation as to the motion to be voted upon with me being present in the room, and then a second period of questions and comments from the congregation without me being present. After that, the congregation would vote.
There were several people who spoke, and I was very encouraged by each and every one of them. Although some of the comments expressed concerns about me becoming the senior pastor, I believe they came from a thoughtful and prayerful attitude, and were generated with my best interests at heart. To that extent, I am grateful that the people of Riverview thought clearly and considered me in their thinking. Truly, I am generally grateful for all who expressed concern.
When I recruit people for volunteer ministry positions at Riverview, I generally send them a letter telling them about the need in the church, and how we've arrived upon them as a potential candidate to fill the volunteer position. I always end the letter by stating that regardless of their decision to volunteer in this capacity or not, we will rejoice what what they decide to do or not do. Because if a person has come upon a decision prayerfully and with introspection, the decision they come to has been arrived upon through God's guidance. And any time people are seeking God in their decision making, it's a winning situation.
To this extent, I was fine with whatever decision the congregation made. Certainly being the senior pastor of Riverview is something that I am desiring to do, and something I think that I am able to do. But if the people came to the decision that I am not the best fit for Riverview at this time through a well-thought, prayerful process, then I would rejoice in that decision. That being said, I am glad that the vote came out the way it did!
I was also humbled by all of the people who spoke up in support for me in the position. By God's grace, I will be able to live up to everything you said about me. Please pray for me to that end. Thank you.
Two comments in particular stood out to me, and interestingly enough, neither of these comments were particularly positive or negative toward extending a call to me. One comment I thought was very wise, but perhaps not very Baptistic in the sense that Baptists are known for their congregational government - that is, the congregation is king - they have the final vote. This commenter said that she had decided to trust the church's leadership. The Deacons and the Church Council (in addition to the recommendation of the regional minister) had unanimously recommended me as a candidate for the position. She was choosing to trust that the leadership came to their recommendation thoughtfully and prayerfully, and she was choosing to follow their recommendation. While I affirm congregational church governance, I think there is wisdom to this thinking. As Baptists, we elect and approve leaders whom we believe are gifted in such a way as to occupy leadership positions. It is reasonable (and biblical) to assume that these folks are thinking well and biblically when it comes to decisions and recommendations like these. I thank God for people who are humbly willing and able to submit to their leaders.
The second comment that I thought was very helpful at the meeting had to do with the encouragement of one member to the congregation to submit themselves to God's decision, whatever that might be. The encouragement was for the congregation to realize that God is sovereign, and that the outcome of the vote would be an indication of his will, and that we should accept it as his will and submit to it. This is wisdom, and I was thankful for the admonition to us all to submit ourselves to God's authority.
At the end of the day (which it is, 11:30 PM as I write this) God is sovereign, and he seems to have directed the people of Riverview in a certain way. If God allows, I will bear this responsibility and have the distinct honor and privilege of leading the people of Riverview as their pastor. May he strengthen me to that end.