Monday, May 22, 2006

Finding a new pastor in 95 days

Some of you may have noticed a rather long delay between my last two posts. In fact, the few readers I did have doubtless grew tired of coming here and not finding anything new. My last post was “More ways to waste time on the Internet” and I probably should have added “Checking my blog for updates” to that list. While I will never be an everyday blogger, I do feel like I had a pretty good excuse for my three month delay between posts.


On February 11, Pastor Henderson called the deacons together for a special meeting. He had one item on his agenda and that was his announcement that he would be leaving our church to start a new church in the Tampa, FL area. Most of you know that we in the middle of our 6th year as a church plant and have recently moved into our first new building. We expected Pastor Henderson to remain our pastor for many, many years. Consequently, it came as quite the shock to hear how the Lord had been working on his heart, really from the first day we moved into our new building, to start all over again somewhere else.

The reality of his decision did not really hit me until the next day, the day he would announce to the church his intentions to leave the ministry here at Grace. At our church the deacons serve as the pulpit committee and the weight of that responsibility started to weigh very heavily on my heart. It was tense that Sunday, for me at least, knowing that the pastor was going to drop a bomb shell on the congregation latter on that day. Pastor Henderson asked me, as one of the deacons, to say a few words that evening after he made his accouncement. At that point, I had no idea where we would find candidates or how we would go about the selection process. The only thing I could think to say was that we knew that the Lord was in this, that He is the head of His church, and that He can move people around as He sees fit. I said at the time,that even though we love and appreciate Pastor Henderson, that I could not imagine the Lord moving him on unless he had someone “better” in mind for our church, someone who could bring different strengths to the table as we transition from a church plant to more of an established church with a real ministry in the area.

The next three months proved to be one of the most stressful times in my life as a deacon. The stakes are pretty high when you are talking about finding a new pastor. Decisions that are made can affect not only your own life but the lives of your entire church family. What if we make a mistake and half the church leaves? How we will pay the mortgage for our new building if things don’t work out? What if there isn’t unity among the congregation, or even worse, among those on the board? Everyone has their own ideals for what makes a perfect pastor. How do we show deference to each other while still holding true to your own principles? I don’t know about the other men on the pulpit committee but these were some of the things that I struggled with internally during that time.

Besides the internal pressures, there were also lots of things to do. We had to create an application, solicit names from various contacts that we had, prepare and mail packages to potential candidates, create an objective and subjective list of requirements, read the applications and doctrinal statements as they came in, construct an itinerary for when the man and his family would come to candidate, create lists of follow-up questions for the top candidates, create a new compensation package, schedule times to meet as a committee, interview the candidates, and come to a final decision on who we would call. All this took time and everything required gaining a consensus among the members of the pulpit committee. Honestly, I don’t know how we would have done this without e-mail. We had many regular Saturday morning meetings but we probably generated a good hundred e-mails as well. Serving on a pulpit committee is hard work and time consuming work.

To top it all off, none of us were experts in this search committee process. We had some resources to consult but, basically, we were making things up as we went. Sometimes we made decisions that, latter on, turned out to not be so wise. We had to stay flexible when those things happened, while at the same time not revisiting every little decision. I am thankful for the good and godly men that served with me on this committee. None of us got “our way” on everything and it was great to see understanding, forgiveness, and deference through the whole process.

In the end, the Lord led us to recommend Pastor David Wood from Shannon Baptist Church to be our new pastor. Pastor Wood has had a wonderful ministry there in Shannon, Illinois for the past 16 years. He has an obvious love for his people and a heart for doing the work of the ministry. He will help our church were I think we have weaknesses and we all look forward to seeing what the Lord has in store for our church in the upcoming years. He got a 100% approval vote from the congregation and accepted the call on May 17th, 95 days from when the whole process started on Feb. 11th. He will start sometime in late July.



Along with Pastor Wood, we also get his family. His wife and four girls were a joy to get to know. The girls all play string instruments and sing. When they were here they picked a rather fitting song for special music, My God is Good. The lyrics really captured the sentiments of the moment. They, of course, blubbered through the whole song, but that just reflected how everyone else in the congregation was feeling as well.

Though I may never understand,
I'll trust with all my heart.
And from the course that you have planned,
I never want to part.
In searching for your way and wisdom,
teach me if you would,
That for all time, In every place
My God is good.

4 Comments:

At 1:10 AM, Blogger Frank Sansone said...

Andy,

I imagine this time has been difficult and challenging for you, your family, and the church family. I know that it is difficult going through it from the other direction as well. I am sure Pastor Wood will be blessed to have such a good deacon on his team down there in Georgia.

Two quick items:

1. Is this the same David Wood who wrote "Fruit that Remains" (a discipleship book for new believers)?

2. If you can get some type of visual directory together for your new Pastor, it would probably be a help to him. As the new guy on the block, everybody immediately knows who you are - and they are only learning one new person and family. This new Pastor (and his family) have to learn who everybody is and that puts him at a little bit of a disadvantage (after all, they know who he is, why doesn't he know who they are?). I realize that you are still a church plant, but based on some of the photos of your church, I imagine you have enough that something of this nature may be helpful.

Just an idea.

In Christ,

Pastor Frank Sansone

 
At 9:31 AM, Blogger Andy Efting said...

No, it is not that David Wood. Here is a link to his church website. If you scroll down, you might be interested to notice that they had Mark Kittrell in for special meetings back in March.

The photo directory is a good idea. I've started to do something like that but it's been hard to get everybody. We'll have to see how it goes.

 
At 2:07 AM, Blogger Don said...

Hi Andy

The name rings a different bell with me... I think I might have known Dave back in Greenville a long time ago. Do you know if he was a member of Southside?

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

 
At 5:57 AM, Blogger Andy Efting said...

Don,

It could be, although I don't know for sure. He was at BJU from 1977 through 1984, getting his undergrad in '81 and his masters in '84.

Another tidbit of blogsphere trivia -- he was Chris Anderson's youth pastor at Mesa Hills Bible Church in Colorado sometime in the late 80's.

 

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