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A Business Meeting I Will Never Forget

I was commissioned as the Senior Pastor of Evergreen Bible Church exactly 25 years ago. It was January 1999, and I was as green as they get. I was 32 years old, had never been to seminary, and had preached a total of five sermons during my eight years as the youth pastor. Nevertheless, I enjoyed a five-year honeymoon in my ministry as the congregation was extremely gracious while I gradually learned to preach and shepherd.

A major factor in this period of peace was the fact that EBC had just come out of a very difficult time. A beloved pastor had resigned after serving excellently for 13 years. The church then called a new pastor, but his tenure became plagued by conflict and his ministry ended after just over a year. So when I reluctantly stepped into the role eight months later, the church family was still healing and there was a fresh appreciation for the value of peace.

This delightful harmony was unexpectedly broken at a business meeting in November 2003. This story is 20 years old now so I think it is safe to share. The issue was leadership authority. I had said at the outset that having primary authority invested in two separate boards (Deacons and Trustees) was like having a car with two steering wheels. It was a recipe for conflict.

Four years later, the church considered a new constitution, with primary authority invested in a single Leadership Team made up of elders and pastors. This was not a classic elder-led model, however, as all major decision would still require a vote of approval by the members.

The new constitution was approved easily and all that was left was to appoint the first team of elders to serve on the new Leadership Team. Four men were nominated and everything seemed copacetic in the weeks that followed. In fact, the turnout at the business meeting was low as many seemed to take their approval as a mere formality. But after the ballots were counted, the moderator announced, “None of the nominees were approved.”

We were stunned. We couldn’t believe what we had heard. Nothing like this had never happened before. To this day, this remains the only instance I am aware of when a candidate for elder or pastor at EBC was not confirmed.

We learned a lot from that hard moment, and as we anticipate another business meeting Sunday night, two truths are worth remembering.

  • Living in peace requires brave communication. Obviously, a handful of people at that meeting had concerns, but they had not said anything to anyone in leadership. So even after the meeting, we still didn’t know what the concerns were. Sharing concerns well requires courage and love, but the peace of our family depends on it.
  • Ministering effectively requires faithful participation. Less than half of EBC’s members attended that unforgettable meeting in 2003, which largely accounts for the negative result. Then, as now, life was busy, and many opted out believing their presence was not important. We discovered it is critical.

God faithfully led us through that challenging season, like so many others both before and since. My hope is that we will grow in maturity as a church such that we bring greater honor and glory to Jesus our Savior.

Pastor Toby

Categories: Evergreen Connection