Dave Livermore, MA, is president of the Gulf States Conference, Montgomery, Alabama, United States.

As an administrator, I do not have the privilege of being in the same church week after week. When pastoring, I spent over 13 years in one church, and in that time, we really got to know each other. I think that made me a better pastor. My leadership team knew the direction we were going and their part in our getting there.

Churches are filled with the walking wounded. I believe any church asks three questions of their pastor: (1) Can we trust you? (2) Do you know where you’re going? (3) Can you get us there? Those questions are answered in the time spent together praying, listening, talking, laughing, modeling, mentoring, discipling, listening to them when their hearts are breaking, and rejoicing with them when their lives are well.

After nine years of pastoring this church family, I received a call from a conference to interview for their executive secretary position. It was a temptation due to several circumstances. One, it was a conference closer to my aging parents. Two, it was an opportunity to move from pastoring into administration. Three, it was with a conference president I had great respect for.

I decided to involve my church in my decision to seriously consider the call that would remove me from being their pastor.

I decided to involve my church in my decision to seriously consider the call that would remove me from being their pastor.

I called a business meeting, advertising it as one they would not want to miss. I told the group at the meeting that they had a voice in my coming to this church, and I wanted to give them a voice if it was time for me to leave. After I told them about the call to another conference, I said that maybe it was time for me to leave, and I wanted to get their opinion. I assured them they would not hurt my feelings or my love for them if, that night, they told me to leave.

As I moved toward a vote from them to encourage me to stay or go, some stood up and tried to delay the vote through several means. One said there had not been enough prayer to make a decision of this magnitude. I assured them there had been plenty of prayer regarding this meeting and the outcome. Others said that they had no right to determine my future as a conference employee. I agreed with them but then said, “How you feel about me continuing after nine years is an important part of our decision to move on or to stay.”

We passed out slips of paper with the instruction to write “yes” to go and “no” to stay. I then prayed for their freedom to express their feelings with no fear of retribution. After collecting the papers, my elders totaled up the votes.

Ninety-seven percent of the votes turned in were for me to stay. That was important information for both my wife and me to have. We went and interviewed with the conference that had called me and enjoyed being in their company. On the flight home, my wife asked, “How do you feel about coming here?” I remember clearly saying to my partner in ministry and life that I felt perfectly at peace in staying where we were. She agreed, and we stayed for four more years. They were the best years the church ever had under my leadership.

This involvement with the church family enabled us to retool our vision and set goals and direction. It seemed that knowing I chose to stay with them and that they chose for us to stay helped us hit a new stride in our church. The church got answers to the three questions they ask of their pastor: they knew that I could be trusted, I knew where I was going and, by the grace of God, I could get them there.

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Dave Livermore, MA, is president of the Gulf States Conference, Montgomery, Alabama, United States.

March 2020

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