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Purpose Gone Wrong?

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A reader of this site posted an interesting story in the forum that I had not read before today. It is taken from the Corpus Christi Caller-Times (which is a newspaper, if that isn’t obvious by the name) and is entitled ” 165 members ousted from Gardendale Baptist.” To avoid copyright infringment I will not post the whole story, but will post some of the relevant snippets.

Members of Gardendale Baptist Church voted Sunday to expel about 165 members from their congregation because they did not support the leadership of the church’s pastor, according to a church spokesman and several ousted members.

In a letter to the congregation, Micah Davidson, the church’s pastor, called a business meeting after a July 18 baptismal service at which members would vote on the following statement: “Pastor Micah is the God-called pastor for Gardendale and is leading us in God’s direction or not.”

Davidson also stated in the letter that he would leave immediately if the church voted against him.

“If the church votes for me to stay,” he wrote, “those who vote against me will be removed from membership in the family immediately.”

The vote was about 750 to 165 in favor of the pastor, according to John Gilbert, administrative pastor of the church. Immediately after the vote of confidence, members voted to revoke the memberships of those who voted against Davidson. Gilbert said that of the 165 members who were “removed from membership,” all could come back to church if they “signed a covenant for church unity.”

Several ousted members said the main questions being asked to Davidson were procedural, such as why the church wasn’t holding business meetings or why the church didn’t meet on Sunday or Wednesday nights.

Piedad Ymbert, a member for five years until she was voted out Sunday, said many members were concerned because the church stopped holding regular business meetings, such as a meeting in which an annual budget is approved. Members also questioned why new pastors were hired without approval of the congregation, she said.

“There would just be a sign on the bulletin board that said, ‘We welcome so and so as this pastor and we welcome so and so as this minister,’ ” Ymbert said.

Gilbert said opposition in the church was impeding the church’s progress. He said the members could not vote on every decision Davidson made, but could vote on whether he was called by God to be pastor.

You can read the complete story here.

The long-and-short of it is, the pastor determined that certain people in the congregation were impeding his vision for what the church should be. He felt that he should not be answerable to the congregation which had unanimously elected to call him as a pastor two years before. In his view, when he was made pastor he gained complete authority to decide the church’s direction. When people questioned why he was hiring pastors without consulting them and why the congregation was no longer allowed to vote on the church budget, the pastor deemed this as rebellion and called for the vote. It seems people were also upset that Sunday evening and Wednesday services had been stopped.

And so, those who voted that the pastor was not leading them in God’s direction were expelled from the body. I presume this was not an excommunication as much as a cancellation of membership. I wonder if the church has been warned not to associate with such people and if the people expelled are still allowed to attend services, albiet as non-members. Note that people who voted that the pastor was not leading in God’s direction did not say they would rebel against him or cause trouble – they merely gave their opinion on his leadership. There was no statement of what they intended to do about it. It is probably a safe assumption that many or most of them would have remained supporters of the church and the pastor despite the disagreement on direction. But they were not given the chance.

Interestingly, the way to be restored to church membership is to sign a covenant of unity. I would be very interested in reading that covenant! I see absolutely no Biblical basis for such a covenant, but that is no great surprise for I don’t think there is any Biblical basis for the pastor’s actions to begin with.

I find it interesting as well that if you go to that church’s Web site, you are presented with pictures of a large baptism ceremony that had following the completion of Rick Warren’s 40 Days of Purpose program. Of course if you are familiar with Purpose Driven principles this pastor’s actions will not come as a huge surprise. I found the statement of the pastor’s responsibilities which reads “Charged with casting God’s vision for Gardendale, preaching God’s Word, shepherding God’s people, and championing the purposes of the church.” Notice that casting God’s vision is elevated above preaching God’s Word. It seems this church is more concerned with leadership than with preaching.

So I wonder…is this an example of Purpose Driven principles gone wrong? Would Rick Warren, who has obviously influenced this pastor, condone or condemn his actions? Was he being brutal (just as Warren tells him to) for the betterment of the kingdom? Or did he just want to make his own job easier and solidify his own position?

Regardless, this is a scary story and I’m sure we won’t have to wait long to hear about similar stories.

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