FAQ of Duane Major and Elders
On Thursday February 25 at 7.30pm there will be a special meeting at our Lyttelton St site for church members to vote on the nomination of Duane Major to be our next Senior Pastor. Unfortunately our constitution doesn’t specifically allow for proxy voting or electronic attendance, so we are unable to offer this as an option.
Tell Us a Little Bit about Duane:
Duane was born and raised in Christchurch. At seven years old he arrived at Spreydon Baptist with his family. He went along to youth group, and at 15 years of age was baptised. He volunteered as a youth leader, received an honours degree in chemistry and biochemistry and completed teacher training. His team mentality has been engrained throughout his rugby career, playing for Burnside and Canterbury locally and internationally for Canada at the Rugby World Cup. After teaching chemistry and science for two years at Riccarton and Cashmere High School, he was called to Spreydon Baptist as a youth pastor. He married Ruth, and they now have four children aged 11, 13, 14 and 16. With a passion for education, youth and community development he founded and grew 24-7 YouthWork into a national network. In 2009 Duane was asked to join the Core Leadership Team at South West Baptist which has meant carrying a number of roles particularly in the area of ministry and community, but also executive pastor, through to Sunday School. Duane has always kept an active involvement in local communities, and keenly engages in civic and national affairs, including the Gift Abel Tasman Beach campaign.
Questions to Elders:
Why do we vote?
Many churches have a hierarchy of leadership nationally that appoints new leaders locally – their pastors, ministers, bishops. Baptist churches emphasize local church autonomy and the priesthood of all believers. So, while you appoint and ask us as Elders to represent you in many high level matters of the church, the appointment of a new Senior Pastor requires the whole church to discern God’s will and to vote. We get to be the body of Christ, to discuss, to wrestle, to pray to discern, to vote, and then to support the person who is called to the role.
What is the process for voting?
We will take a secret ballot. All those who are members of SWBC are eligible to vote. We need to have at least 20% of eligible voters present at the meeting. Duane will need a minimum of 75% of the votes cast to be confirmed as Senior Pastor.
Did the Elders have a sense of the type of pastor you were looking for or was it a wide spectrum?
Very early in the transition journey we pondered this issue. Our first question was not so much ‘who do we want’ but ‘who are we’ as a church? What are our values and DNA? Then we thought about who would fit. We worked together, with some input from the leadership team also, on a set of criteria that were important for a new Senior Pastor, and as it grew we knew it would be a tall order. The core things we have been looking for are: a passionate follower of Jesus, and someone who is able to support others to be passionate followers of Jesus; a tried and true record of leading in a large congregation or other Christian organization; able to work well and lead in teams; be a great communicator; with strategic planning and leading gifts who is able to cast vision; be passionate about and involved in mission – including incarnational mission in community and to the marginalised, have a breadth of theological understanding – to continue our word, sign deed, presence and 4 relationships journey, and someone who will continue the ‘Treaty Journey’ which we are committed to as a church.
We believe we found these things in Duane. He stood head and shoulders above the other applicants in terms of what we were looking for.
Who else applied to the Elders for the role?
There were 33 applications, five of those were women, two were specifically as couples. Most were from overseas. We were determined to be as thorough as possible. We followed up every name recommended to us and shoulder tapped numbers of people. We also extended the application period two times to make sure we gave an opportunity for any that God might be calling to the role to put their hands up, and for us to be sure we had everything in front of us before selecting and presenting to the church our nomination.
Do you have any second (or third) candidates?
No, we don’t have another person ‘waiting in the wings’ just in case, who we could nominate if needed, as a backup. We would have to begin a new search process if the church asked us to keep looking.
What prophecies have you had as Elders?
There have been many words shared in the Day of Prayer monthly prayer meetings, and we did our best to attend to these as well as to how God was speaking to us as Elders directly. One that spoke particularly to me (Steve) was that Christ is the centre, Christ the head, and we the Body, made up of many gifts. A new Leader was to lead a team(s) and a church with those gifts present. Before finally making the appointment, we spent one more night in prayer and shared scriptures and words together. At that point we were all 100% confident in the nomination of Duane. One particularly important scripture was the passing on of the baton of leadership from Moses to Joshua. Duane had been holding up the arms of our leadership for some years, and is willing to continue doing that, but we felt God was saying the time was right for Duane to take up the baton with courage in God’s preparation of him, according to God’s word to Joshua: “Have courage and I will be with you wherever you go.”
What do the Elders think?
Dave Wilson (Elder): When I reflected and prayed, what I felt from Duane’s point of view is that he has been on the journey for 22 years and that this was his time and if we did not grab him now we may miss his time. He may not be there to take up this role in 5 years. I have seen the passion in him for this role. If he was not the right person he would step aside. If he is the right person he will do it with passion. We may see a different way of doing things. We may see church done differently, not just a Sunday thing. Duane lives church the whole week.
Geoff Siave (Elder): Everything was aligning as we went through the whole discernment process. A good employment process is to look at the head and heart. I am convinced that Duane has a fantastic head and heart. Sometimes the answer to prayer is right in front of us.
Jo Robertson (Elder): As we as Elders listened to Duane we knew that no-one has more passion for the people of our church than he does. We are unanimous and it is the right time for him.
Gill Pawson (Elder): I feel safe with Duane. He has been willing to answer very real questions. We can ask and continue to ask the robust questions but still stay in unity.
Stuart Manning (Elder): I was keen from the beginning of the search process to remain open minded and open hearted, seeking God to guide us. During this time, I felt a strong sense in my spirit leading towards Duane. Duane is passionate about people; he is a team builder. He sees the possibilities and is an enthusiastic vision caster. Duane will be Duane – God will use him in new ways at SWBC.
Questions to Duane:
People have to have a drive to take this role. Did you go into it because lots of people suggested or ask you or did you have a sense that you were called?
For 24 years I have felt called to this place and over the years I have sat in many seats on the bus. I am not the type of person who is ‘desiring’ the job but, I have my eyes on the Lord and am taking one step at a time. I am not naive to the nature of the role, I have a degree of respect for the role. My nature is a love for the Lord and a prayerful journey.
My heart is for Jesus. My journey has not been flashes and bangs but a slow, deep and rich journey. I love to pray, I think the most powerful thing in order to see His Kingdom come is to pray. I am not the usual package for a preacher/teacher. But wise people and I believe the Lord has been telling me to be me, not someone else. My longstanding passion is for the identity and the potential of the church to be realised and fulfilled in this generation. I feel no less called now than I did 24 years ago, and remain content sitting at whatever ‘seat on the bus’ is most helpful at the time.
This calling to this particular role has not been a ‘done deal’ and I have appreciated this month of discernment with the church family. I am happy to support someone else. I am seeking God’s face, with palms out, and taking one step at a time. My time in this seat may be 1 or 2 or 5 years or I may hold this role for a long time like previous pastors – I do not hold the time frame tightly. Regardless of the decision, this is home.
It is not a ‘job’, it is a calling, and I will be obedient to the call. 100%.
What are your expectations of this role?
I think you lose more than you win, it is sacrificial. I have watched this role over the last 24 years. It is a role you take with soberness. But I do believe God gives grace and He will provide.
If the nomination is confirmed, I will be asking God for extra doses of anointing by the Holy Spirit so I will be graced to take that journey because you effectively can’t satisfy everyone. Only God can do that.
I think the biblical motif of being a shepherd is the key understanding, and a shepherd lays his life down for the sheep, knows their names, protects and takes them into green pastures and so on.
I don’t imagine that I would preach every week. I would imagine there would be a teaching team and I would preach once every 4-6 weeks.
I am also not an empty nester. I have children aged 11-16 and will be ensuring they flourish in the journey and will have different capacity for the role especially during these precious years.
How is it going to be for you following on from previous pastors? What actually is your mandate, key points of difference?
I feel more and more comfortable in my own skin with age, and hope that brings freedom for others to be the same. I feel most at home taking journeys with people and adventures with Jesus.
I can bring continuity. Things that would stay the same would be the vision and values – helping people to become lifelong followers of Jesus and growing redemptive communities locally and globally; remaining committed to word, sign, deed, and being present, with bias to the poor and marginalised, and so on. This is how our family lives and breathes. So continuity around this is important. Also continuing on with our Treaty journey and environmental conversations is important.
In time some different things may immerge, innovations. I am a dreamer and a schemer, and I would love to see the bible verses up on our gym wall come to life! I would love to see old and young, male and female have visions and dreams. Someone overseas shared a word for the church with me which I hope will come to pass, the word was ‘Spring”. I see myself as weaving that rich ecology of redemptive church life.
You are very involved in your community. What are you going to have to drop in order to do this this role?
I have public, civic, community and family interests. For example I am on the board of local school, coach a rugby team and help as a youth leader. At this stage, through wise counsel, I feel the Lord is telling me to hold them together. I do not feel led to pull back from those grassroots commitments, but would integrate them with the higher level roles. The areas that I see I will need to pull back from will be in the organization middle roles. Ideally I would be working on not in the organisation.
What does Ruth think about you taking this role?
Ruth says she might vote for me 😉 Just kidding! As always Ruth and I are in this together. Ruth is very strong in herself, and in how she rolls, and how we roll. Whilst it is a change in many ways, there is a lot of continuity on the home front.
I don’t expect too many changes with the family. I hope the kids don’t notice too much difference, perhaps even less grumpy dad moments!
What about the loss of so many people from our Church? How would this be attended to?
This is being attended to very closely wherever possible, and if people feel to leave I work hard to help see people leave through the ‘front door’. When this happens it is with grace, dignity, and warm trust in the wider body of Christchurch.
On a side note, whilst SWBC is obviously ‘home’, I need people to know my first call is to the church of Christchurch, more than any subset of it. I feel this strongly. In the bible it was the Church of Corinth, the Church of Galatia, the Church of regions and cities. Jesus prayed in John 17 that we would be one and then people would know that he was sent.
Jesus Prays for All Believers
20 ‘My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one– 23 I in them and you in me–so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
The privilege of working across all kinds of churches with 24-7 YouthWork has freed me from thinking with small ambition. It’s kingdom first, church second.
It’s when people lose their faith that is most concerning. And this has happened over the years and in recent years too.
Seeing and living leadership through the biblical lens of shepherding is helpful. I/We have worked so hard to get the list of names on the journey up to date, I/we have tried to get in touch with as many as possible who leave quietly out a side door, I/we meditate on the reasons they leave and how they leave. In almost every occasion there is a warm and cringe free relationship with those that leave. I reckon I have a growing message in me called ‘how to leave church well’!
The reasons to leave are genuinely varied, not just one thing. Ideally people would be able to stay for generations, until God literally calls them to another place. There would be less ‘lesser’ reasons to leave if people were thriving. In some instances where people have left they simply haven’t been thriving. This is incredibly sad. Investing in things that help everyone thrive is probably the best way to attend to people leaving. Seeing the four relationships flourish. There are rich lessons in listening to those who leave.
There is a caveat to this, thriving is not always possible and there are different seasons as well as realities that God can and does use in the course of our redemptive journey together. It takes a commitment to stay at the table when we are not ‘thriving’. But as well as commitment, leadership has a role cultivating a mature culture amongst us, that walks through many winters and an environment rich in resource to compost the rotting things.
But even more than that, deeper again, there has been times when we individually and collectively have relied on things other than Christ alone. This is sin. The even uglier, less fashionable word, for this is ‘idolatry’. We lose our way. In order to see our great grandchildren walk out to Sunday School on a Sunday morning we need to be deeply deeply rooted in Christ alone, clinging to him around the communion table, and living daily the Lord’s prayer.
Ha! Told you there was a sermon brewing!! 🙂