The nominating speech: When someone puts you up for elected office

“A certain slave girl possessed with a spirit….followed Paul and cried out, saying, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.’ And this she did for many days.” (Acts 16:16-18)

When you decide to let your name be put up for an elected office–keep in mind, I write for pastors primarily–choose carefully your recommender.

The person giving the nominating speech can make you or break you.

It wasn’t so much that what the demon-possessed girl of Philippi said about Paul and Silas was wrong.  It’s only that she was crazy, pardon the expression.

She was not qualified to be recommending anyone.

Her recommendation was the worst thing imaginable.  People who knew her scoffed at the recommendation she gave these preachers.  I can hear them laughing. “If she thinks they are hot stuff, we’d better be careful. They’re probably as looney tunes as she is.”

Some recommendations are to be eschewed.  (After 14 years of blogging, this is the first occasion I’ve used “eschewed.”  It’s about time!)

In my journal from the mid-1990s, I came across this.  (The names have been changed for obvious reasons.)

“During the state convention meeting, after Jim Crapshoot nominated Bob Headache, retired state Baptist leader Len Heartshot got up and nominated Edward Silky.  It was the poorest job on record.”

“Heartshot read Scripture and preached for the longest time without ever mentioning Edward Silky, the election, or anything.  Then he called him Eddie Smithy a couple of times.  I was embarrassed for both men, and wondered who chose Len for that task. Then it got worse.”

“A man stood up to make a surprise nomination.  After preaching for five minutes, again with no mention of a candidate or the office, it took prodding from the president to get a nomination out of him.  It turned out he was nominating Jesus Christ!”

“The crowd was incredulous.  I told a neighbor I was casting my vote for the Prophet Isaiah.”

It’s the Baptist way, I suppose

I’d forgotten all of this–a good thing to forget, actually–because after attending perhaps 50 or 75 state and national conventions, I suppose I’ve seen it all.

Once at a national meeting of Baptists, a friend of ours, an evangelist with more moxie than any dozen normal people, rose to make a nomination.  As he talked on and on, I suddenly realized what he was doing.  I whispered to my wife, “He’s nominating himself!” Which he proceeded to do.  I think he might have garnered a couple of dozen sympathy votes.

What in the world are these people thinking?

Or maybe they were not thinking.  It’s hard to know.

This is the kind of thing a religious body opens itself to when it allows anyone and everyone to approach a microphone during a business session and make any motion they please. Anyone can nominate anyone, and they usually do. And, as a rule, no serious harm is done.

Attend enough of these meetings and you will see pastors of tiny congregations nominated for national office simply because “those churches need representation, too.”  Once the fellow making a nomination said, “Brother Charlie has never had any recognition for pastoring that tiny church and we thought electing him president would be a fitting tribute.”

We’ve seen seminary students nominated as president of our entire denomination, as though the most ignorant youngsters in the place deserved to have a voice in worldwide ministries.  (I was a seminarian once and have taught in the seminary; the ignorance of these students is a well-attested fact.)

My one experience in nominating someone for a prominent office was not a good one. A veteran pastor with more smarts than any five young preachers combined, followed me at the rostrum and carried the day.  Those who remember Dr. Ralph Smith of Austin’s Hyde Park Baptist Church will nod their heads in agreement. One smart dude, believe me.

It was the late 1970s and we were nominating presidents for our Foreign Mission Board. (Note: At the time, the CEO of the board was called the Executive-Director.  Also, this was before the name change making it the International Mission Board, or IMB.)

Dr. Baker James Cauthen was retiring after 25 years, and I planned to nominate Travis Berry, pastor of FBC Plano, Texas.  Travis was a veteran missionary and a wise pastor with much to bring to the board as its president. I liked him very much.  So, I had a good candidate.

Ralph Smith’s candidate was a local Richmond pastor with no missionary experience and a much smaller church.  The single thing that pastor had going for him was that Ralph Smith was his nominator.  The worst thing Travis Berry had in his corner was that I was making his nominating speech.

I went first.  I gave Travis’ credentials and told why he would make a great president.  It was not a bad speech for a good candidate.

Surely, I thought, we’re going to win this thing.

Then, Ralph Smith went to the podium. For the next five minutes, he folksied those board members, charmed them out of their seats, and assured them that in the transition from Dr. Cauthen’s leadership it would be most helpful if the next president lived in the Richmond area, instead of several states away.  And that single point carried the day.

I had been handed a great lesson by a grizzled veteran, if you will.  Communicate with the people, get them on your side, and sell the main asset you have.

A friend of mine is running for office, I just learned

Recently, a friend of twenty years informed me that he has been asked to allow his name to be placed in nomination at our national convention taking place this Summer in St Louis.  I’m not surprised; he’s a good man of high integrity and vast experience.  I would vote for him twenty times if I could.

Today, I plan to ask, “Who is going to nominate you?”  And no, I am not volunteering for the job. The one chosen should be someone with great credibility and influence.  The ability to make a good speech is a given.

People running for office will sometimes say, “I asked the Lord and felt He was leading me to allow my name to be placed in nomination.”

Okay, I suggest the candidate keep on praying and ask the Lord one thing more: “Father, who should nominate me?” And keep praying until He says.

God don’t sponsor no flops, said Ethel Waters about the young Billy Graham when someone asked her opinion.  However, enough people claiming “God is leading me in this” end up falling flat on their faces that either someone is mistaken about the Lord’s leadership or they made some terrible decisions after He called them.

Scripture teaches that the Lord’s witnesses should be people of character, love, and Christlikeness.  After all, when I speak of Jesus to others, I am recommending Him.  And they are drawing conclusions about Him based on what they see in me.  (If that won’t put the fear of the Lord into you, you’re not paying attention!)

Let us be careful whom we recommend for anything.  Let us take care in selecting those who would nominate us for something important.  And let us live lives of such faithfulness that when we speak up for Jesus none are surprised but all want to know Him.



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