This is more of a lesson than a point of history, yet it begins in our usual way.
Barnstaple, England was without a Baptist witness until 1815. A year earlier, a nineteen-year-old man, Charles Veysey came under conviction and was born-again by the grace of God. Following his baptism in the river Taw, a Bible study began in the community. Then, on this day (November 19) in 1817 the Barnstaple Baptist Church was formed with twelve members.
During the first sixty-five years of its existence, the prosperity of the church fluctuated, and twenty-two pastors came and left. As often is the case, the longer the ministry of one pastor, the more the church prospered. During the leadership of Bro. S. Newman the congregation was so blessed that a new building became necessary, but then that pastor’s health broke and he was forced to resign.
At that point, in 1880, the church sought a new under-shepherd, but they handled the situation poorly. More than one candidate presented himself, and the church then put them on a list and voted to accept one. Brother J.N. Rootham won the majority vote and was installed as pastor, but from that moment on, despite God’s blessings on his ministry, the dissenting voters refused to give him their respect or confidence. To them every little mistake or mis-spoken word was a reason to a call for his resignation. Pastor Rootham hoped to win over his detractors, but it was not possible, and eventually both the church and the pastor suffered serious damage.
In seeking a pastor, candidates should be invited, considered and voted upon – individually. The pastorate should never be treated as a popularity contest. Nothing good can come from this sort of action.