David Moore has seen a lot of changes in cultural trends, churches and denominational life since he began serving in campus ministry fresh out of college. On May 31 he retired after 38 years on the staff of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), a rare service record for anyone.
Changes within BSC have led to ministry roles with students, single adults, married adults, senior adults, pastors and church leaders. For the last decade Moore has enjoyed serving on the pastoral ministries team, helping pastors and churches rediscover their purpose and vision. Often he helps pastors and churches work through seasons of conflict.
BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
David Moore speaks to new pastors at a training event in May at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Moore retired at the end of May after 38 years.
“There’s a lot of discouragement in churches and in pastors. The whole church culture has taken hits,” he said. “There’s a hopelessness out there. I talk to a lot of pastors who say, ‘This is not what I thought it was going to be.’ I try to be a bearer of hope to these people.”
He estimates that around 100 pastors and church leaders call his office looking for help every year.
“At least every week I get another call asking for our help – at least one a week,” Moore said. “I get as many calls from congregations as I get from pastors. Sometimes the call comes from the director of missions who is trying to help a church in conflict. They call, obviously in pain.”
Church members take sides and issues becomes personal.
“They have forgotten what the real issue was,” he said.
Moore said if the pastor and church don’t want to work on the deep issues that led them into conflict, his work is not going to be very effective. The pastor and the church have to admit there are serious problems and have a strong desire find healing. “I can’t fix it for them, but I can help them pray through the possibilities.”
He’s learned that if a church is experiencing a downturn in offerings and attendance, it’s easy to blame it on the pastor. “In my opinion the church doesn’t have the wider view of all that is going on in the culture, so they default to taking care of it by blaming the pastor. But it’s not that simple,” Moore added.
Some conversations reveal a lot of anger. “People don’t know how to differ very well. So when conversations don’t work with a church, and they are at the fork in the road, we have to ask if they have done everything possible on this side of the fork to work on the problems.
“You want it to work, so you do everything it takes. If a separation is in the works, then we need to ask how we can do this with dignity and integrity, and what are the lessons learned?”
Moore’s work in the field of church health was not in his original plan for ministry.
A native of Durham, he grew up at First Baptist Church in Durham. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, he felt a strong connection with campus ministry.
Moore played an active part in the ministry of the Baptist Student Union at UNC, which was one of the “crucible places” in his spiritual journey. He regularly spoke on college campuses across the state recruiting students for summer mission work.
Photo courtesy of “A Christmas Carol”
David Moore has played Bob Cratchit in “A Christmas Carol” in Raleigh for about 20 years. He has been with the production even longer, serving in smaller roles.
A detour out of North Carolina led him to a three-year ministry as an associate minister to youth at Manassas Baptist Church in northern Virginia. Then he was invited to return to BSC for a full-time position with campus ministry.
“The call that campus ministry provided had been so important to me; there was that sense that I wanted to ‘pay it forward,’ as they say in student work.”
Later, the death of his sister in an automobile accident “put a lot of stir in my life,” he said.
He left BSC and became the human resources director for a heating/air conditioning/fire protection company in Raleigh.
“It was a great experience, but I knew that’s not where I needed to be. … So I got the call to come back to the convention to work with Christian Life and Public Affairs in 1991.” The new assignment was to educate, inform and inspire Baptists about critical issues of the day.
He stayed in that work for 18 years.
When BSC re-organized in 2008 Moore was assigned to leadership development and pastoral ministries.
Through the experience of job adjustments and retooling Moore said the single constant thread was “my call to engage people where they are, and help them become all they are wired to be – all that God has made them to be, to help birth vision and action.”
Earlier in ministry when he was working with students, Moore said Frederick Beuchner’s book, Wishful Thinking, had an impact on him. “A few things jumped out and grabbed my attention. [Beuchner] said ‘vocation’ comes from a Latin word that means ‘voice.’ Our job is to figure out of all the voices that are calling to us – some are good, some are not so good – but where is the voice of God in all of that? [Beuchner] ends up saying the place where God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meets. That’s been just a powerful, personal ministry statement for me.
“Frankly, the BSC has been a place that has allowed me to do that. There’s not an employee here that agrees with everything the BSC is and does – nobody does, anywhere – but the thing I am most grateful for is that [BSC] has given me the freedom and trusted me to pursue that kind of vision for myself, allowing me to be all I can be.
“Not every place will do that. In spite of differences over the years and some real deep personal and professional valleys, there have been an awful lot of good peaks and upward movement, too. At the end of the day, for me it’s been a place that has encouraged, trusted and allowed me to do that kind of ministry.”
His latest work in pastoral ministry involved assisting pastors in reassessment of their ministry, dealing with failures in their ministry, coaching through conflict between pastors and churches and trying to prevent conflicts within church leaders. It does not focus only on pastors, he added. It’s also ministry to the church as an organization.
A church needs to own its congregational identity, according to Moore. They need to know who they are called to be, what the vision has been and what it can be.
“That’s been really energizing to me. I’ve loved that part of my work.”
Moore sees himself as an encourager, a coach and a “midwife, helping people to birth the new.” Some think that is a strange analogy, but he explains, “Midwives don’t have the babies. They help people to have the babies. … [I’m] helping churches birth what they need to birth – renewal, revitalization and a new kind of vision.”
Retirement is somewhat of a reluctant step for Moore.
“I’m 69 years old and I still have great energy. I still feel like I’m going wide open. I’m naming this re-calibration rather than retirement.” Moore will continue to serve as a part-time contract worker for BSC.
Eddie Thompson succeeded Moore as a pastoral ministries consultant. He is certified in peacemaking and has broad experience as a pastor and family counselor.
He will continue to assist ministers and churches with church health and conflict resolution. Email [email protected].