Though Mike Kelsey was previously named as a lead pastor of David Platt’s McLean Bible Church in Virginia, members of the church now have until Wednesday to cast their vote to affirm the longtime pastor of the multi-campus congregation in that role due to recent changes in the church’s constitution.
In a recent Q&A published on the church’s website, the church said they opened voting on Sunday. They also acknowledged that even though Kelsey and another preacher, Wade Burnett, were previously appointed as lead pastors alongside Platt in 2020, they “were not formally affirmed as such by the congregation.”
“Three years later, we revised our church’s constitution to include Lead Pastors, and this revision stipulates that Lead Pastors must be elected by the church membership. As soon as our constitution was revised, we removed the title of Lead Pastor from Mike and Wade until such time as the church would affirm them in this role,” the church said.
While the time has come to affirm Kelsey in the role as a lead pastor, Burnett, who only joined the church’s staff in March 2020, “one week before the COVID shutdown” will not be affirmed in a similar role out of respect for Kelsey’s 16-year contribution to the congregation, the church said.
“While we believe Wade is qualified to serve as a Lead Pastor, Wade was actually the first to say that we should affirm Mike alone at this time in a way that highlights the significance of Mike’s role and honors the significance of Mike’s leadership over 16 years in our church family,” the church elders stated. “As outlined in our constitution, we may affirm other Lead Pastors in the future, and our elders will communicate to the church when we believe it is the appropriate time to nominate anyone else to this role. At this time, we are focusing on affirming Mike as a Lead Pastor.”
The revision of the appointments comes more than a year after the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by disgruntled longtime members of the multi-campus church over the controversial election of new elders in 2021. The unhappy members whom Platt branded as “activists” alleged that the church’s leaders were trying to purge the church of conservatives. In June, the Court of Appeals of Virginia revived a part of that lawsuit, saying the entire case should not have been dismissed.
In his message to the congregation on July 4, 2021, Platt said a group of activists inside and outside the church coordinated a campaign to vote down the new elders — Chuck Hollingsworth, Ken Tucker and Jim Burris — and seize control of the church.
He said the campaign mainly targeted the Tysons campus of the multisite megachurch as the other four campuses — Arlington, Loudon, Montgomery County, Maryland and Prince William — were “almost unanimous in their affirmation” of the three elders.
Kelsey, who once held the role of lead pastor of culture and preaching and served as a campus pastor, has been accused of being “woke” by some conservative critics.
McLean Bible Church said, however, that they are building a church model that focuses on a “plurality of elders and pastors” leading the local church.
“In one of the most significant recent revisions to our church’s constitution, we intentionally did not include a Senior Pastor role. Instead, we affirm a plurality of elders and pastors across our church who have different roles and responsibilities. For example, we have a Chairman of our elders who is no more an elder than the others, but he has primary responsibility for leading our elders,” the church explained.
“On a practical level, the Chairman leads meetings, sets agendas, carries a unique weight for the overall direction of the elders, and works toward consensus in decisions made by the elders. Similarly, as we affirm more than one Lead Pastor, one of them will carry primary responsibility for leading the other Lead Pastors in partnership with the elders (Lead Pastors actually report to our elders) and other pastors in the church.”
With the move to affirm Kelsey in his role as a lead pastor, the church said he would carry the primary responsibility of pastoral leadership.
“As our elders, Mike, and David have prayed through what this team of Lead Pastors will look like in practice, we believe that God has uniquely called and gifted Mike to shepherd our church to reach current and coming generations in our increasingly secular city with the gospel, and God has uniquely called and gifted David to mobilize the church for the spread of the gospel to unreached people in the world,” the church said. “Based on God’s call and gifting in both Mike and David, all of our elders (including David) believe that Mike should carry the primary leadership responsibility among our Lead Pastors.”
McLean Bible Church elders made it clear that Platt was not stepping down as a lead pastor or leaving the church, he will just be focused on different tasks.
“David is definitely not stepping down as a Lead Pastor or leaving our church. He will continue to serve and shepherd our church as a Lead Pastor and Elder alongside Mike and the other elders and pastors. He will continue to preach regularly, help shape the vision of our church, equip our leaders, and care for our members as we follow Jesus fully,” the church said.
“As a Lead Pastor, David will continue playing a vital part in leading our church family to accomplish our church’s mission to glorify God by making disciples and multiplying churches among all nations, beginning in greater Washington, D.C.”
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