David W. Graves, pastor of the Olathe, Kansas, College Church of the Nazarene, was elected the 38th general superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene on Wednesday evening, July 1, 2009. Graves was elected on the 22nd ballot at the denomination’s 27th General Assembly in Orlando, Florida.
“I’m very humbled by your vote of confidence in me,” Graves said upon being elected. “I feel unworthy. I have a great love for God and a great love for the family called the Church of the Nazarene.”
A fourth generation Nazarene on both sides of his family, he told the crowd, “All I’ve known my entire life is the family of the Church of the Nazarene.”
Remembering his heritage, Graves said his great-great aunt on his father’s side was affiliated with the work of pioneer holiness pastor, evangelist, and administrator J.O. McClurkan. He also told of his great-great uncle on his mother’s side, who drove a horse and buggy to Pilot Point, Texas, because he heard of a holiness group meeting. That meeting began the Church of the Nazarene. Graves said when his great-great uncle returned to Kansas, he told the family, “We have found our church.”
His grandfather on his mother’s side was a district treasurer for the State of Florida for 40 years. He also ran a campground in the state. Graves said he was 11 when he knelt next to a bunk bed at that campground and God spoke to him, saying, “I want you to preach my word.”
From that point on, Graves said all he’s ever wanted to be was a preacher.
“All my life, the only thing I ever wanted to hear was someone to call me ‘pastor,'” he said. “There is no higher honor than to preach the Word of God and for someone to call me ‘pastor.'”
Graves then spoke of how privileged he’s been to be pastor at Olathe College Church. He stated he has “mixed feelings,” but since he was 11, he has always said, “God, wherever you want me to go, I will go. Whatever you want me to do, I will do.”
He continued: “The easy thing to do would be to stay at Olathe College Church. God has not called me to do just the easy thing, but to do His will. My heart’s desire is to serve the church as I serve Him in this role to which you’ve elected me.”
Graves is the third consecutive pastor from Olathe College Church to be elected general superintendent. Graves replaced J.K. Warrick, who was elected to the Board of General Superintendents at Indianapolis 2005. Warrick succeeded Paul G. Cunningham as pastor at the church after Cunningham was elected to the Board in 1993. Warrick began his service at the church in January 1994; Graves in September 2006.
Noting this, Cunningham quipped, “I have one thing to say to that church up there – Olathe College Church – if you want to keep a pastor, you’d better start another denomination.”
Before pastoring Olathe College Church, Graves served from 2001-2006 as Sunday School Ministries director at the Church of the Nazarene’s International Headquarters. His pastorates include Monroe (North Carolina) Cornerstone Community, Broken Arrow (Oklahoma) First, Marion (Ohio) First, Nashville (Tennessee) Grace, and Cincinnati (Ohio) Springdale.
Graves is a graduate of Olivet Nazarene University and Nazarene Theological Seminary. In 2003, Olivet granted him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree.
He and his wife, Sharon, currently reside in Olathe. They have three sons, Michael, John, and Steven, and a daughter, Rachel. They also have one granddaughter, Avery.
David is the son of Harold and Bettie Graves, who were in the audience when Graves was elected. Graves said thanks to them he has seen holiness in action every day.
With this election and the elections of Eugenio Duarte and John C. Bowling earlier this week, the next Board of General Superintendents is now complete. General Superintendents James H. Diehl, Paul G. Cunningham, and Nina G. Gunter are retiring, and Duarte, Bowling, and Graves will join re-elected superintendents Jerry D. Porter, Jesse C. Middendorf, and J.K. Warrick to comprise the Board for the next quadrennium.