CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BP)–Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said it was the calling of God in his life -– revealed in part through a sermon by a missionary at his church –- that led him to leave his “comfort zone” and run for the state’s top elected office in 2001.
He and his wife, Mary, felt God calling them to step out and pursue something greater with their lives, and they asked their church to pray with them as they sought God’s will.
“We didn’t know what God was calling us to do,” Perdue said during the Elevate 2004 conference in Charlotte Feb. 20. “We knew it was something to get out of our comfort zone, and we just wanted their wisdom and their help in seeking God’s direction.”
Perdue, speaking to a crowd of young adults at the North American Mission Board-sponsored conference, shared his testimony of how God had led him from being operator of a family grain elevator business to a steadily increasing role in state politics. Perdue was among several public figures to address the conference about how they have integrated their faith with their careers.
In Perdue’s case, he said his career in public service began with an unsolicited appointment to a local planning and zoning board.
“They said, ‘You don’t have any political ambitions do you?’ and I said, ‘No,’” Perdue said. “And they said, ‘Good. For this job you won’t need any, because planning and zoning is a job that’s very contentious and the best you can do is make half the people happy.’”
But when the local state senator retired, Perdue sought and won a seat in the state senate at the urging of county officials. Having left his business for the office, he sought and acquired increasing leadership responsibilities -–including majority leader and president pro-tem.
Later, a consultant suggested he consider running for lieutenant governor, but as a Democrat –- along with the majority of others in Georgia politics at the time -– his pro-life position became a sticking point.
“He said, ‘You have to change. You have to say this to win statewide.’ … So I did. I changed parties,” Perdue said. “I don’t think that’s what he had in mind, but I called the paper and said when qualifying comes around I’m going to run under the minority party and be a Republican.”
Perdue said he still had no particular ambition to win statewide office, but in 2001 a combination of factors led him to seek the office. That spring, he said, he re-read the Declaration of Independence with an eye toward the sacrifices of the founding fathers. “It started stirring in my soul as I looked at what they were willing to do.”
Then he heard a missionary to Brazil who said, “God is telling me to get out of my comfort zone. He wants us to move again. My wife and I are resisting, but we know what He wants us to do.” Similar themes emerged at a women’s conference attended by his wife.
They eventually agreed to seek the office. And against the odds for a Republican nominee running against a popular Democratic incumbent, he was elected in 2002.
Perdue — who teaches Sunday School at the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church of Woodstock — used an illustration from 1 Samuel 15 to underscore the importance of obedience to God. Like Saul, he said, there is a problem in politics and other walks of life with seeking approval from people rather than God.
“What I’ve found is that most of the time in life we want veto power over God’s plans in our life,” Perdue said. “We want it all laid out just like architectural plans. … God doesn’t do it that way. God gives us one brick at a time, and says, ‘Go put it here.’ And if we’re disobedient there, we will be in the same shape as Saul was by being rejected as king and not returning unto him. God calls us to be obedient rather than sacrifice.
“Are you in your own lives trying to appease God by giving Him sacrifices of your time, sacrifices of your talents, sacrifices of your efforts, or are you being obedient to His call?” Perdue continued. “What I’ve discovered is that God has no confusion about what He wants us to do, and He will not allow us to be confused once we have a predetermined acknowledgement of obedience. The illumination will come on so brightly. It may only be one step, but God will direct that step.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: ELEVATING POLITICS and PRAYER FOR THE GOVERNOR.