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The Open Door

 

It’s not unusual for me to receive numerous contacts in the course of a week from churches seeking a new staff minister and ministers seeking a new church. In either case I am anxious to be helpful, when I can.

Obviously, the convention is not responsible for securing a position for a minister seeking a new opportunity. That does happen in some denominations where the pastors are moved by the denomination to new places of service every few years. I remember hearing the outstanding Methodist pastor, Dr. Charles Allen, make this comment: “In our Methodist denomination the pastor is moved to a new church by the denomination every four years or so. Sometimes I think that the denomination ought to move the church and let the minister stay where he is.”

Dr. Allen brings up a very interesting point. Serving on the ministerial staff of a church can be a very challenging experience, to say the least.

Working with people in any business can be the most challenging part of the work. A statement I have heard on several occasions is, “Doing ministry would be wonderful if it wasn’t for the people.” This is a sad commentary on the situation in some, not all, churches.

Larry Wynn recently supplied the pulpit at North Metro First Baptist in Lawrenceville in the absence of Dr. Frank Cox. Larry preached an outstanding sermon and in the course of his message asked the congregation if we had any hypocrites in our church.

Then he said, “I can guarantee you that you have hypocrites in your church. How do I know this? I know this because there are hypocrites in every church.” Then he continued, “The word ‘hypocrite’ comes from a word that means ‘play acting.’ Do you have people in your church that are play acting? Of course you do. They are in every church.”

Now, Larry was not being critical; he was being truthful. This is the kind of thing that makes ministry so challenging.

The other side of the challenge is experienced by the search committee in the local congregation that is tasked with the responsibility of finding a pastor or other staff minister to recommend to the church. Ministers are people too, and can sometimes prove to be the wrong choice for the position. Both the minister and the church may not know for several months that they have made a huge mistake in going to a particular church or in selecting a particular minister.

Prayer is the key to discovering and doing the will of God. God has a place for you to serve and it’s possible that it is a place you least expect.

Among the contacts I receive weekly are those ministers who have, for one reason or another, been terminated from their position. While some have earned their termination by their actions or by their inaction, I am convinced that there are others who fall victim to a power struggle in the church, or a division similar to what the apostle Paul described in the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 3. There are situations where a staff minister has done nothing to deserve termination, but is terminated anyway due to internal struggles in the church.

Given these true-to-life situations, I want to make several suggestions to search committees and ministers. The first priority in any search for a staff minister is prayer. Prayer is the key to knowing the will of God.

Every search committee should make prayer the priority in the search process. God has a person to serve in that position you are seeking to fill, so seek His will through prayer and trust that the Lord will lead the process if you call upon Him.

Secondly, I would suggest that you seek the help of others outside of your committee. The associational missionary for your area and your state convention are equipped to offer training and assistance to you as you seek that addition to your church staff. Church-Minister Relations at the convention is equipped to provide outstanding assistance to your committee.

Third, as you narrow your search, check references thoroughly and not just the references listed on the résumé. It’s a good sign if you go to references that are not listed and still get good words about an individual.

Fourth, understand that rumors cannot be trusted as a source of information. Be diligent in your search for factual information and do not accept rumor as fact.

Fifth, don’t be afraid to look at ministers who were forced out of their last position. There are outstanding, quality ministers who are unemployed at the present time who deserve consideration by committees because they were innocent victims of a bad situation, not of their own making.

Being an unemployed minister is not grounds for rejection. It probably means that when they are employed by a church, their gratitude will overflow in long-term, devoted ministry.

Ministers, if you desire a new place to serve, may I just remind you that the call of God is real? I remember seeing a billboard one day where the Catholic Church was advertising for priests. The sign encouraged men to sign up for the priesthood. It spoke of a good, clean working environment for men who work well with people. I wondered where the call of God fit into that advertisement.

Prayer is the key to discovering and doing the will of God. God has a place for you to serve and it’s possible that it is a place you least expect. Be open to wherever God may lead you.

Understand that the association and the convention can, and want to be helpful, but are not responsible for finding a place for you to serve. That is between you and the Lord and the church. When you are interviewed by a committee be honest about your theology, your desires for ministry, your experience, and about those things you may not enjoy discussing.

The best way to begin ministry is with transparency. The committee doesn’t want to select the wrong person, and you don’t want to go to the wrong church.

Don’t forget that God knows where you are right now, and He knows what you need. Trust Him. When considering whether you should go to a particular church, always look for an overwhelming sense of God’s call. In my experience, that has been the clearest indication that God is in it.