Having served 50 plus years in ministry in youth pastor, missionary and senior pastor positions, I thought it might be interesting to my readers to write a little about what I have gleaned from these various positions. Having ministered here in the South, the Midwest and the North not to mention in Costa Rica, Ecuador and many of the other countries of South and Central America, Belarus, Russia and many of the Caribbean Islands, I have learned a few things.
While it is true that there are cultural differences especially between the United States and other countries, I can tell you there are also cultural differences between the various geographic areas of the United States as well. Here in the USA we all speak English, but the meanings of some of the words and the pronunciations of the same words vary from region to region. That in itself is a column for another day.
I realize that while a pastor may resign at any time for various reasons, many with children in school will try to wait for the time when school is out so as not to disrupt their children’s lives any more than necessary. I know firsthand about this, having pastored 7 different churches through the years here in the States as well as moving twice in Ecuador as a missionary and serving 7 churches there as pastor. My daughters were accustomed to the pastoral moves. Not that they liked them, but they accepted them.
Of course there are problems on the other side of this issue as well. The church sometimes is taken unaware when a pastor resigns, most times they are not. Dare I say that there are many different reasons for a pastor to leave a church, both from his perspective as well as that of the church.
Where I am going with this is that while churches are made up of many different members and adherents, each of which can have their own perspective about their pastor, there usually is a board of some type that is responsible for finding a new pastor. They must search out the individual whom they believe will fit into and meet the needs of the church. This is no easy task. And then when a possible pastoral candidate is found, that candidate must ascertain if this church is where he feels the Lord would have him to pastor. Both sides have to reach an accord as to whether the Lord is leading or not in this instance.
I thought that I would help in this daunting task for a church’s pulpit committee… so the following is prepared for whom it may apply and as always don’t take everything too seriously, you may miss some important insights to living. Imagine with me please the following report from a Pastoral Search Committee made to their church about certain pastoral candidates:
“In our search for a suitable pastor, the following scratch sheet was developed for your perusal. Of the candidates investigated by the committee, only one was found to have the necessary qualities. The list contains the names of the candidates and comments on each, should you be interested in investigating them further for future pastoral placements.”
NOAH: He has 120 years of preaching experience, but he had no converts.
MOSES: He stutters; and his former congregation says he loses his temper over trivial things.
ABRAHAM: He took off to Egypt during hard times. We heard that he got into trouble with the authorities and then tried to lie his way out.
DAVID: He is an unacceptable moral character. He might have been considered for minister of music had he not ‘fallen.’
SOLOMON: He has a reputation for wisdom but fails to practice what he preaches.
ELIJAH: He proved to be inconsistent, and is known to fold under pressure.
HOSEA: His family life is in a shambles. Divorced, and remarried to a prostitute.
JEREMIAH: He is too emotional, alarmist; some say a real ‘pain in the neck.’
AMOS: Comes from a farming background. He would be better off picking figs.
JOHN: He says he is a Baptist but lacks tact and dresses like a hippie. He would not feel comfortable at a church potluck supper.
PETER: Has a bad temper, and was heard to have even denied Christ publicly.
PAUL: We found him to lack tact. He is too harsh, His appearance is contemptible, and he preaches far too long.
TIMOTHY: He has potential, but is much too young for the position.
JESUS: He tends to offend church members with his preaching, especially Bible scholars. He is also too controversial. He even offended the search committee with his pointed questions.
JUDAS: He seemed to be very practical, co-operative, and good with money, cares for the poor, and dresses well. We all agreed that he is just the man we are looking for to fill the vacancy as our Senior Pastor.
Thank you for all you have done in assisting us with our pastoral search.
Now I can see many of you reading this and chuckling under your breath. What I am trying to do is to help each one of see that no matter who you chose as a pastor, he is a human being, and surprise, he is imperfect. There are no perfect pastors out there. Granted there are pastors who are better suited for your church than other pastors and this is who the committee is trying to find.
Now there are a couple of other points that I need to stress here. While the committee is seeking the best candidate, they are imperfect too, as can be pointed out in the above recommendation of Judas.
But then there is the congregation and surprise, yes they are imperfect too. Every person in the congregations has his or her ideas about what a pastor should be like. They have their own ideas about what the church should do, the best way to move forward. The not so secret, secret, here to outsiders looking on, is that what each one of these church folks want, is to be in charge. Surprise, that position is held by the pastor, not the congregants. Just because the pastor doesn’t do what you want him to do, we all have to remember he ultimately answers to God for the way he is pastoring the church, not to every individual in the church. That would be real chaos in the church.
As you look above to the list I have of “pastoral candidates,” I don’t believe that there are any unknown to you. They all have their faults except for Jesus and his problem was that the people he was ministering to didn’t think he was “pastoring” the way they thought he should. Truth be known, that could be said about all of the people in that list.
So you see this is not a new problem with pastors and their congregations. Ephesians 4:11-13 says this, “11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
Honor your Pastor and both you and your church will be blessed.
Brad Morris, a retired minister, originally from Georgetown, served as a pastor and then as a missionary in Costa Rica and Ecuador, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He has been in ministry for 50 years and a columnist for 17 years, 13 of which have been for the Times.