Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Unauthorized Guide for Pastor Search Committees
Let's be honest.
Anyone who says Christianity is complicated is spending too much time in books about the book than in the book itself; and, usually, people who spend more time reading books about the book than the book itself are looking for ways to rationalize their beliefs and behaviors that are not consistent with loving and following Jesus by the book.
I think of W.C. Fields who spent more time reading the Bible as his end approached. Asked about it, he said, "I'm looking for loopholes."
A recent conversation comes to mind.
A pastor who I counsel because of clergy killers came to see me back on April 11.
Hurt and discouraged, he asked, "Is Christianity as complicated as we are making it? Did Jesus really have all of these theologies and denominations and bulletins and vestments and stained glass windows and ornaments and furniture and...in mind?"
"I may be wrong," I answered, "but I think Christianity is really, really, really quite simple. Love Jesus and you know for sure that you're going to heaven after the last breath. In the meantime, you love Jesus by loving like Jesus because You're so grateful to be going to heaven after you die. As far as I can see, that's Christianity by the book."
I've found people often like me who make Christianity sooooooo complicated just don't want to follow Jesus by the book because they don't believe in Jesus by the book and find rationalizations for beliefs and behaviors apart from Jesus by the book in other books only coincidentally consistent with Jesus by the book.
Or something like that.
Surely, there are lots of guides for pastor search committees put out by parochial interests.
You know, "Gotta make sure she's/he's a real Baptist...Presbyterian...Pentecostal...Fundamentalist...Roman...Missouri Synoder...whatever."
Annnnnnnd if you're into that, you probably need to look for a good funeral director instead of a pastor.
You can read more about that in Matthew 15 and 23.
While I have diminishing respect for that kinda stuff because that kinda stuff is more related to philosophy and ideology and vanity and ego/mob theology than Jesus by the book, I'm not goin' to get into tinkling contests about it; but, again, just ask yourself if those kinda churches looking for those kinda pastors are doing much heaven good anymore. I know ya can't talk about that at franchise meetings or you'll get charged with something or marginalized at least; but in the privacy of your own relationship with the Lord...
This isn't a guide for churches into too much of that.
This is for churches that just want an undershepherd to the Good Shepherd who will try to love 'em with Jesus as the pattern according to the prescriptions of Holy Scripture.
Sooooooo because it's really not that complicated, I'm gonna limit this guide to three simple concerns: identity, intentions, and inheritances.
The authorized guides with all of their helpful vetting information often forget what follows and that's why they often have to elect another PSC sooner than later.
Yes, take a long look at the authorized guides; but don't forget to consider...
A friend thinks all PSCs should start with this question: "Who is your Lord?"
He explains, "If Jesus isn't demonstrably first or if there are any idolatries close to Him such as denominations or traditions or polities or..., run like hell away from her/him."
From what I can tell about Jesus by the book and most of Christendom's history, it's supposed to be all about, uh, Jesus by the book.
Lord and Savior.
By the book.
If you're interviewing someone and she/he is talking more about Osteen or Oprah by the culture than Jesus by the book, run like hell away from 'em.
Let me put it another way.
While saving 'em for officers, I've stopped asking dumb parochial questions when someone wants to join the church. I just ask two questions: "Who is your Lord and Savior? Depending upon God's grace, do you promise to try to love Him by loving like Him?"
I figure if a person gets those right, she/he won't be among the irascibles, irregulars, and irreconcilables being enabled by too many churches who don't follow Jesus by the book.
Ditto for pastors.
Let me repeat.
Let 'em dump their garbage cause folks will dig it up sooner or later if they don't.
If you want to know what she/he thinks about something, ask!!!!!!!
While most of your questions will be answered if she/he answers those two questions in the preceding section with precision, passion, and persuasion, ask!!!!!!!
Yeah, I know some parochial "authorities" caution you against it. Some will claim ya can't ask 'em about war and peace and abortion and homosexuality and gay marriage and gluten-free diets and...
But the pewsitters are gonna wanna know sooner than later and they'll ask and if you haven't and they find out that...
Well, you know what I mean; and if you don't, you shouldn't be on the PSC anyway/anyhow/anymore.
Let me be specific.
If you want a leftie or rightie or someone like you know who with no perceptible principles, ask the kinda direct-in-your-face-no-blinking interrogatives that will get what you need to know before you sign anything.
This is really important.
Get rid of staff members and even members who weren't healed/redeemed by anyone else anytime before.
Don't cripple your new pastor with old problems; especially when it comes to staff members.
Inherited staff members can be very dangerous because they are never really or quite as loyal to the person who didn't hire 'em in the first place. Yeah, yeah, yeah, they are loyal to.... Puuuuuuuhlease! Sometimes conventional wisdom is conventional wisdom because it's conventional and repeated. Many inheritances don't make the transition. PSCs know who will and who won't. Get rid of the ones who won't!
God knows I know.
While I've been fortunate in only having two or three inheritances go really sour in four decades and while I'm in a situation right now in which I was blessed with a few really, really, really awesome inheritances, the rule of the thumb is the rule of thumb. If they have been a problem before the new pastor arrives, they will be a problem no matter who is called. Remember, they nailed Jesus and He was pure and perfect in every way. If you don't clean up the mess before she/he arrives, she/he will inherit a mess and then get messy as your new pastor tries to clean up the mess with minimal help from the masses who wanna be liked by everyone including the miscreants. And don't even bother thinking of calling on your ecclesiastical superiors if you don't clean up the mess and your pastor gets messy! They could care less. Really. Here's how they think: "Preachers come and go...but we need the taxes from the churches to pay our bills...So let's sacrifice another..."
I'll never forget the prospective pastor's wife - not related to me - who was asked if she had any questions for the PSC. She asked, "You seem so nice; but, please, tell me about the bastards in your church?"
It may sound crude; but get rid of the wolves or they'll end up barking and biting and...
Finally, my friend also thinks PSCs should ask, "What would make you run for the door if you found out it was true about our church?"
He says, "The answers can help discern both values and fears."
Of course, Jesus said pastors are gonna catch lots of hell trying to get people into heaven.
Matthew 10 quickly comes to mind.
That's why I tell pastors, "Keep running to Jesus and you'll stay a step ahead of the..."
Blessings and Love!