Why is the minister search process often so dysfunctional???

I am writing this post less as making a statement and more of actually asking for feedback.  I graduated from SWBTS with my MDiv in 2001 and have probably gone through 20+ minister search processes in some form or fashion over the years.  I have also served on a Director of Missions Search Committee as secretary and have hired staff persons myself as senior pastor and university director.  For the last 8 years, I have been bi-vocational working for 2 universities and a major national non-profit.  Please know I have had 2 wonderful pastorates serving incredible churches and have thoroughly enjoyed my university and nonprofit jobs.  I am happy and grateful.

What confuses me is almost without fail, my church search processes have been far more frustrating, disheartening, and demoralizing than anything I have seen in secular job searches.  A few examples which I am sure everyone has too many to count of their own:

  • I interviewed for a staff position while at SWBTS for a mega-church in Atlanta.  Church flew me and my wife in, put us up in the Marriott, we met with the staff, shown the area, and shown how I could finish my MDiv at NOTBS in Atlanta.  All went well but pastor called a week later said God has not given him an answer.  Not a closed door but not an open door.  That was 2000 and I am still awaiting the follow up call.
  • While I pastored my first church (a wonderful country church in rural South Carolina) I had a number of search committees show up in a van, fill a back pew and take notes.  It put my church in an uproar with them expecting me to abandon them and leave for another church.  I stayed 4 years at my first church and had a wonderful time there.
  • We interviewed with another church’s pastor search committee for 2 months and they offered us to come in view of a call.  We made our plans and began getting ready.   Then they called back and said a couple members changed their mind because God spoke to them.  Then later after they said no we received a call they reconsidered.  Ultimately I said no and we moved on.
  • I interviewed for 6 months with a large church for their senior pastor position and ultimately was brought to tour the church, meet the staff, look at houses in the area, etc.  At the last minute, one of the search members changed their mind sensing God told her no.
  • A mega-church senior pastor emailed me saying God had put me on his heart for an associate pastor position.  I was between jobs and my severance had just run out.  I told him all the details of being between jobs and begged him to expedite the process eliminating me ASAP if I was not the guy.  Over 3 months, my wife and I went to dinner with his wife and another staff couple; I interviewed with the staff; I preached 4 services; and met with the pastor a numerous times.  I was even offered another job by another organization but pastor told me to please hold out until a certain date (3 months into the process) and it would be worth my while.  At the end of the 3 month process and after I begged to meet with him, pastor said he needs to hire someone who has been on a mega-church staff in this exact position.  Something I had never done and was clearly known to him months before I ever was considered.

I could go on and on but few things have discouraged me in my faith than these church search processes.  Not getting the position was not a big deal but the process is what hurt me and my wife.  In all the examples I listed, the people I dealt with generally were kind, loving Christian people.  Maybe I smelled or gave off a bad impression.  Who knows.   Here are a few things I would recommend (and I have applied leading my own searches) if ever given the chance to speak to those involved in a search process.

  • Through much prayer and study, develop a general profile of the candidate you are seeking before you begin interacting with candidates.  Ask God to help you in the organizational process so you can tell those not fitting the God-led profile no before their time is wasted and their emotions become invested.
  • Establish a set day once a week the candidate will receive an update email.  It may have nothing to say  but at least it gives the candidate a set date/time to learn of their status.  It can be sent out by an administrative assistant and can be a form email: You are still under consideration.  One of 12 candidates, we are meeting again in 2 weeks, will reduce number of candidates to 6 at that point, etc.
  • Communicate as much as possible via FREE video chat like Skype or Google Hangouts.  Allow search committee members or senior pastors or whomever is in the process to interact with the candidate without “invading” his church and interfering with his present ministry.
  • Follow the Golden Rule.  Put yourself in the candidates shoes and ask how you would want to be treated.  Eliminate and stop hiding behind the fake “Jesus talk” and be upfront and honest.
  • Expedite and be extra sensitive with those candidates who are between jobs and/or in seminary.  Be upfront, forthright and whatever you do, don’t lead them on.

There are those on SBC Voices are much smarter and wiser than me.  What do you think????

Comments

  1. John Wylie says

    I appreciate the article John. I understand a church’s rationale for sending a pulpit committee to a church to hear and see a pastor in his own environment, observing how he preaches on a Sunday to Sunday basis and how he and the church interact with one another. Having said this though, I think once a pulpit committee’s presence becomes known neither the church nor the preacher act as they normally would thus defeating the whole purpose. I knew a preacher who had a lady who basically hated his guts and had nothing nice to say to him, but on the day a pulpit committee showed up all of a sudden the lady carried on in front of them as though the preacher was the best they had ever had. She definitely had an ulterior motive and was hoping that the pastor was moving on and took measures to help that process on.

    • says

      LOL, John, had a group in a previous church do the same thing. They hated me, but when that search committee was there, I was Adrian Rogers, lol. I was upfront about it with the committee, and they called me anyway. Still here :-)

  2. says

    FIT – is vital in this process. The Pastor must FIT the church and the church must FIT the Pastor. THis requires that both have a clear objective profile. If the profiles match there may be reason to continue. If they do not – STOP. Don Whitney & Jim Elliff have a very helpful battery of quesitons for both pratires to ask in this process.

    A major reason for the unending dysfunciton in this process is the vast majority of churches do not have a clear and applicable PURPOSE statement which details their ministry, how, why, etc. This brings clarity to both entities.

    • Andy Williams says

      I think Baptist Polity gives you some of your answer. In most other areas of work, the person or people hiring you are people for whom hiring is their Job. They know how to do it, they’ve done it many times. At a church that selects a search committee from its members, they are likely not those for whom hiring people is their area of expertise.

      Of course this is only the secondary problem. The root of this and all other church problems is, of course, Calvinism. :-)

    • says

      That is just hogwash. FIT prolongs the horrible tradition already established. Kind of like putting bandaids on festered oozing sores. Methods can’t replace the simple instruction that the Apostle Paul left to Timothy and Titus. Not attacking you here Tom; but, the SBC has fallen into a deep deep rut in this area at the expense of discipleship.

      • D.L. Payton says

        Chris
        I agree. for the reason you mention. It i seldom helpful to propagate the same thing pastor after pastor.

  3. Jon says

    I noticed that in a lot of your examples the problem was with people claiming that God had or had not told them something. I don’t doubt that God does guide us, but a lot of times when people say something like, “Well God’s telling me this”, what is really happening is they are expressing their own personal feelings or doubts and God hasn’t told them anything. I really wish people would quit saying “God told me”. It is one thing to say you believe God is leading you in a certain direction and another to claim that God actually told you. Too often they turn out to be wrong.

    • D.L. Payton says

      Jon
      I agree with you also Jon. WoW!! Two in a row, that is a record for me. I Can”t wait to read the next one to see if it is three.

    • Jon(2) says

      Unfortunately, this is at the root of many church problems, beyond hiring and firing. We expect leaders to be priests, the best path for us to communicate with God and know his will. We don’t expect pastors so much as small versions of the great and powerful Oz.

      We should respect proper authority, but that’s different than believing God has sent the church a priest.

  4. says

    John Roland, Thanks for the article. Unfortunately your experience is the norm, not the exception; even as some experiences turn out spectacular.

    What a dysfunctional mess though! The tradition you have described is just that.. a bad tradition, and one that is so backward. I mean, just read through the list you describe. This never happened in the NT testimony. So, why the difference? Laziness, Politics, Poor teaching, Lack of Leadership, Selfishness, etc. etc.

    Such a sad, sad situation, that needs to be jettisoned.

  5. William Thornton says

    …because many people and churches are dysfunctional and all the books, seminars, blogs, bullet points, and advice to churches and church search committees will rarely reach the target audience and even then are unlikely to move the needle much on the pastor search process. Those that aren’t dysfunctional and who aim to do well by God, their church, and the candidates often are uninformed on what is best on a process only used once every five years or so.

    I don’t disagree with any of the advice above but what Dave Miller needs is an article on how pastors/staff and prospective pastors/staff can deal with the process so as not to make major mistakes and so as to control those factors that they have the ability to control.

  6. says

    Oh man could I tell you stories. From both sides of the table too. I was an associate pastor at a church and asked a man who the committee was talking too who his favorite authors were, who had really shaped him. He replied “I don’t really read much” , and I knew that would end badly. And it did.

    I think a large problem is people’s misunderstanding of God’s will. We think that if we have three choices before us, A B and C, and God’s will is A. So if we pick the wrong one we will be doomed forever. So we start trying to interpret God speaking to us, and overthink things. And we expect the heavens to part and the light to shine down on one individual, and it just doesn’t happen that way.

    Not to mention process being skewed by people who are great at interviews, but terrible to work with. And people who might not ace an interview but are the best fit for the job. There is so much that goes into it that I think a lot of people don’t really think about.

  7. Andrew Green says

    Before getting out first pastorate I sent out resumes to probably 100 churches all over the United States. Many never contacted me and I was fine with that but I would also get letters, emails, and phone calls saying they were interested and they would let me know if I was still a candidate for this position and then I would never hear from them again. This was rude and should be unbecoming of a church if you make contact once make sure you follow up with that contact.

  8. says

    Fortunately I never got caught up in the frenzy of this SBC tradition. I almost chuckle when I hear about a seminary student sending out resumes. Of course they are instructed to do so, but that is another discussion altogether, as if working in the church is for hire, and not by observable qualification. The SBC gets a grade of F in this area of ministry.

  9. says

    Why is the minister search process so dysfunctional?

    Frankly, because every Search Committee is different, and few to none are professionals at the Search Committee Process. Years ago I heard a seasoned pastor say of the Pulpit Committee, “It is a bunch of amateurs dealing with a professional.” He went further than he should, I think, and there are some very capable people serving on the committees. But even they may be at the mercy of one or two loose cannons on the committee.

    Also, in the case of a staff search committee, the pastor probably will have much to do with it. And every pastor is different and peculiar.
    A pastor may even be intimidated by a candidate that seems to be more capable than he is. At least we can always tell ourselves this when we get turned down!

    There is also no standard book or rules to instruct the committee.
    What will impress one committee will turn another committee against you.
    There are some things you will never know, that will impact the committee.
    Even though there may be very intelligent, professional committee members, they are not necessarily knowledgeable or trained in the Search Committee process or in judging pastoral candidates.
    Sometimes the most vocal, rather than the most qualified, get themselves elected to the Search Committee.
    A committee should be, but often is not, well versed in the doctrinal beliefs of their church.
    Often it can be helpful to the committee to get some advice from an older or retired pastor or pastor’s wife. Not to let them run the committee, but listen to their advice. But this is seldom done.

    These are just a few of the reasons that pastoring is only for the tough.

    Of course, it should also be remembered that the pastoral candidate can do wrong.
    He can be deceptive, manipulative, and lead them on.
    I know of one preacher who definitely was not interested in a church in another state, but he went at their expense so he and his wife could enjoy a free trip / vacation. He later admitted / bragged about what he did.
    The pastoral candidate should be very open, honest, and prayerful in this process. I think most are.

    Perhaps the most amazing thing in all this is that God still works because of, and in spite of, Search Committees and pastors.
    David R. Brumbelow

  10. says

    I have heard stories of dysfunctional search committees. My experience, even with churches that decided I was not the man, has always been quite pleasant. To be clear, no one likes to be courted and then rejected. Yet, I have always been treated fairly. I understand the anxiety a minister may have when he is in between places of service. They want a place to serve and a way to make a living doing what they are called to do. However, I would counsel any church to reject your last piece of advice. The greatest mistakes I have witnessed in my life and ministry have been when people have gotten in to big of a hurry. Proverbs 21:5 teaches that haste leads to poverty. A pastor will potentially lead a church for years, maybe even decades. This decision should be made with diligence and patience even if a candidate is unemployed.

    • says

      Dean, I agree with acting in patience and being deliberate. I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “when he is between places”. That seems to assume “he” is an independent contractor of sorts. And another thought,…how does a church decide you are not the right man? Do you get any reliable feedback? It appears churches may be looking for the “right” fit/personality, not the mandated qualification.

  11. says

    Chris, here is a quote from John in his last piece of advice, “Expedite and be extra sensitive with those candidates who are between jobs and/or in seminary.” I rarely use the word job when referring to a ministerial position. In between places of service is another way of wording what John said, “In between jobs.”

    There are numerous ways a church can decide you are not the right man. You spoke earlier, rather harshly, about a pastor fitting with a church. I think you are wrong. It does not have to be “fit” instead of qualifications. It can be qualified candidates who are a good fit for a church. A committee could meet with a candidate and recognize he would be a horrible fit for the church even if he is Biblical qualified. They may hear him preach and realize he is a topical preacher and they want an expositor or vice versa. The committee may visit the pastor in his present place of service and recognize there is something special there and feel it would be wrong to interrupt what God is doing. Here we go!!!! They could meet with a candidate a realize that by doctrines of grace on his resume he means Calvinist and the church not want a Calvinist. If I understand you correctly a church should call the first Biblical qualified candidate that comes along. I disagree.

    • says

      Where does the Apostle Paul’s methods of identifying qualified men fit into the “good fit” system? As far as harsh,… it is the malfunctioning process that is harsh btw. I’m a kitten :)

      Paul’s methods are these, and very good ones …..

      “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of [a]overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2 [b]An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine [c]or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 4 He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity 5 (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), 6 and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation [d]incurred by the devil. 7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”

      “I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; 15 but [k]in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how [l]one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.” NASB

      Can’t a church just follow this Pauline system?

      • Dean Stewart says

        Chris, how should a congregational church call a pastor? Again, it seems the first qualified guy to show up is your man.

        • says

          sure… the calling should happen over and over again with the local congregation. That is Paul’s point to Timothy. If a congregation is limiting that directive from Paul, then the congregation must learn and understand what Paul is teaching. The more qualified men you have to Pastor the congregation the better.

          The men are qualified to work there, correctly dividing the word with lifestyles that deserve attention to their ability to divide the word of God accurately…. this is not a beauty or personality contest… is it?

  12. says

    I’ve only been contacted by 2 search committees, called by both, so my experience here is more limited than most of you. But in both cases I had to be the one who took the process deeper. I had far more questions than they did, ie; theology, vision, leadership structure, issues in the church. These were both smaller churches, and you could tell the people on the committees were struggling with the responsibility. At least in my experience, each committee had a clear leader and also at least one other person who if you probed, would be honest with you about things. One thing I found very helpful, and this is possible with smaller congregations, was to have a meeting with the entire church(at least whoever would show up) and have an informal Q & A. The people in both cases brought forward things that never would have been raised, mostly things I wanted or needed to hear. I’m not saying search committees cannot be trusted to call the right man, but ultimately it is the church that calls, so involving them as much as possible has been helpful to me. In a large church it may not be possible, but in smaller to medium venues, I think it’s invaluable

  13. Greg Harvey says

    There is no pastor search committee in the NT so we made it up?? It’s an outcropping from congregational polity and for those (including myself) who agree with congregational polity it’s generally a ‘good thing’.

    But as with ALL activities that rely on human beings, it’s easy for those who participate to succeed–intentionally or not–in derailing the process.

    But while we’re at it: is it your general instinct to TRUST or to QUESTION a lay person that says “I was praying today and God told me we should do ‘x'”?

    Because I am afraid that short of knowing the person very well, I would question that in almost all cases. In fact, I’ll take that further: I’m not exactly keen on pastors doing it either. My personal vision of congregationality is that we follow the process and use its built in democratic touch points to collect spiritual guidance from the Holy Spirit. When someone starts derailing the process itself is when our antennae probably ought to go up. And, yes, that includes an extra-adroitness in using parliamentary procedure to “get their way”.

    Now I say all of that without having even a single specific example in mind. But as I start thinking of specifics, they come to mind…

    I’m actually going to confess that it isn’t absolutely clear to me that congregationality is really a biblical thing. But those that support it generally do a pretty good job defending it. And within the political system of the US federal government we see benefits to checks and balances and use of process to slow things down. But we also generally revile politics and bureaucracy at the same time…(well, at least if the side we’re supporting isn’t winning that is to say…)

    • says

      Greg…. interesting comment “There is no pastor search committee in the NT so we made it up??” I would say that there is a search committee, and a clear one,… its just that the map has been lost, ignored, or at least augmented.

  14. Jim Hedrick says

    One man at a time. The competition syndrome of looking at two or four candidates and picking the best of the litter is asking for the dysfunctional question to be asked by many. Who Knows? Talking to one person at a time is the sane and sensible way to protect us from sadness and hurt feelings. I know this would slow progress and good success but it might turn out to be the most efficient way to reform the process.

    • Jeff Meyer says

      This is what we did with every search committee I was on. We never entertained more than one man at a time. We found one and pursued him until it was obvious whether or not we should extend him an offer. If it turned out that the answer was “no”, we’d start over.

      Could some of the problem be that a search committee is not launched until a vacancy is already there? This makes it seem like “We need a man YESTERDAY!!” and panic sets in.

      Patience should be part of every search. That actually gives you freedom to truly look a the first guy you find and say “he looks like the guy” and not feel as if you are taking him simply because you need a guy to preach next Sunday.

      • Andy Williams says

        Sounds like an argument for plurality of elders to me, so that if the Senior Pastor steps down or away, you have a few men to keep things running for while while a search is made.

      • D.L. Payton says

        Jeff
        You are correct, one man at a time. To have three or four men being considered is a cattle judging contest and will produce confusion and many other assorted problems for the committee. I know of some churches who actually present two candidates to the congregation and vote between the two. Disaster.

  15. says

    I must be speaking a different language here. There is a basic principle about the church illustrated quite well in the Apostles writings about the local body that seems to be overlooked by many congregations.

    1. The Apostle Paul’s principle and ultimate assumption as the local churches form is that they have “multiple Pastors”… i.e. “men aspiring to such” ….starting with one, and growing to many of the same. The SBC seems to be intent on ignoring that principle, even in this string so far.

    2. The reason for “many” is so that the work of dividing the word is done in more volume, more completeness, more dynamics, etc. by men that the congregation trusts, because of the lives of these men in the church. The Holy Spirit demands it, and the Apostle Paul wrote down that demand.

    3. The local churches rarely looked outside of their congregation for Pastors,…why, because of what the Apostles was outlining. Today, the typical SBC system is to look outside the congregation as the “first” initiative. This is the reason that the system becomes dysfunctional.

    4. Who knows anything about this man from the outside … really! He could be like Chris Roberts and enter into the church as an atheist, Pastor for a while, and then get a call from another congregation if he is a good speaker, or has increased the membership to some degree. Without knowing Chris Roberts for some time, the congregation would be at a tremendous disadvantage, and would actually be ignoring what the Apostle was getting at in the first place. And we wonder why there are tragic stories every month in the SBC about this top of dysfunction.

    5. The SBC would do well to begin teaching the local congregation to expect “many”, not “one”. That would be a great start to obeying the word of God. Unfortunately, it appears that the seminaries are doing a good job of reinforcing the wrong principle.

    I don’t mean to be harsh about this…but my oh my, what I’ve seen over the years because of this principle being ignored. And the systems that are formed to work the initiative of a “lone ranger” pastorate are very inventive. Somehow I get the feeling that the single Pastor likes being “the” single Pastor.

    • says

      “He could be like Chris Roberts and enter into the church as an atheist”

      You should pay more attention. I was as devout as anyone here when I entered the church. I became an atheist while a pastor, then got out.

      • says

        Excellent, with that attitude you will not have to look far, or wait long. The Apostle Paul would understand and embrace that type of maturity in the body,..in fact he was encouraging it! Discipleship will also begin to identify the men that may aspire…. it takes effort to follow what Paul was teaching Timothy about fellow Pastors in the local body.

  16. says

    Chris…sorry my friend,….it doesn’t work that way. You may like to think it does, but you are simply mistaken. I have seen “devout” guys enter into the ministry many times and end up in your situation of unbelief, which is not any different than when you entered the ministry. Anyone can enter the ministry and still not believe, and you confess that even today.

    I have been paying attention to your comments…. You want to have it both ways. But, when God captures your heart, its a capture,…not a capture and release program.

    • says

      Chris,

      Granted, your requirement is based on a certain presupposition that God exists and changes the hearts of men. Strip that away, and it is entirely possible for a person to be devout one day and not the next. Which, as it happens, is exactly what took place.

      And this will be my last comment along these lines on this thread lest you derail the conversation further. I’m rather enjoying reading about how much trouble Spirit-led churches have trying to find a God-called preacher.

      • says

        Chris, you are absolutely correct. My presupposition is based upon clear history, facts, and a faith that has been delivered on such. If you noticed from my response, your path into the ministry is probably not too different than most of these guys that blog here…. which is the topic of this post.

        Devotion does not make one believe in God btw… you can be devoted to anything. Being captured by Christ is not ambiguous like devotion, and the local churches are warned about mistaking devotion for qualifications.

        So, for instance, your devotion would not go very far with our congregation, and eventually you would have been spotted as someone that came to the church to try to destroy it, and we would deal with you according the scriptures. So, pretending to be a Pastor of the flock that identified with your devotion, yet ultimately wanting to devour the flock is not a heart that is, or has been changed by Christ. Men do all kinds of things to try and fit in, and inside the church body it is no different.

  17. Bill Mac says

    If I understand John’s story correctly, the pulpit committee that visited his church was not there because John was looking to move, but to potentially poach him from his church. I have heard of this before, and frankly it astonishes me. How is this not the most underhanded and unethical way to go about finding a pastor? It is my understanding that is is fairly common practice in the south and it boggles my mind.

    • says

      Never happened to me, but I’ve heard the same account from many pastors. The pastors I knew somewhat expected things to work this way. Some saw sending out resumes as a sign of lacking faith – when God wanted you to move, he would send a search committee to you.

  18. says

    Checking in here to lend a little support to what my friend Chris Johnson is saying, since it sounds like he is kind of on his own so far here.

    It seems to me that many (or most) of the problems we talk about related to pastor search committees, placement offices, changing churches, changing pastors, etc. root from a model of church leadership which has over the years morphed from the NT pattern.

    As I read it, in the NT, a pastor/elder/bishop was usually an older brother from within the congregation, not a stepfather imported from outside. The role of pastor/elder/bishop was a calling, not a career. Local churches were more like families than corporations. And the norm was a plurality of pastors/elders/bishops, not a senior pastor and his “staff.”

    If we would return to the NT model, I believe a lot of the problems would resolve themselves.

      • says

        David/Chris,

        From reading your posts, I get the idea that our seminaries should be training many men who are already pastor/elders and less young people.
        Is this the idea you have in mind?

        • says

          Parsonmike, I’m not really trying give that impression. Young men make wonderful pastors, as long as they are qualified young men and remain qualified. Old men do too, as long as they are qualified and remain qualified.

          Seminary can be a very good thing,…I would love to see more emphasis on Hebrew and Greek beyond the introductory courses.

          The church though, has been inaccurately taught to expect the “one” as opposed the “many” that the Apostles were encouraging as the norm.

        • David Rogers says

          Parsonsmike,

          Along with what I write to William below, I will concede that consistently implementing the church leadership paradigm I am proposing would likely entail a major overhaul of our ministry training system (including the seminaries) as well. A massive overnight overhaul such as what I am talking about, though, may not be the best thing for the edification of the Body of Christ, as it would be very disruptive and potentially divisive on many levels. Because of this, I am not advocating such a revolution. But I do think small steps in a more biblical direction with regard to this are generally helpful. In general, I believe local churches and pastors/elders/bishops should take more responsibility for the training and discipling of the next generation of leaders. I also believe many of the new hybrid programs in which local churches partner with seminaries to provide leadership training is a move in the right direction.

          • says

            Parsonmike, I concur with what David has said as well. Getting back to a more normalized NT ecclesiology would be quite a shock for the majority of the local SBC congregations, and is something that would require much patience and understanding of the scriptures. Moving away from poorly taught tradition is no small matter. I can testify to the fact,…. it is worth the patient pursuit!

      • D.L. Payton says

        Chris
        Does that mean that I can only pastor the church of which I am a member? What would we say to a young man who says I am called to preach? Do we say wait until there is an opening here at the church? Does he go to seminary now or does he wait until he has a church in which he is an elder?

        Question. Is it heresy to say that the New Testament model is not a New Testament mandate?

  19. says

    I am honored by so many comments. I believe so much dysfunction would be eliminated if pastors & search committees just followed the Golden Rule. How would they like to be treated if roles were reversed. Regarding the “expedite the process” comment for those in seminary (eating rice & beans living in an 800 sq foot seminary apartment) and between positions (unemployed), I was not encouraging rushing the Spirit of God but basically don’t play games with them. At the front end, don’t initiate a dialogue with them unless they fit your profile and you would serious consider them. It is cruel and unethical just to string them along giving them false hope while they are stressed about paying bills, comforting their stressed out spouse, and making plans for their family for the future. Don’t mess around with them and show sensitivity to their situation. If you are dealing with someone already at a church, there is not as much pressure. Those are my thoughts.

  20. William Thornton says

    If a minister comes here looking to vent about the system we have there is plenty of server space I suppose and it is therapeutic to do so. If one is looking to offer churches advice for a better search process then we all have something to say. If we have read some system into the incipient church presented in the NT and wish to opine that our present system is unbiblical and ought to be replaced, fine. But if there are SBC clergy or staff who recognize that they have to deal with the reality on the ground, imperfect and sometimes screwball as it is, then they should listen to David Brumbelow above.

    I have some entertaining anecdotes acquired during the span of my SBC service and have dealt with a number of search committees. Most were composed of wonderful people. Those which ended up calling me, and my acceptance, are now longstanding friends.

    Most SBC churches are single staff and will have a search committee of ordinary folks almost all of whom love the Lord, love their church, and appreciate those who have given themselves to vocational ministry. Most of us will never deal with a professional search process, will never be in a multiple staff situation where there is much greater expertise, and will never deal with a process much different that what is typical today. I don’t like a lot of things about the system but haven’t found that fighting it helps anything. Better to learn some of the things to avoid, some of the things to add, and trust the Lord.

    • David Rogers says

      William,

      As I understand it, as Baptists, we generally profess to take a restorationist approach to ecclesiology, i.e. seeking to return to the NT model rather than just adopting and adapting the accretions of church history.

      I recognize that the model I am advocating here is quite revolutionary, and if carried out as I envision, would ruffle a lot of feathers in our churches. Perhaps, for that reason, it is best in many existing congregations to not take such a radical approach. I do think, however, it is helpful when these subjects are discussed to remind ourselves of the NT model, and wherever practical and helpful, to take steps, whether small or big, moving us back to the place from which we have drifted. I especially think new church plants do well to take these things to heart.

      And, though I am not necessarily advocating a hard-line ecclesiological revolution in all traditional churches, when asked “why is the minister search process often so dysfunctional,” I believe it is valid to raise the question if whether the true answer goes all the way to the very root, i.e. whether the whole concept of “minister search process” as we conceive it in most present-day SBC churches is a biblical concept in the first place.

      • says

        Is how we do it biblical? Probably not, but it’s how most SBC churches do it so it is the reality. What it really would take, and something I hope God gives me the opportunity to do, is a long term pastorate where over time we can educate and show from the bible exactly what was done then. We are a convention of many traditions, and many if not most churches only know one way to do it, the way they always have. That doesn’t mean it’s right, but it is the reality. But our charge as a pastor is to equip and edify, however overcoming long standing traditions more often than not requires time and a steady hand that has earned trust

        • William Thornton says

          We tend to be very casual in labeling things “biblical” or not. Many would reject our system for pragmatic reasons, for susceptibility to dysfunction, and the like. Our system may be many things but it is not unbiblical, unless you mean extrabiblical. Paid clergy, dedicated church buildings and plant, various specialized vocational clergy, denominational structures, mission boards, etc., are all extrabiblical. None are unbiblical.

          • says

            No argument on much of what you cited William. But I also see Paul commanding Titus to appoint elders. Now I believe through looking at the words and the roles they played in scripture, that pastor/elder/bishop/overseer all refer to the same position, and in Titus, we see Paul commanding that Titus personally appoint them. So, is how we do it biblical? I serve as a lone pastor. In the size church I serve there really is no need for more than one pastor, that doesn’t mean I don’t hope God raises some in my midst. The more the better so long as everyone is on the same page and humble. I don’t believe that the house churches of that time had 5 elders for 50 people either. I personally see something like say, the church at Ephesus, as being comprised of multitudes of house churches with an elder in this one and an elder in that one. That’s what makes sense to me. But can I know for sure, no, as we really aren’t told. But it certainly wasn’t some mega-church all meeting as one. Their is indeed a lot we don’t know, but we don’t ever see a “pastor search committee” in scripture. So maybe the language does need to be modified from unbiblical to extra biblical. It is the reality, no doubt. But that certainly doesn’t mean it’s the right, or best way. Personally, you would think the best way would be to have someone ready to assume the role, if not from within the church, certainly from within proximity. Biggest problem I see is many churches simply go it alone, never consulting with local associations or state conventions about people who may be practically in their midst who are qualified and ready. Instead they run ads and treat it like a business would. We should always begin local first if at all possible and there is someone qualified and on the same page.

          • William Thornton says

            Jeff, moving the conversation to preferences among extra biblical options satisfies me.

      • William Thornton says

        I appreciate that you think deeply about these and other things. It is obvious from your thoughtful posts. Perhaps we would be well served to have seminaries expose students to a different model. In time, we may see modest changes for the better.

        I am one of those who does not see a detailed New Testament model for the church. There is very little history and the church is in its incipient stages. Even the BFM says little of the church.

        I have no reason not to be open to more clergy arising from within congregations, one of your regular points. Beyond that, I’m not clear on what you would attempt to change.

        We are enamored with elders these days, multiple elders and the like. We will become unenamored of that and grasp another latest, greatest new (old) concept in time. I have no objection to changing vocabulary from time to time and am aware of the NT vocabulary.

        As a hacker and plodder, I appreciate those grey beards and grizzled veterans who know enough to offer practical advice for the ministers who are forced to navigate the system we have because it is all that is available and in operation at the moment.

        • says

          But William, we should be enamored with Pastors/Elders these days. I like the way you put the extra biblical application of a single man as the norm in church body, … because it is extra biblical to think that way, and thats how it becomes a tradition. The Apostle Paul though is crystal clear on the biblical matter,…I don’t think we have to guess about it. It is hard to understand why the seminaries don’t take this more seriously. It is a serious matter.

          • William Thornton says

            Chris, I have no objection to multiple elders, have been part of such at times. What I didn’t do is to posit a norm. Just about every part of modern church life is extra biblical. What I object to are the experts pronouncing unbiblical on something the NT says little about.

            You might be the first to make a “crystal clear” NT church model. Everyone else has failed over the last 1900 years. I’m not much interested in your case on this topic but if you wish to make it and Dave prints it, I’d be interested to see how you do it.

          • says

            William, you know as well as I that the Apostle is “crystal clear”, at least to Timothy, about what to do with fellow men in the congregation. There is little mystery there. And, I do agree with you in that there are only a few things we see about the local body that is consistent throughout the NT books. Yet the things we do see and don’t do, seem to be what is at least a part of the dysfunction that is written about in this article concerning the SBC. It’s never too late to try and bring about some normalcy to what has been shown to us by the Apostle Paul and others in the NT.

            Dave’s congregation is the perfect model of ecclesiology, he is training up about three other Pastors as we speak… in his spare time :)

          • William Thornton says

            Obviously, Dave’s church understands this the needs all the help he can get. ;)

    • D.L. Payton says

      I am sure that there are situations where the search committee was poor in its work. I must say, however, that my experiences over a 50 year period (though they be few) were all pleasant and a blessing.

      As a DOM I have seen that the pastor who is searching is often times as dysfunctional as the committee. It is a two way street to be sure.

  21. says

    Gosh John, I think we should all get along too. If both sides are just trying to figure out how to be truthful,…. then there are bigger problems to think about on both sides. But again, it still appears to me that the seminaries need to think about how they steer the young men coming into their midst. Two short years of a few classes at Seminary certainly is not a qualification for Pastoring,…it can help, but, it can hurt as well. If seminaries can’t figure out the first principle put forth by the Apostle Paul to Timothy, then the man seeking to take a few classes from a seminary should be careful to ask that seminary what they teach concerning the local church.

  22. davidbrainerd2 says

    The reason this is dysfunctional is because God set it up to where congregations grow their own leaders. When you don’t follow that model, you fail, because you’re doing it a way you made up.

  23. davidbrainerd2 says

    “A mega-church senior pastor emailed me saying God had put me on his heart”

    And with this type of psychosis in play, of course the process will be screwed up. God ain’t making these decisions: people are. Here’s your Calvinist rejection of freewill at play. If people don’t have freewill and God controls all things, why are these choices being supposedly made by God so screwed up?

  24. davidbrainerd2 says

    Third, the very notion that all the preaching in a church is to be done by one pastor is unbiblical. As mentioned above, propagating the same erroneous theology pastor after pastor by a church full of error choosing a pastor that “fits” is a problem. If instead you had several leaders who spoke on a rotation, you’d get more perspective, more range of topics, etc.

    • D.L. Payton says

      You will also have more opportunities for bad theology. If one pastor messes up a church, think what 6 could do.

  25. says

    David, the intent of your third point is very important. As a church is forming locally, she may have one pastor to lead the flock, yet there is no doubt that the Holy Spirit leads many more men to aspire to preaching and teaching for the health of the congregation. These men must continually meet the qualifications set forth in the scriptures to remain trusted and effective to the congregation. Pastors are simply expressing the gifting of the Holy Spirit to preach and teach, and the more a congregation has the better. This is not an easy thing for a congregation to get their minds around though. It takes training, because there is a complete change in accountability throughout the congregation.

    The other point you bring up is one of the trouble spots that derails the command given by Paul. That would be the “pulpit” preaching. Now that is where the juice is for many pastors….and they hate to give that real estate up to anyone, yet… there is so, so much more preaching to do than the mere 20-40 minutes sprints on a Sunday morning. There are months that I may not be preaching at the front of the room, but the preparation and preaching all the other days of the week keep me pretty busy. Thats the same for all of our pastors. Once everyone gets what preaching truly is, that false “pulpit” experience becomes less of a factor, and more preaching and teaching follow.

    • says

      Chris, Davidbrainerd2 may indeed stumblke upon a truth here or there. After all, a blind squirrel and all that.

      But talking with DB2 about the commands of Paul may be fruitless. He says this on his website:

      “Romans is Paul’s suckiest letter, the most confusing and convoluted, and contradictory. If Romans and Galatians (which are probably forgeries anyway, or at least heavily interpolated in the case of Romans) had been left out, I think I might actually like Paul. Or better yet, had Galatians been left out since its a forgery, and had Romans not bee interpolated, I would like Paul.” http://davidbrainerd2.wordpress.com/2014/07/27/romans-3-11-interpolated/

      • says

        Wow… good to know Les,…I’ve been away on some assignments, so have not paid attention to a lot of blogs the last 3 years. I like the blind squirrel thing btw. But, it sounds like DB2 may not like this Apostle Paul guy much. DB2, are you a believer, or are you falling into the unbelieving Chris Roberts camp? Romans and Galatians are both very consistent and understandable btw. This stuff is not that hard!

          • says

            I’m just repeating what you are confessing at the moment. You have not been vague about your camp…have you? I trust you are being honest about your feelings and thoughts. Chris, its not so much infatuation, I’m just encouraging you for coherency and logic. At this point, you just seem to be mad at the Baptist guys, and possibly even the Christian world. They must have really treated you badly in the past.

          • says

            Since when did disagreement = being mad? I now have strong beliefs opposing Christian teachings. That’s hardly the same as being mad. And even if I was mad, why would that imply mistreatment? It could rather be because of the claims and teachings of Christianity.

            In my case, I get irritated with some of the arguments Christians use (ie, see your comment that I’m responding to) and I am much better able to see some of the appalling arguments Christians offer (ie, God is to be glorified for slaughtering Egyptian children) but I’m not aware that this translates to being mad. I am aware, however, that Christians like to marginalize the comments and arguments made by non-Christians, using any means possible to reduce the seriousness of any competing argument (ie, I don’t actually believe Christianity is wrong, I’ve just been mistreated and am thus angry). It’s an ingeniously effective way to dishonestly discard someone’s argument.

          • says

            Ok… I can understand that explanation. But, if you intend to argue the aspects of an atheist pursuit, be prepared to enter into logic and continuity, not rhetoric and circular logic. So far, you have only offered what appeared to me to be thin skinned anger at a previous life. But, you have abridged that definition above, so…I can go with that.

            But, again, if you don’t have an understanding of what God has done through the historical facts given to us through the scriptures, some of the comments may appear to you to be dishonest or discarding, when actually they are not.

        • says

          Chris, there is the camp of God’s people and those outside the camp of God’s people. Chris J. asked about whether DB2 was in the same unbelieving camp as you.

      • D.L. Payton says

        Les
        thanks much for the link. I wish I had know that before I wasted 4 minutes of my life responding to him. At my age every minute is important. I think I just responded to a closed door.

        • says

          Agree D. L. His latest rant speaks volumes. Though you’re not a Calvinist, I feel certain you wouldn’t agree with this he wrote:

          ““Calvinism seems to make God the author of sin and evil”

          “There’s no “seems” about it. Calvinism is nothing but Satan’s accusation against God, or rather, Satan’s attempt to become God by electing himself a people called Calvinists to follow and worship him.”

          • D.L. Payton says

            Les
            You are correct. I do not agree. Those quotes defy reason by any standard.

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