What Pastor Search Committees Fear Most

All pastor search committees need prayer.
All pastor search committees need prayer. (Flickr )

You should read my mail.

Well, maybe you shouldn't. You would come away disgusted with the notion that our churches operate in faith, trust God supremely and always want to do the honorable thing. Some do; many do not.

A young minister I know is well trained and very capable. He is called of God and has a heart for ministry. Some church is going to love having him as pastor—if they ever decide to call him.

Search committees are deathly afraid of him.

Time and again committees invite him to visit their church, interview him and then, because of factors known only to them, pass him over in favor of safer candidates.

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I found it necessary to tell the hurting brother, "By now you know the typical pastor search committee operates out of fear."

Fear that:

  • They will make the wrong choice.
  • The congregation will reject their recommendation.
  • Some influential church members will scoff at their choice.
  • They will be seen to be extremists of one kind or the other: Calvinists or Arminians, liberal or fundamental, right-wing nut or social activist, independent or too dependent.
  • That in calling someone "different," they will be seen as doing something unusual, strange or "by faith."
  • Or possibly, they operate out of the fear that they shall be seen as operating out of fear.

Where Is Your Faith?

In selecting and commissioning their committee, congregation leaders should instruct them that:

  • We expect you to listen to the Holy Spirit more than to us.
  • We expect you to be willing to tell the difference in God leading you in one direction and not in another.
  • We want you to be courageous, even if that means doing something different, something bold, something unusual.
  • In the same way you have a right to expect the congregation to uphold you in prayer, we expect you to be people of prayer and do nothing except by His leadership.

Be Alert to the Sounds of Fear

Listen to the conversation inside the typical committee and see if any of this sounds like faith:

  • "I just feel better about Candidate B. I loved Candidate A and his wife is precious, but I'm not sure how they would go over in our church."
  • "His wife didn't dress very well. I don't think she would fit with the women of our church."
  • "He went to that off-brand theological school. I'd feel better if we chose someone from a recognized seminary."
  • "I wonder what Mr. and Mrs. Oldguard would say about this pastor. They're so quick to form opinions, as you know, and a lot of people follow them."
  • "Did you notice he doesn't have a doctor's degree? I like for our pastors to be known as Doctor, don't you think?"
  • "This pastor and his wife have adopted a mixed race child. That would never work in our church. Let's keep looking."
  • "Let's get some more resumes. I keep hoping we can find one who is perfect so we won't have any hesitation about presenting him to the church." (Translation: "I keep hoping we will not have to use faith.")

"When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8).

If I were on a pastor search committee, I would ask the congregation to establish up front whether they will support our acting in faith or if they want some kind of guarantee against failure. If the latter, I'm off this committee. 

To go forward in faith means taking risks, doing the unusual, listening to His voice above all others. We can try to please everyone or we can please Him. But we cannot do both.

Pray for your church's search committee.

After five years as director of missions for the 100 Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans, Joe McKeever retired on June 1, 2009. These days, he has an office at the First Baptist Church of Kenner, where he's working on three books, and he's trying to accept every speaking/preaching invitation that comes his way.

For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.

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