I’m about to raise a question I have no answer for.
A friend whom I’ve not seen in decades called yesterday. In the course of the conversation, when I asked what church he attends, he said, “There’s a tiny church near my house. I’m not sure why I still go there, they’ve had so many fights and splits over the years. When someone asked why I stay, I told him, ‘The Lord hasn’t led me to leave.'”
Why is he still there? Why hasn’t everyone left?
Up in the country, in the land of my youth, a number of longtime friends attend a historic church that meets only Sundays at 8 o’clock. The building has no heat or air, as I recall, and maybe no electricity–not sure about that. Yet, the crowd packs out the little building. They have their service and adjourn to their homes or to some breakfast restaurant. No Sunday School, no evening service, and nothing else as I understand it.
Why do they keep coming? What’s the attraction?
This week, a minister from another state introduced himself over the internet as a bi-vocational pastor of a country church. “Sunday morning only” is how he put it. The people stay for lunch–dinner, they probably call it–and go home. The pastor named another church, with membership in the thousands, where he attends Sunday nights and Wednesday nights.
I find myself wondering why the members of his church aren’t coming to the big church with him. What is the attraction to the small church with very little to offer?
While researching a subject on-line the other day, I found myself reading some preachery attacks on other ministers. These men of God, assuming that’s what they are and I’m not saying they’re not, were taking no prisoners.
“That pastor is a liar!” “Preachers lie to you when they say….” “Ten lies preachers tell you.” “That preacher is an agent of hell!”
That sort of thing.
When those sent by the Father to be shepherds of His sheep use such blistering rhetoric, we fail our assignments in many ways: we dishonor the Lord, we shame the church, we needlessly slander our brethren, we set poor examples for the people in the pew, and we hold the gospel up to ridicule by the world.
How about a little sweetening, I wonder. And then I remember something.
Waylon Bailey, beloved brother who pastors the First Baptist Church of Covington, Louisiana, says there are two kinds of preachers: those who enter the ministry whole and those who enter in order to become whole.
Give me the first kind any day of the week. The second group can be scary and dangerous.
There are few easy jobs in the typical congregation and plenty of really difficult ones. My candidate for the hardest “elected” position is chairman of deacons.
The absolute toughest and most critical, of course, is the position of pastor. He’s the point man and so much rides on his faithfulness. A close second to that is the deacon chairman.
I say this in full recognition that in our denomination at least–the Southern Baptist Convention–deacons are a varied lot. What they do and how they minister is strictly up to the individual church. Some function as boards of directors, some are teams of servants, some work as a steering committee composed of chairs of every committee in the church, and some are true spiritual leaders.
But there is one thing true in 99 percent of our churches: the chairman of deacons is the number one lay position within the congregation.
On paper, the deacon chair is simply the moderator of the monthly meeting of his group. But in actuality, he (and in the rare instance, she) is the go-between for the pastor and the congregation.
The congregation is having a major problem that involves the pastor. Someone has to visit the shepherd for a confrontational sit-down with him. It falls to the deacon chairman.
Someone or some group within the congregation is out of line. They are attacking the pastor unfairly. For the shepherd to confront them seems self-serving and puts him on the defensive. Someone else needs to do this. The chairman of deacons inherits the job by default. There is no one else better situated.
When you are nominated by the church as a deacon, they convene a council to examine you, then the church ordains you. It’s a big deal. We need to do something just as significant when the deacons choose their leader. The job is the weightiest in the church when done well.
A deacon chairman needs four qualities; if he misses even one, the church could be in trouble.
A church asks you to preach at the last minute and you pull out a tried-and-trusted sermon you’ve given several times and feel strongly about.
Another church asks you to preach months in advance and you preach that same sermon.
What’s going on here?
Some would say you are taking the easy way out by recycling an old sermon. “Grabbing something from the barrel.” “Preaching your sugar sticks,” they call it.
They are dead wrong. You are doing exactly what you ought to be doing and here’s why.
During the years I served as director of missions for the Baptist churches of metro New Orleans, I must have received a hundred or more resumes from aspiring pastors. Some simply wanted to relocate, but most planned to attend our Baptist seminary and hoped to find a local church to pastor.
The resumes ran the gamut–everything from multi-paged mini-biographies to one-page skeletons. When I responded with a suggestion or two on how to make the bio more helpful to a search committee, the minister would sometimes answer that this is how he was taught to prepare a resume.
My response was: In the business world, maybe so. But sending a resume’ to a church is a different ball game.
Pastor search committees are rarely composed of professionals with a great deal of experience in combing through stacks of resumes. Most are salt-of-the-earth laypeople who do not understand the complexities of denominational abbreviations or the different types of seminaries and theological degrees. They are often easily misled by the unscrupulous.
You will want to be crystal clear, absolutely honest, and as helpful as possible in the way you compose your resume.
The “Jobs” section of our local Sunday paper frequently runs hints on preparing effective resumes. This week, the suggestions ran along the lines of: Length (one page is preferable), Priorities (leave out the insignificant stuff), Keep it Professional (do not list hobbies, numbers of children, etc), and Prepare Multiple Versions for different companies.
Almost none of that is applicable to a minister.
No doubt someone somewhere is advising young ministers on how to prepare helpful resumes. But knowing none of them personally, I will offer my take on the subject.