This is merely one possible scenario, but I’ve seen it happen several times.
We had interviewed Brian and all the background checks and references were great. We liked him, were impressed by the work he was doing in his present church, and knew God was going to continue doing great things through him.
He liked us, and possibly felt some leadership from the Lord. If we had called, I expect he would have accepted.
But we backed off. We did not call him to our staff.
My journal tells how he responded when I informed him.
“I told Brian we had learned 100 good things about him. But the bottom line is I don’t have inner peace about this.”
He asked what in particular was the hangup. I said “Nothing. It’s just that I feel a sense of unease, that it’s not right.”
When he asked if anything in particular was of concern, I said, “This was not decisive, but I was concerned that everyone on your reference lists knows of your difficulties with your present pastor. You also mentioned that early on in our talk and with our personnel committee.”
I added, “Someone once told me that if a staff member criticizes his present pastor to you like this, count on him to criticize you to others when you’re his pastor.”
To his credit–still quoting from the journal–he said, “What should I tell a prospective pastor?” I said, “You don’t have to bring this up. Your references may or the pastor may ask. But it looks better than you being quick to tell it.”
David gave us a great example. When he was fleeing murderous King Saul, David continued to honor the king. On a couple of occasions he could have killed Saul and ended his troubles, but he refused. Later, when he himself occupied the throne, he had taught his subjects that they were to honor and respect their leader.
Brian thanked me. I told him I was impressed that he wanted to know this.
Many years earlier, one of my staff members told me of Billy, a minister of music in our state. The same thing happened.
Billy was leading music for a revival in our church. The pastor, my predecessor, was interested in him joining our church staff. When he interviewed him, Billy was quick to criticize his present pastor. The pastor of “our” church came to the same conclusion we had: If he is disloyal to his present pastor, he will be disloyal to you.
Billy never learned why the pastor was no longer interested in him as a potential addition to his staff. He was his own worst enemy.
Question: What is a staff member to do when he is having difficulty with his present pastor and being interviewed for another church?
–Unless the pastor is living a life of sheer hypocrisy, you should support your pastor or resign. Period.
–Okay, you say, you’re in the process of trying to leave, which is why you are interviewing for another position. Then, guard your tongue. No criticism of your present pastor is called for.
–As we said to Brian above, if the prospective pastor needs to know you and your present boss are having difficulty, you will gain points by not having criticized him to the one interviewing you. Let someone else mention it if it needs to be brought up at all. I’m not sure it does.
–When asked, “Why are you open to moving to a new church?”–which you will always be asked–the answer should be, “As a child of God, I’m always interested in doing the will of God. If He leads me away or leaves me here, I want to do His will.”
Perhaps it should go without saying, but it doesn’t: If you remain in your church with the pastor with whom you have difficulties, do everything in your power to keep the congregation from knowing of the strained relationship. Support him. And if you reach the place where you simple cannot support him any longer, and God doesn’t open up another place for you, then find another job.
This is a calling and not a profession. You do not own your job in your church, even if you have seniority over the pastor. Be a team player. Honor the Lord and honor your pastor and fellow servants.