A pastor has been wronged by a search committee. What to do?

My friend has stirred up a furor.

Writing on Facebook, my friend Stan told of a pastor search committee that has just angered him by their treatment of a wonderful young pastor.

According to Stan, the committee and the pastor met on several occasions, they heard him preach numerous times, and it was clear that “this was of God.” The process worked itself out over several months. The committee voted unanimously that this pastor was their choice.  The pastor himself agreed.

All was well, it seemed.

And then one day, the chairman phoned the pastor. “I have bad news,” he said.  “While everyone is unanimous that you are our choice for the church, however, when we voted on bringing your name before the church as our recommendation, two members of the committee voted ‘no.'”

The vote was 7 for and 2 against.

Since search committees are expected to bring only unanimous recommendations before the church, the chairman felt he had no choice but to accept his committee’s actions and shut down their dealings with that pastor.

You can imagine how the pastor felt after hanging up the phone.  Disappointment.  Anger perhaps.  Frustration. Puzzlement.

There was nothing the pastor could do to change that situation.  He was at the mercy of the committee, as we say.  “Deal with it,” some might say to him.  “It’s a part of life.”

Others might say this shows the weakness in the search-committee process and illustrates why appointments by bishops is the superior way.  We would answer: sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.

After Stan posted that story–I’ve only summarized it here–the comments flew in.  A few hours later, over a hundred irate people had registered their concern about the mistreatment of this pastor by a committee that had clearly  lost its way.

When committees lose their way

The committee is at fault?  Oh yes.

The two ‘nay-sayers’ on the committee told the rest of the group that while they loved the pastor-candidate and agree he seems to be “the one” God is leading them to, “We just don’t want to go with the first person we talked to.”

They wanted it to be a popularity contest.  Find out “who else is out there.”

When you walk in the flesh and not in the Spirit, you’re always second-guessing the Lord.

While no committee chooses itself, and no one on the team is responsible for the others being there, they do have a lot to say about what it does and whom they recommend, as well as the behavior–or misbehavior–of one another.

This committee should now turn to the two with the worldly-philosophy and hold them accountable.

If they do not budge, but insist on getting their own way, the rest of the committee should resign.

They should resign because they clearly have an unworkable system.

Choosing a good search committee

What is a “workable system” for pastor search teams?  Bottom line: The congregation must not choose the “7 top vote-getters” for a search committee.  Do that, and you’re asking for trouble.  You’ll get family members and well-liked people, but with no assurance at all that they are godly and mature.

Only the Godly and mature should serve on such an important team.

The church constitution should provide for a team of church leaders to select and recommend to the congregation the makeup of the search committee.  Nothing should be spelled out in the constitution as to qualifications, other than perhaps–like the church to which Bertha and I presently belong–that the individual has been a member for a certain number of years (three, I think) and is a tither.

Question: How would one go about determining the godliness and maturity of prospective committee members?  There are any number of signposts and indicators…

–Are they team players in church?  Or do they always insist on having their own way?

–Do they understand the biblical doctrine of submission? (Ephesians 5:21)  Are they aware that only the strong can submit, that the weak will insist on having their own way?  If they are among the weak, those determined to get their way, they have no right to serve in any leadership capacity in the church, much less the all-important pastor search committee.

–Do the prospective members of this committee know what it is to “hear from God”?  To know when the Holy Spirit is speaking to them.  If not, let them withdraw their names from consideration.

–Do they have spiritual discernment? Can they recognize when God is leading, when God is speaking, when His Spirit is clearly working in a situation?

–Do the godliest and most trustworthy leaders in the church have confidence in each prospective candidate for the search committee?  If not, give serious consideration to bypassing that person.  Trust is everything.

Finally, a word to the pastor who was hurt…

Eyes on the Lord, dear friend!

This hurts like crazy, I know.  I’ve actually been on the receiving end of just such treatment.  Twice, actually. And while the disappointment is strong, in time you will look back and thank the Lord for…

–saving you from those people, from that church.

–comforting you in your pain.

–strengthening you through this experience.

In my situation, in the first instance, years later, I looked back and gave thanks the Lord did not send me to that church which I had wanted so badly.  To reference Hebrews 11:40, “God had something better in store for me.”

And in the second instance, one year later, that same church came back–but with an entirely new committee.  And this time, it all came together.  I stayed over a dozen years in that church and God richly blessed.

Pastor, only the Father knows the plans He has for you regarding churches and these committees.  But as you surely know and no doubt preach, we do well to trust Him throughout our disappointments.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).






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