For those whose denominational system uses bishop appointments or some system other than search committees, please skip this. And for those who cannot let this pass without reminding us that Scripture has no pastor search committees, we grant that. Neither does it have air conditioning, chocolate, or penicillin, but these are also gifts of grace from our Lord. Thank you very much.
“Lead me, Lord. Lead me in Thy righteousness. Make Thy way plain before me. Amen.” (a choral benediction)
The pastor on the other end of the phone sounded almost upset.
“I had a contact from a search committee in your city. Man, I don’t know what to do. I love where I’m serving and just can’t bear thinking about leaving. Plus, my oldest child is coming up on his senior year of school. What to do?”
My answer is: “Well, the first thing to do is quit obsessing about it. The odds are you’ll never hear back from them.”
When a pastor has felt isolated and forgotten in his little corner of the world for so long, any contact from a committee can bring excitement.
We pastors are an anxious lot. We get excited and nervous when…
–a friend gives our name/resume’ to a church somewhere.
–a form letter arrives from a search committee saying they’ve received our material.
–a friend calls to say he’s heard a rumor that First Church of Bigtown is interested in us.
–we sense a leading from the Lord that He is finished with us here and is about to open a new place of service.
–we spot five unfamiliar people sitting together in the worship center, all of them overdressed for our congregation. (We think if that’s not a dead giveaway that this is a search committee, nothing is! But in one instance I can think of, the five well-dressed adults were simply attending a family reunion nearby and decided to go to church together.)
–and of course, the big one: The phone call comes. The chairman of the search committee at First Church, Bigtown, wants you to know that some of their people will be in your service next Sunday morning. Holy smoke!
Whatever will you do! The adrenalin begins to flow and your heart speeds up. You have to do something–talk to your wife, phone your best friend in the ministry, talk to God in prayer, and take a second look at the sermon you had been planning to preach Sunday!
Is there a cure for the PSC Jitters? The Search Committee Anxiety?
Just one that I know of: Believe in the sovereignty of Almighty God, that He is in charge, that He knows what He wants, and that you want nothing more or less than His will. These scriptures come to mind…
–“Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”
–“Lead me in the path of righteousness for Thy name’s sake.”
–“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart. And lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”
–“Not my will but Thy will be done.”
Personally, I’ve had enough experiences–good and not so good–with PSCs to last for a lifetime. I say that with a smile because other than consulting with one from time to time as a veteran pastor, I’m through with them. But no pastor should stake his hopes and dreams on a search committee. Even if they represent the finest church you’ve ever known and are of the highest caliber themselves, they should not make you lose your focus. Keep your eyes on the Lord.
If at the end of your long ministry you look back and realize you were never misled by or disappointed in a pastor search committee, you will be one of the few. There is no uniform system for how these teams work and they can adopt some bizarre methods. So, buckle your seatbelt, pastor.
I heard an old country preacher say once, “Do not pin your religion on a preacher’s coattail. He might take the coat off.” In similar fashion, I would tell pastors not to pin their future hopes or dreams or aspirations on any search committee. Do that and they are setting themselves up for major disappointments.
Eyes on the Lord, everyone!! He alone is worthy of all our faith and trust.