Congregations seeking a new pastor are asked to describe who they are to give prospective candidates an initial sense of their identity. Many of these descriptions are boring.
We are a friendly church interested in growing. We worship with joy together in our historic sanctuary and we value community, spiritual growth, and mission.
Are you really friendly to new people, especially if they don’t look like you? Are you genuinely interested in growing or do you secretly like things exactly as they are? Is worship truly joyful? Do you even know what breaks God’s heart in your community? Do members believe they don’t need to learn anything new about God? And what do you mean by mission? (Is it your mission to keep the church afloat?)
Most of the creative, rock star pastors I know who are looking for a new call are looking for something real:
The people of Old Church in the Valley are like the fertile soil on which we worship together: soil enriched by our Creator, stony from a 200 year old history which has made some of us hardened, uncultivated in terms of our understanding of being a post-pandemic church, and yet redeemed by Jesus Christ.
First Church on the Hill is a congregation with a great history: established in the 19th Century, thriving in the 20th Century, and clueless about how to be Church in the 21st Century. But we are ready to be shaped and changed in the name of Jesus Christ for a vital post-pandemic ministry.
We at St. Paul’s Church would love to say that we are a friendly, mission-oriented congregation. But the truth is that we are mostly friendly to each other and our mission has been primarily to ourselves. We are ready to change that. After two years of prayer and discernment we acknowledge that we need more gospel and less sentimentality. Yes, we love our historic sanctuary, but we realize now that Jesus didn’t die for those stained glass windows. We are ready to be resurrected and we know who our Savior is. (For the record, our Savior was, is, and always will be Jesus – not our new Pastor.)
A pastor in another Presbytery contacted me a few months after beginning a new position. After less than a year with them, he was already planning to leave. “They lied to me,” he said. “They told me they were ready to reach out into the community. (They aren’t.) They told me they averaged about 250 in worship. (More like 50.) They said they were excited about welcoming in the new people moving into town. (They ignore them.)”
Please, Pastor Nominating Committees, do not lie to your candidates. Don’t tell your future pastor that you are ready to love Jesus in new ways when you can’t stop loving your pipe organ even more. Don’t tell interviewees that you are ready to move forward when actually you are held captive by the wealthiest donors who don’t want to lose power.
One of the #1 reasons why the institutional Church is hurting is because we have failed to acknowledge who we really are which includes what we honestly love. We are halfway through Lent. Time to catch up on discerning reality.
PS It’s not too late to make a donation in memory of Breonna Taylor here for nursing student scholarships via The National Black Nurses Association. She was killed a year ago this Saturday.