The Ecclesiastical Unemployment List
Peter BeckPeter serves as assistant professor of religion at Charleston Southern University where he teaches church history and theology. While serving as senior pastor in Louisville, Ky., he completed his PhD in historic theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His dissertation, The Voice of Faith: Jonathan Edwards's Theology of Prayer, is soon to be published. He, his wife Melanie, and their two kids, Alex (12) and Karis (7), live near Charleston, SC. Peter's goal for his teaching and writing ministries is "love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Tim 1:5).
- 2009 Mar 23
Some churches are perpetually involved in a pastoral search. The reasons for such a state of flux are manifold. Some churches have an open door policy. The door is always open for the pastor to leave, if he should rock the boat. Others the have a revolving door. Pastors come and go quickly, sometimes because the wrong guy was hired, sometimes because the right guy said the wrong thing. Some churches, though, have a closed door. They just can’t find a man who’ll fit through their particular door. The problem isn’t a lack of qualified candidates. The problem is a lack of candidates who fit the exact mold the church is seeking to fill.
Consider a few from church history that many churches wouldn’t even consider.
What about this guy? He’s got a great testimony. Former “seeker,” sat under the teaching of one of the great preachers of his day, and was willing to start a men’s ministry in his church. “Not so fast. Did you notice this bit about his willingness to engage in theological debate on such incidental matters? Maybe this Augustine fellow isn’t right for us.”
The next candidate might not even make the first cut. He’s loud, outspoken, and known to rock the boat. “Yes, but, he’s got his doctorate. That’ll look good out front on the sign.” “Did we mention that other churches in the area don’t like him because he suggested that maybe they weren’t very good churches?” “Strike Luther from the list.”
“Here’s an interesting one. Well-educated. Knows how to run a tight business meeting. Written lots of books. Known to be a good preacher.” “Time out. He’s a Calvinist.” “Dear John Calvin, we regret to inform you …”
Here’s one that everyone will notice. He’s preached some famous sermons. He’s written a book or two. He’s even willing to preach on hell. “Did you notice the last page of his resume? He was fired from his last church.” “So? Lots of good guys have been fired.” “Yes, but, he was fired because he told some folks on the church roll that they were probably not even Christians.” GASP. “We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Put Mr Edwards’s resume on that pile over there.”
Here’s one. He’s from
“Who’s next on the list?” There is a resume for a guy from
“What about this guy. He’s a Baptist. He’s pastored a mega-church. He’s famous already.” “Perfect! What’s wrong with him?” “Well, he’s a little overweight.” “That’s okay most of our members are too.” “Well, this Spurgeon guy has been known to drink and smoke occasionally.” “So do some of our members.” “No, they’ll never vote for a pastor like that. Too bad.”
“So, what about this last guy? He’s been around a while. He’s never really pastored a church, though. And, I remember when he first started getting attention for his preaching. Lots of folks weren’t real happy with his style or the people he allowed to sit on the platform with him. Maybe he’s not the right one either.” “Agreed. Tell that preacher from
“Who else is on the list? Do we have any who look like us, talk like us, act like us? Anybody who won’t challenge our thinking? Someone who won’t come in here and try to make us change? Are there any pastor’s out there just like us? No? Well, we’ll just keep looking then.”
Sure, these men are just men. They weren’t perfect in their day and they wouldn’t be today. Some of their personality traits and their personal habits would rightly be considered questionable and potentially problematic. They all held to various points of theology that each of us might question and reject. But, imagine where the church would be if God had been as quick to reject these men, and myriads of others just like them, just because they don’t fit “our” mold.