Sunday, January 22, 2006

When the interest isn't there...

This is a "Check-in" of sorts, but there's a lot more to it than just checking in, so I won't call it that.

If you count the "false start," such as it was, of last year-- when I began the candidacy process under the impression that I would graduate in Spring 2005-- then I've been candidating for a pastoral position since June 2004. I've sent out over 60 resumes and other information since then, and I've also had the PCA Administrative office circulating my Ministerial Data Form. Of those 60+ resumes, only about 25 of the churches have announced that they have filled the positions. There are 20 churches that I have contacted in the last three months, and only four or five of them have responded.

Now in late January 2006, 19 months later, I haven't had a single phone interview. I've had only one request for sermons. And only a few (four, if my memory is accurate) requests for additional information.

What is more, there was more interest shown at this point last year, only to meet the disappointing termination when we postponed graduation, than this year, when my declaration was that I would finish seminary in December. (For instance, the church that showed the most interest, not far from St. Louis, actually invited me to preach for them a few times in the early part of the Spring 2005 semester, ostensibly as a precursor to an interview.)

Now, I'm fully aware that I esteem myself more than I should. But I think I'm not that bad a candidate. Maybe I'm not the kind of guy just anyone would want as their pastor, but I've had enough people (whose sincerity and honesty I wholly trust) tell me that they appreciate my ministry to them that I don't totally doubt my ability to have some moderate success as a pastor.

Which is why it is striking to me how little action I'm getting on the candidacy efforts I've made.

Since fairly early on, I went through seminary pretty convinced that I would emerge with a call to a solo pastorate. "Maybe a small staff," I would say, "but not anything very large." In fact, I was fairly certain that the direction I was headed was for a "revitalization church." Even though I began to re-think what my sense of "calling" meant for my future, my focus remained on pastoral ministry and especially on becoming a solo pastor.

As I moved through the late fall, finishing up my seminary studies and transitioning into Christmas break, I became more aware that this was not the case as much as it had been. I'm not as convinced that God is moving me in the direction of a solo pastorate. (I'll reflect on this more in the next few days.) I realized sometime in late November that I was as content in my work at Wildwood Christian School as I might ever be as a pastor. And I was at least as interested in a seminary position that might emerge as I was in finding a job in a church.

It seems that God has been changing my heart on this. He shook me up enough in early August to make me re-think the idea of calling in general. Now He has shaken me into holding more loosely to what I believed that sense of calling implied. And I think He is acting fairly clearly to guide my heart and mind away from it now.

January 22nd is late enough in January that the "holiday slowdown" is no longer a viable excuse for the lack of response from churches. I'm starting to think that I'm not hearing anything from the churches I've applied to because there is nothing to be heard.

In other words, I think God may be closing the door for us on that option.

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Anonymous said...

You're not a bad candidate, Ed. Far from it. If I can follow-up on a previous conversation, I think one of the things that you're dealing with here (as I am with regard to writing and life in general) is having to publicly justify in some regard your existence to many well-meaning folks.

For instance, for me receiving financial support while at seminary, I am required to correspond with my donors and keep them informed of what's going on here. While I have no intention whatsoever to manufacture good news or hold back bad news, the reality is that news changes. And having to report it can make people question why one month/semester/year I wrote one thing and this month/semester/year I'm writing another.

While your income comes from a different place (or at least there's a different name on the paycheck - it all comes from God), your interest in communicating life to others is manifest in your blog and other ways. This is great, but what happens when something you may have thought was a sure thing isn't, or when your plans change and you have to as well? While you and I are both fairly secure in our stage of life, there's also something about us that we still feel a need to communicate/correspond about it for some strange reason. That's all fine, but we can begin to feel awkward when our initial intuition/desire turns out different from what reality seems to bring.

Personally, this is why I've stopped blogging. I have also often thought of getting some other kind of employment that requires only my showing up rather than reporting back to be legit. As I think about it, life is like watching a DVD - I just want to watch the movie and enjoy the story; I don't want to play the director's commentary.

I know this isn't the correct PCA-answer, but pastoring has always seemed to me as much of a state of mind and heart as a formal role. Knowing you, you'll pastor wherever you just might not be wearing that black robe you were planning on buying.

Thoughts. Take 'em or leave 'em.

Ann Louise said...

I appreciate your vulnerability in order to help others learn, Brother!