Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Why convictions are important to me

I know of a church that is without a pastor; in many ways, this church fits a lot of the criteria of my preferences:
  • They are looking for a preaching/teaching pastor
  • They want a vision-caster and leadership-equipper
  • They are in a strong area for growth and ministry opportunity
  • They are in need of revitalization, and are aware of that (and desire it)
Sounds like the perfect fit, right?

Add to this that I already know several of the leaders in this church, and have great respect for them.  I believe they are favorable to me, as well.  And in my prayers for them as they have been seeking a pastor, I have many times felt led to submit my name as a candidate.  I have even had others suggest that I do so.  They are here in St. Louis, so we wouldn't even have to move.

Yesterday, however, I determined that I cannot, in good conscience, be considered as a candidate for this church.

Why not?  Because this church is in a different denomination, and there are a few fundamental differences in that denomination's distinctives that I cannot agree with.

In this case, the differences are matters of eschatology (the study of the "last things" or the end--times) and matters of church government.  For some, admittedly, neither of these would be perceived as significant enough to matter.  For me, however, they are substantial.

My eschatology is rooted in some of my most fundamental views of scripture itself, and it affects how I understand God's ongoing interaction with this present world, His intentions for the Church's place in the world, and what the hope of the future and the promise of eternity truly hold.  A difference in eschatological views could indirectly result in entirely different worldviews.

My understanding of church government shapes how I interact with the immediate leaders within my church, how I view the authority and autonomy of the pastoral office, how one church is connected to others, and how churches submit to one another in accountability and service.  Differences in views of church government can completely change the way that a pastor relates (and is expected to relate) to his congregation, and how that congregation and its leadership relates to other churches.  In this particular instance, the church in question has had some struggles with leadership in its past, and I believe that a different view of church government (on their part) contributed to the difficulties that followed those struggles.  (I'm not saying that if they had been presbyterian it would have made it all better-- but I do believe that they had to deal with the repercussions of their congregational government in ways that presbyterians usually don't.)

I don't think a pastor must agree utterly with every position or theological conviction of his congregation or even his denomination.  He must, however, understand what matters are of primary consideration and which ones are more preferential.

These issues need to be weighed carefully in the candidacy process (or before).  I think part of the reason why many pastors are not more effectively placed is because some of these subtle concerns have not been attended to, and their implications are unexpected.

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