Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Should I have made a bracket?

Not long ago, I was talking to an acquaintance about my candidacy; at that point, I was in the later stages with one church, who had recently included me as they narrowed their search to four candidates. When I told him this, he said, "Final four! Are you gonna get t-shirts made?!?"

He was kidding, of course, but the mental image of a "final four" bracket with mine and three other candidates' faces representing each semi-final branch was both humorous and scary.

All of this came flooding back to my memory as I read my friend Craig's blog this evening, where he ruminates about "bracketology," the syndrome that hits many males this time of year. Craig's comments are insightful, and shed light on my conversation from weeks ago in a strange way.

If Craig's reflections are accurate-- and I'm not suggesting they aren't-- does the idea of a post-modern "better-than" comparison speak to placement? It seems to me that the comments above about creating a "final four" bracket are far too accurate-- that the search process appears to mirror such an elimination process a bit too much. And, when churches choose to continue to "comparison shop" for their candidates-- i.e., when they work too hard to figure out which one is "better"-- they are only hurting the process of finding the best candidate.

The church I mentioned before did this, to an extent: they went from a "final four" to an elimination of two, and they brought both in for what my colleague Phil Douglass calls a "beauty pageant." In other words, show the Senior Pastor two candidates and ask him to pick between them. This is problematic across the board: the search team was asked to find the best candidate, and they they shirked that responsibility left the job half-finished and returned a comparison study instead; the Senior Pastor (who had intentionally distanced himself from the process up until the last stage) is forced to pick by comparison instead of evaluating what others believe to be the best man for the job. Nobody wins.

Doesn't this sound like Craig's conclusions about bracketology? The lack of consideration of anything but what is immediately in front of you may sound very appealing to those who have little experience (or bad experiences), but it isn't honest or authentic.

In grammar terms, this is choosing the comparative over the superlative. In the words of good ol' Steven Curtis Chapman, "God wants our best and not our 'better-than.'"

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