Saturday, August 18, 2007

Making decisions for them

Sometimes a church faces decisions that it isn't aware of.

As a candidate, you might see things that the church itself is unaware are factors in the calling of their new pastor. Or they may be aware of the factors, but unaware of the implications they have for their search and decision.

A case in point is a church I have recently been in discussion with. They have been a small, rural church for over 100 years. Everyone in the church has been in that area for all their lives, or has ties (such as marriage) to some who do. Yet the area where the church is-- and the small towns around it-- are increasing in population by huge percentages, and that region is the fastest growing area in the state, having become a preferred area for bedroom communities for the large city that is 20 miles away.

This church is facing a situation where they will rapidly change from a rural church to a rurban, then suburban church over the coming 5-10 years. The implications of this are huge; they recognize that the potential for growth is substantial, and they are capitalizing on that in their search. But I wasn't sure they saw the whole picture at first-- and if they hadn't it would have implied a need for me to step up.

When it comes to their next pastor, they need someone who understands small town/rural people, and can comfortably minister to them as such. This is what they are looking for. But they also need someone who can capably lead them through the vast changes they will face over the next few years, and help them to lay solid foundations for future growth, leadership, and outreach needs.

So as a candidate it falls to me to, in a sense, make some decisions for them: I need to assess myself, and determine whether I am the sort of leader they will need in their circumstances. If not, I should decline the position, and explain why-- in hopes that they will gain some discernment about the issue in the process.

It may be that a church you are considering faces a similar need: they have circumstances that require a particular kind of leader, or a particular kind of leadership, to see them through the coming years in a healthy way. And it may also be that they aren't considering that as a factor in their decision. Maybe because they just don't see the implications. Or, frankly, maybe because they have reached a point where they are too eager to find a pastor to be properly address such factors.

Thus, there is a sense that the decisions fall to you, as the candidate. In a way, this is right-- after all, part of a pastor's role is to see the things that others don't see, and appropriately minister to them in it.

But it also requires a caveat to be very diligent: don't get so focused on simply finding a call-- any call-- that you overlook the decisions that are placed before you, even if they are really other people's decisions. Having a paycheck is not more important than a good fit.

Of course, in the end it is the Holy Spirit who guides all of these decisions. He alone will bring you to awareness of what factors you must take into consideration, and will lead your heart in the final decision-making. But as a Pastor, you will be a spiritual leader for your congregation-- and that will sometimes require that your discernment of the Spirit's leading spill over to your flock. This begins with candidacy.

[Note: this post has been edited from its original posting, to reflect the wisdom and insight from the saints!]

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