We Baptists have a unique system for hiring pastors, unlike our Methodist friends who have a bishop to superintend the process. The current nomenclature is “pastor search committee,” though we used to call them “pulpit committees.”
I’m grateful I was elected a youth rep as a high schooler on our church’s pulpit committee and had some acquaintance with the process from the layman’s side.
Of course, the process has evolved since those days. Our denomination claims the average church seeking a pastor will get at least 60 resumes in the first month. I’m not sure what this means, though it could mean there’s a lot of restlessness among pastors.
A story circulates about a pastor sanctimoniously declaring he’s praying and seeking God’s will about the invitation to move to another church, while his wife is at home packing!
The Baptist system means we send our elected committee to hear, meet and interview a prospective pastor whom we “steal” away from his present church. Then that church elects a committee to go to another church and do the same. Equilibrium is never reached!
I suppose the most interesting experience I had was several years ago when a committee showed up unannounced one morning and invited my wife and me to talk with them after worship. We met through lunch and weren’t offered lunch. I remember only one of their questions. They asked whether she or I had ever been divorced, which was the unpardonable sin amongst pastors, at least in that day.
At the conclusion of the interview the chair announced they’d go home and decide if I was “God’s man.” If I was, he’d call me that week. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t hear from them again and the church would save the cost of a long-distance call. A telephone call in that day was probably 30 cents, so I got an idea of how his church squeezed a nickel. And in this case, they saved their money.
But I do remember other search teams composed of wonderful, God-fearing people who took their task seriously, prayed earnestly and treated me respectfully, as it should be done.
One of these people called me recently to chat. I told him I’d heard about his 90th birthday, and he told me that was a year ago! He assured me of his love and prayers and his wish to drop by sometime and visit our church. It would be a privilege, for knowing him was a great privilege in my life.
The bumblebee, according to the laws of physics, shouldn’t be able to fly, but he does. And our Baptist system doesn’t seem feasible, but God helps us along most of the time.