The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to
reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)
The Ministerial Search Committee is working on the search for pastoral candidates. The paperwork has been sent into the Conference office and this past month the Committee is working to develop a short list of questions that they would want to ask a prospective individual. Things are moving along as they should be at this point, even as we are all looking forward with a bit of expectancy and apprehensiveness.
The reality is that the uneasiness and questions are on both sides of this search; a church is looking for a pastor and a pastor is looking for a church. It occurs to me that perhaps the sharing of my own journey from college to ministry might be a helpful story for us all to hear.
My first ministerial experience was while I was still a student in school. I became the minister of a small church in rural Maine in my Junior year of college. The church had appealed to the college for assistance, and I was then approached and asked if I would be interested in speaking for a Sunday or two. I agreed with very little understanding of what I was stepping into. I was thinking of this as a Sunday morning opportunity while the church was looking at me as a pastoral candidate. I was unprepared for that task as in the first place I really had no idea what a pastor did other than give a sermon once a week. I was confident that I could at least provide that. This was not because I considered myself a great speaker, but simply because I enjoyed teaching the Bible. The fact of the matter was I had very little awareness of my own abilities or inabilities. I was after all, only 21.
From my classes and my reading I knew that “pastor” was one of the spiritual gifts listed in Ephesians 4. Actually it appears to be a compound gift, “pastor-teacher” (Ephesians 4:11). From the fact that the gift of “teacher” is listed separately in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 I reasoned that everyone with the gift of “pastor” is also a “teacher,” although not every “teacher” is a “pastor.”
So as I made my first foray into the role of minister I believed that I may have had the gift of “teaching,” but what I was not at all sure about was this “pastor” thing. Sunday mornings in that little church in Maine were therefore conducted more like a classroom lecture than a worship service. I had a chalkboard placed on the platform and wrote on it as I delivered my morning sermon. That dates me, I know, as this was before overhead projectors and PowerPoint presentations. At any rate, I was enjoying myself and I think the congregation was just happy to have someone leading the service and keeping the church doors open.
I confess that I didn’t know a great deal about the Bible; I was still a student myself. I stuck to the things that seemed clear and the passages that I had studied. To be honest, I didn’t know anything more than the basics. And I had no idea at all about talking to people one-to-one. Everyone in the church was older than me and I felt very intimidated by their years of experience. How could I counsel them? I was far more comfortable with the kids, and this was before I even had any of my own. At least I was a little older than they were.
It was a beginning for me, and I have always loved the people of that little church for accepting me, believing in me, and affirming me. I was only there for a couple of years, I resigned before I graduated, but this was a very positive experience for me. It would be four years later, and in another church, before I was willing to accept the idea that I just might have been given this gift of “pastor.” It was probably another twenty years before I began to really understand what that gift really is.
I share this beginning story so that you might realize what a wonderful opportunity you have to warmly accept and nurture the person that God has called and gifted to accept and nurture you. I don’t know if Amber’s next minister will be just out of school or one with more years of experience. He or she may have questions and doubts about the gifts and abilities that they have to offer. They may be confident in only one area of ministry and confused or even lacking in other areas. The key in our assessment is to recognize Jesus in the people we interview. Does this candidate know and love Jesus? Is Jesus the priority of his/her life? Are they confident of the gospel message and is it evident in the way that they live?
The church is a community of Jesus-followers who are trying to learn how to apply the teachings of the Bible to everyday life. We do this together. May God help us to find the person who can aid us in becoming all that we are intended to be.
See you in Worship.