Pressing the pause button… for now

As many of you may know that I have been praying and diligently searching for full-time pastoral ministry opportunities for a year now.  This search was started last year in January of 2010 right before my graduation from Central Seminary.  Starting four months prior to graduation was a decision that was made after seeking counsel.  The thought was to look and send out resumes in the hope that an opportunity might present itself and could be started shortly after graduation.   That did not happen.

Even after graduation, I kept praying and looking.  I found out that this was almost the equivalent of having a full-time job:  looking for websites that helped in this endeavor, setting a schedule to diligently look and consider those opportunities that would best suit my giftedness.  What I also found was some extremely unbelievable attitudes, actions and expectations that churches had for potential pastoral candidates.  Since January, 2010, I have sent out 15 resumes to various churches in response to needs that they had.  In this endeavor, I found that most churches violated common decency by not even acknowledging the resume and packet of information that I sent.  When you apply for a secular job, most companies will acknowledge that they received your application & resume.  Only 1 church acknowledged receiving my information.  Also when a secular job position has been filled, they will also usually send you a letter or email, notifying you that the position has been filled and that they will keep your resume on file for a period of time in case other positions become available.  All of the positions that I sent resumes for have been filled, but I found out by looking at the church’s website, again, only one church was courteous enough to communicate with me directly via email to let me know that they were not going to pursue me any further.  Even though, this was disappointing, I appreciated the communication from them.

I have talked with many people and have sought counsel and have not gotten much direct help from anyone.  I received one unsolicited offer, but that would not work for our family because of the extensive travel involved.

Recently, I received in my inbox the 9 Marks eJournal for January & February, this journal was a great blessing to me in many ways even though it left me with even more questions which I wish I could get answered!  One of the statements that really stood out was a small part of a sentence in an interview with Michael Lawrence.  Michael was recounting his experience when he was contemplating the possibility of leaving Capitol Hill Baptist Church for another ministry.  Michael said the following:

I brought this up with the senior pastor Mark Dever, and at that point he agreed that I should be open to moving on.  Yet we also agreed that I shouldn’t go out and shake the bushes and send out resumes, but pray and see what the Lord brought along.

This statement stunned me at first but as I thought about it, it made sense because Michael Lawrence was already in an established church with a position.  If he had sent out resumes or made his availability known publicly, he undoubtedly would have been flooded with numerous offers.  He also had a close relationship with Mark Dever, undoubtedly where a great deal of mentoring similar to the Paul/Timothy model has taken place.

Even though this EJournal was primarily written for those currently in pastoral ministry who are looking to possibly change churches, there were a few things that helped me in my current situation.

Later in the EJournal, Mark Dever wrote a great article, entitled What’s Wrong With Search Committees?  So much of what Mark said in this article resonated with me because I have experienced the unkind and ugly side of these committees.  I cannot reproduce the entire article here, but I will refer to some notable quotations from the article:

Search committees tend to be risk-averse.

Most commonly, committees prefer experience over character and giftedness.  It’s true that young men tend to have great acuity, but poor depth perception.

God raises up young men who watch their life and doctrine closely and are gifted to teach his Word publicly.  Hire them when they are a cub.  Let them chew things up around the house for a while, and you’ll have a lion that loves you for life!  Young pastors make mistakes.

Finally, I found someone who shares my same sentiments on focusing too much on experience and too little on calling and competency!  Thank you Mark Dever for putting in print and clearly articulating what so many need to consider when their churches find themselves in these situations.

As for me, I have stopped looking actively.  I got tired of the perpetual disappointment of there being nothing available in my skill-set.  I got tired of sending resumes with no response and a severe lack of common decency and courtesy by churches.  If God wants me in the ministry (1 Timothy 1:12) then there is nothing that I can do from a human standpoint to facilitate it!

I have no mentor who I can go to for help and assistance.  I expect no help from either the college or seminary that I graduated from.    I plan on taking the same route that Michael Lawrence did and just pray about it, no more unsolicited resumes (unless someone asks for it).  I have asked people to pray for us and that is all we can do right now.  It is even tougher because I am having trouble finding suitable employment that would allow me to support my family.  Having theological undergraduate and graduate degrees does not help one to find decent secular work in order to adequately take care of your family.   I guess things could be worse, there are 5,000 janitors with PhD’s!

I am also reading a book that someone recommended to me by Pete Wilson entitled:  Plan B:  What do you do when God doesn’t show up the way you thought he would?  I have not completed it yet.  When I do, I will undoubtedly write a review of it.

The pause button has been pressed for the time-being regarding ministry and we will wait to see what happens!

Comments appreciated!

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2 responses to “Pressing the pause button… for now

  1. Hang in there, Terry, and do what you do; do your best to serve those around you for the Gospel. Opportunities will turn up.

    That said, the more I see, the more I believe that a LOT of pastors who do have paid positions do a tremendous disservice to the Church by refusing to plant new churches–$400,000 to put a new building up on the other side of town, or the next town, is too much, but $1.2 million to add on to the existing building inefficiently (and not add as much capacity) is A-OK.

    (and too many give the “right boot of fellowship” to those who ought to be leading, too….thankfully 4th is not like that now, but what I’ve seen….)

    • Thanks Bert, It has been a long haul…it is hard watching others that I was in seminary with going into the pastorate and I can’t even get an interview.

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