First of all my apologies for the lack of consistent content on the blog, of the many passions and priorities in my life it is apparent that this blog has yet to make its way up the list. I do believe in the weeks and months ahead you will see an increase of content as I run ideas by you and would love feedback toward a pastoral ministry textbook I am working to complete.
Since the first Sunday of March 2014, I have had the great joy and honor of serving as the interim preacher at Normandale Baptist Church on the western side of Fort Worth, Texas. I had not done an interim previously so it has been a new experience for my family, one that I have greatly enjoyed. This Sunday, April 19th, they have a gentleman coming to preach in view of a call.
It just so happened that we had some discussion time in class this week on how to interview and candidate with a church while searching for a pastoral position and most of them actually knew what I was talking about when I mentioned the terminology “Coming in view of a call.” I am sure most anybody reading this blog mostly understands what I mean when I say these words. For those who may not know, it is when a church has been communicating with a pastoral candidate, they have him come in and preach, spend time with church members and then the church votes on whether or not to “call” him as their pastor.
I have seen this happen on just a Sunday morning with little or no extra interaction with the congregation. When it is done more effectively the church has at least a weekend where the candidate meets with different groups in the church and has some opportunities for interaction outside of the Sunday morning preaching event. One of the most important questions I wanted my students to understand about this type of event was how they should respond once the church has voted.
I use three main textbooks in my Introduction to Pastoral Ministry classes and two of them had very different advice on this subject, one author wrote concerning what to do after the vote:
“It would be wise for the young pastor to thank them for the call, tell them that he and his family will pray about it, and that he will let them know his decision within a week.”
Another author answered this way:
“You should then be prepared to accept that call on the spot.”
I present these two very different options and I ask the class to decide which one they think is correct. I let a few people give their answer and their reasoning why, and then I declare that I have a clear preference with a single exception. I pronounce that this is certainly a July, 12, 2003 moment. I say it in such way as to assume they should know exactly what I am talking about.
I am fairly certain they will not know what I am talking about because that date was my wedding day. I explained that on that day when the pastor looked at me and asked, “Tommy, do you take Carol Ann to be your wife?” I already knew without a doubt I was going to say, “I do!!!” The answer to that question had long been settled before we got to the wedding day. Now, what was my exception? I illustrate the exception by saying that if when the pastor had asked Carol Ann her response, if she had said, “I about sixty percent sure,” then we might would want to take some time and pray about proceeding.
What is my point? Being a preacher there are at least three.
- I would encourage a pastoral candidate not to allow a church to vote on him to be their pastor unless he feels a strong leading from God to do so. It does not mean that God does not have the right to make it clear to you in the final moments that a decision needs to change, but you walk with integrity not giving the church false hope.
- I would be ready to answer yes if the church voted and extended a call for me to be their pastor. Again, with rare exception, this should be settled before you allow them to vote on the issue.
- Finally, I would prayerfully determine a percentage that I would consider necessary for me to take the call on the spot. Some churches require a simple majority to call a pastor, but anything under ninety percent would cause pause in my heart and mind. In such an instance my wife and I might need to pray over it for a season and then give our answer.
In all of these things, remember we are desperately dependent upon a perfect Savior for His direction. Pray for Normandale Baptist Church, for the man they are considering for pastor, for his family, and the church where he is currently serving.