Benjamin Vrbiceck’s new book, Don’t Just Send A Resume: How To Find The Right Job In A Local Church, is the kind of wisdom pastors need today as they look for work in the local church. Benjamin gives sage advice for pastors in this stage.
When Benjamin asked if I’d be willing to contribute a short essay to encourage pastors while they apply and interview in churches, I couldn’t say no. You’ll also find contributions from Jared C. Wilson, David Mathis, Jeremy Writebol, Kristen Wetherell, Dave Harvey, and more.
With Benjamin’s permission, and encouragement, here is what I contributed to Don’t Just Send a Resume:
The Home Depot and I don’t belong together. I’m a foreigner in this strange store. It’s a playground for men and women who know what to do with tools, electricity, plumbing, and other home-related whosie-whatsits. When I pretend like I know what I’m doing, and I tackle a DIY project at my house, I always regret it. From putting holes in the wall when I was just unscrewing a towel rack to electricity bolting through my body, I’m no handyman. I’m not wired for it. I’ve come to terms with who I am, and my house and sanity are better for it.
One of the worst things you could do as you interview to become a church’s pastor is to gloss over certain theological stances you have because it might keep you from getting the job. Don’t hide who you are. Doctrinal deception is disqualifying. If you begin your ministry with deceit, you’ve already derailed it. Don’t let the pursuit of a pastorate push your beliefs to the background. If this temptation lurks in the interview, know that an unhealthy pursuit for ministry is behind it all. Ministry idolatry will help you get a ministry—and then it’ll help you ruin it. One way you can crucify this idolatry, or fear, is by owning your convictions. Make them known, and let the job offers fall where they may.
Show the committee, the elders, or whoever is interviewing you that you take the Bible seriously and you have given credible, pastoral thought to a variety of doctrines that matter in discipleship with the risen Jesus. Doctrine is for discipleship. Theology is never irrelevant. It matters for sermons, counseling, staff meetings, search committees, job offers, and every situation under the sun.
If you are a Calvinist, don’t hide your TULIP because its aroma might offend. Talk about the bouquet of God’s grace in a gracious manner. If you pray in tongues, let them know. Maybe the church will encourage it, or maybe they will end the interview right then. Whatever the outcome, own your views. If you believe in a rapture, don’t leave that behind. Does your position on the end times differ from the church’s?
As you do your homework on this local church, itemize potential places of disagreement, grade how critical the disagreement is to you, and then have this conversation in the process. How flexible are you on the frequency of communion? Where do you and the church land on baptism? Credo, paedo, a hybrid? Does the church’s structure and practice for eldership and deacons align with yours? Make your list, see where there can be unity in diversity or if there’s too much disagreement—on either side—to serve effectively. Do it for your benefit and the church’s.
It’s better to talk about controversial theological issues in an interview than in a conflict resolution meeting or a meeting where the church is voting to fire you. You don’t want to turn a blind eye to any theological positions or church practices, because it will eventually come back around. Your secret stances will become obvious. The tension will snowball. The drama will escalate and then a new secret search committee will accept their mission. You can save yourself the time of moving your family and attending many tense meetings if you’ll simply say what you believe.
As you unfold your personal views, see where the church may be open to change and where there are thick walls of concrete. When a pastor differs too much from the doctrinal distinctives of a church, it’s best to pack up, thank everyone for their time, and move along. If they are open to your views or open to being convinced from God’s word about fill-in-the-blank, keep the conversation going. Be who you are. Show what you believe. Don’t act like me, a hypocrite in The Home Depot.