Thursday, March 2, 2017

Moving Forward: Lessons Learned as a Pastor in Limbo

Yesterday marked my two year anniversary at East Frankfort Baptist Church. To celebrate the occasion, I want to repost what I wrote my first sermon reflecting on what I learned between ministries.

Yesterday I preached my first official sermon as the pastor at East Frankfort Baptist Church. My wife, family, and I are excited where God has placed us and trust we will be on the front line of God's great work there. Although the full story of how we got here goes beyond the purpose of this blog, I will say that this has been a long, and at times exhausting, trip. But we praise the Lord for bringing us here.

The short of the story is simple. I have applied at dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of churches around the country. I have been interviewed by many of them, assured to be on the short list of most of them, and turned down by some of them. At the beginning of the process, I thought for sure my resume, education, experience, and resources (videos, podcasts, writings, etc.) made me a viable candidate at many of these churches. Viable, yes. But not hirable for many.

I have several weaknesses as a candidate. First, I am young (30) and look even younger. Secondly, I have three degrees from a very Calvinist college and seminary and thus most assume I am a 5-point Calvinists. Thirdly, many smaller churches assume "a guy like him wouldn't want a church like us." Thus I was on everyone' short-list but never presented as the final candidate.

Looking back, though, I see how the Lord was at work. Here are a few thoughts.

1. God's Sovereignty Means God's Timing

I have always considered myself a patient person but through this experience I have learned that I am not as patient as I previously thought. The search process is a test of patience. Waiting for potential opportunities to open. Waiting for committees to receive and go through resumes. Waiting to be contacted by potential churches and ministry opportunities. Waiting for questionnaires. Waiting to hear back again. Waiting for interviews. Waiting to hear back again. Waiting for another interview. Waiting to hear back again. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

At any time one of those stages fall through, you start over. At one point there were at least eight churches in which informed me I was among their final 3. Only one panned out in the end and I turned them down feeling uncalled to that church. It took about six months for each church to finish their search process after I was notified of being a finalists.

This call to patience takes it toll more on the family than it does on the candidate and certainly that was our experience. My children visited a lot of churches with me. My wife waited for phone calls too. We all had to learn patience . . . anxiously. 

2. Most Churches are Sicker Than Advertised

The average search committee is reflective of the church they represent. That is a good thing. With that said, many committees are incompetent, poorly led, and reflect the poor situation of their congregation. After one interview with a particular church, I knew almost immediately not to continue the process. Only one committee member came prepared with questions while the rest clearly had given little thought to the process, what they were looking for in a pastor, etc.

All of this is to say that though we all known that the current church is sick from my experience, the church is more sick than even I had known. Many churches are grossly unaware of what a pastor is and does, what a pastor needs and requires, or even what the church is and does.

It is imperative that pastors stop playing church and start leading the church for many are in dire straits.

3. Everyone has opinions. Few have answers

How long should one's resume be? What should it include? How should you answer certain questions? What questions should you ask? How do you determine if you should leave a ministry or transition to another?

Everyone has opinions, but few have answers. At the end of the day, I have learned to listen to those wiser than me, trust in God's leadership, and always know that God will have His way in the end.

4. Connections are Important, and Not Just For Reasons You Think.

We have heard the old saying that in life, "its not what you know, its who you know." To a certain extent, this is true in ministry. Its an aspect I'm not a fan of, but it is a reality. Yet there is another side of it. My rejection of that mentality made me a bit of a lone ranger minister. I wanted to "prove" myself and allow my record to speak for itself. I have a reputation I am proud of. Yet throughout this process, God gave me the opportunity to make some connections that has open my eyes to see what God is doing in the church today.

I am excited about what God is doing in the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Convention. I am grateful for the many ministers and servants in the church I've met through this process and am excited about the future of Christianity in Kentucky and America. There are many challenges ahead of us, but I have witnessed God raise great men and women who have an unquenchable passion for Jesus.

So my advice to young ministers would be to simply avoid private ministry and make connections for the right reasons.

5. The Future of the Church is Bright

There is no doubt we live in a post-Christian culture. As a result, the church is suffering from insignificance and a lack of true-gospel vision. Yet I believe our future as a convention and church is still bright. I am excited about what God has in stored for us moving forward. God has raised great leaders locally, state-wide, nationally, and internationally. The seminaries are largely producing men and families serious about Jesus, the gospel, and gospel-ministry.

Though as I type this the future looks bleak. Yet I still see God clearly at work moving pieces that I believe are strategic and prove that He is always a step ahead of humanity. No doubt things will get worse, but I am confident that God is still up to something good.


In the end, I would note that the past few years have been difficult on me and my family for a host of reasons. Yet because we are confident that God is on his throne, we have remained hopeful. I do not know what the next year, ten years, or century will look like for us or for the church. I offer myself only as a vessel of Christ for the glory of Christ. What I do know is that God knows what he is doing and I will continue to trust him with our future.
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