Baptists get a pastor the way a ball team gets a coach: they have a search committee that tries to find a good pastor and steal him from another church.
The system is usually bathed in prayer and it allows for local church autonomy. However, the system also lends itself to some humorous situations as committees try to keep their presence a secret in the churches they invade.
Years ago, when I was serving a church as youth and music minister, a committee came to hear me, and they sat up front where everybody noticed them. An upset church member said, “Bob, is that a committee coming to hear our pastor?” I told her no, they were coming to hear me. I think she was relieved that at least they weren’t getting her pastor.
When the pastor stealing committee from my current church in Rincon went to Mississippi to nab me, they parked their van with Georgia license plates two blocks away and quietly slipped into the sanctuary in pairs: two women sat up front, two men sat in the balcony and a man and woman acted like a couple and sat together in the back.
The two men in the balcony sat down by my redheaded teenage daughter, who had met the committee earlier in the interview process, but now had to act like she didn’t know them. She turned as red as her hair. The man and woman who acted like a couple sat on a back pew by the director of the Woman’s Missionary Union, a woman very curious to know if they might be prospective new members.
So the WMU director introduced herself and asked their names. The man said, “I’m Glenn ______ (his last name),” and the woman, who was not his wife, quickly added, “And I’m Beth” without saying a last name.
On another occasion, another search committee from Rincon went to Alabama to steal a music minister. As they were leaving after the service, the pastor got very curious about them, and asked a lot of questions about where they were from. One member of the committee told him that “it didn’t matter, since you’ll never see us again.” I wonder what that pastor thought!
I guess there is no perfect system to doing the church’s ministry. The key is that we are sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. When the early church had its first big business meeting in Acts 15, scripture says that “the whole church decided” what to do, and later it says “It was the Holy Spirit’s decision” (Acts 15:22, 28, HCSB). If the whole church will listen to the Holy Spirit, a church will do the right thing, even if it seems awkward at the time.
Copyright 2008 by Bob Rogers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.