The “Star-crossed Lovers” Pastor Search Process

Tuesday Re-mix –

One of the early parenting skills I learned was how to appreciate the works of art my girls brought me.  There were plenty of times I looked at their drawings with no clue at all what they were supposed to portray.  I learned to say things like, “Wow, that is beautiful!  Tell me about it, please!”  That way, I could find out what it was supposed to be before I got myself in trouble.  But no matter what, there would never be a time or circumstance where I would ever communicate to them, “I just don’t care.”  That, for me, would be the exact opposite of love.  Of course I cared!  Any loving father would.

I believe this about God as well.  I believe that, in every difficult decision we make, in every season of searching for answers, God cares enough to guide us and direct us to specific outcomes.  I just cannot get my heart wrapped around a god who says, “I just don’t care…decide for yourself…it doesn’t matter to me.”

One of the privileges God has given our ministry is training Pastor Search teams.  Training those teams to use a prayerful process for searching for a shepherd for their congregation is one of my favorite ways to help churches.  It gives me an opportunity to draw from and reflect on my own experience serving on the pastor search committee of my home church…easily one of the spiritual highlights of my life.  For me it was 18 months of weekly praying and meeting together with eight of the most spiritually mature Christians I have ever known.  It was at times emotionally grueling and at times spiritually invigorating.  It was an intensive season of discerning the hand of God as a group.  In short, it was amazing.

It was a spiritual blessing for all of us because, from the outset, we all agreed on our task.  We all believed that there was one person somewhere out there who God had in mind for our church and that we had the daunting task of hearing God’s heart and following God’s direction to find that one person.  Even as we first began meeting and praying, we all firmly believed that God was already working in the heart of a person somewhere in the world, creating unrest and discontent in that person’s heart, making a future relocation emotionally possible.  Finding this “needle in a haystack” seemed like an impossible task to us, so we spent our first three months of meetings doing nothing but praying together and leaning on each other and on the Lord.  To us, it was a process doomed to fail without intensive prayer on our part.

That was 17 years ago.  As I have met with scores of other search committees since then, I have learned how blessed my committee was to have everyone on the same page in this perspective…because not everyone sees God’s will in this same way.  There are plenty of people who would disagree with a perspective on God’s will that says God has only one person in mind to shepherd your church.  I have heard them refer to that notion as the “star-crossed lovers” theory of God’s will, implying that God does not work that way.

But doesn’t He?  Isn’t the God of the Bible one who involves Himself in the day-to-day details of his people?  And when it comes to the spiritual leadership of His people, do we really believe God simply does not care enough to have a best, perfect will in mind?  If I am wrong about this, then a pastor search is little more than a personnel/human resources, secular process…just figure out what YOU want, and go find someone to fit that desire.  But if I am right, and God does have a perfect and specific will for who pastors your church, then shouldn’t the process be one filled with prayerful discernment?  Shouldn’t that process be something MORE than just an employee search?

I am curious what you think about this.  When it comes to finding a shepherd for a church, does God have a specific will?

© Blake Coffee
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4 responses to “The “Star-crossed Lovers” Pastor Search Process”

  1. My dear brother,

    I certainly agree that the search for a pastor is more than a secular human resources project. I do find the notion that God has “one” singular perfect person in mind, however, a bit challenging. It overlooks the notion that Scripture teaches again and again that God uses imperfect people to accomplish his will. (In the story of Moses, Jacob, and even Paul, one can almost hear the Almighty saying to himself: “Alright, I can work with that.”) The real question is, are we open to hearing the voice of God calling our pastors and our congregations into transformative love?

    As I know you’ve probably heard me say before, “We had the perfect pastor once. And we hung him on a cross.” Pax.

  2. I’ve always loved that comment, James!

    And, to be sure, there are no perfect pastors…or any other perfect people, for that matter! But the question I am posing here is a bit different than that. The question is: Is there a perfect will of God? As opposed to a permissive will of God? Yes, Moses and Jacob and Paul were all flawed…but were they each THE man God wanted for that job, or were they rather one on a list of possibilities? Moses’ reluctance and God’s response to him leads me to believe he was the only man God wanted for that job…God’s perfect will.

  3. I think I believe (you know I have a bad habit of saying things just to be sure I believe them), that while there is one perfect will, there are many ways (people) by which God can accomplish that will. Any other position would (I think) be an indirect denial of God’s soveriegnty.

  4. Blake – I am an Intentional Interim at First Baptist of Jacksonville, AR. Our church now has a Pastor Search Team, I have trained this group and now they are looking through 250+ resumes, praying, talking, waiting and watching. What suggestions do you have in this process, I would love to pass on more wisdom to this group.
    Ken Jerome

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