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Calling a Pastor or Rector

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I have been on two church vestries, or leadership boards, for calling a pastor or rector. One concluded well; the other ended disastrously. From that experience I offer a simple methodological consideration to integrate into searching, discerning, and calling a pastor or rector.

The Reading

I encourage the committee or committees involved to collectively and individually read the first three chapters of the Revelation, and to have the entire congregation or parish read those chapters as well. Chapter 1 is the prologue to the entire letter, and chapters 2 and 3 are seven letters to seven churches in what was then Asia (1:4). Read them repeatedly, particularly chapters 2 and 3, to deeply understand what Jesus was saying to the seven churches. It is important that you involve the entire community in calling a pastor or rector. As many as possible need to understand what is at stake and agree in the choice.

Interpretation

Avoid any typological or allegorical reading of how one might understand or apply the seven letters. Rather, the point is to understand the churches as actual groups of people who understood themselves in certain terms. How did Jesus speak directly to them on those terms? What did Jesus commend? What did he require? What did he warn against? Jesus addressed specific doctrinal questions in some of the churches. With those in mind, you must try to discern how he might address some of the doctrinal questions in the church today, not by the standards of the culture but by the standards of God’s word. As you evaluate candidates, consider how each one might help your church align with what Jesus said to the seven churches.

Wider Scope

The broader setting is this: The church universal is the temple where God dwells and makes himself known in the world. Your church is one part of that temple (cf. Eph 2:19–22; 1 Pet 2:4–5; 1 Cor 3:16–17). Because we live in the ‘already but not yet’ stage of God’s kingdom, when God has inaugurated his rule in the new creation that came into being at Jesus’ resurrection, we now live by the Holy Spirit who indwells us (cf. Col 1:13). Thus we do not live for ourselves, nor are we free to fashion ourselves as we wish (cf. Col 3:1–3). God has a purpose to redeem as many as will hear him (cf. 1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 2:9), and he calls us to understand what he is doing and participate in it with him. The letters to the seven churches tell us that Jesus cares about how each church represents him, and if one does not faithfully represent him he will remove it from its place.

Take Him Seriously

Jesus cares about your church in that same way. Your church is in a leadership transition, and you have the opportunity and responsibility to choose who will guide the community in its next phase. If you will place yourselves as individuals and as a group before Jesus to ask his direction, he is faithful and will show you his choice; in any case, you must be aware that whoever you choose will either move you towards or away from Jesus. Choose wisely; Jesus’ approval of your church is in balance.

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