Saturday, November 12, 2011

Resumes and Ministry

In the business world, resumes are a vital way of communicating to a potential employer what you bring to the table. A well written resume with the right buzzwords and the right experience makes the difference between getting an interview and having your resume "kept on file for a year" which is synonymous with "thrown in the trash". We have resume services to help write a winning resume and back in the day even special resume paper that said to a potential employer "I am serious about this job, look how nice this paper is!".

It makes sense in the business world where hundreds or thousands of people apply for open positions. Resumes give a potential employer a quick snapshot of a person's qualifications for a job. If I want a job in banking, do I have prior banking experience? If I want to work in IT, do I have the requisite education and experience with the right programming language or software? There is no reason for an employer to call me  for an interview as a respiratory therapist based on my resume because I am not qualified.

So I was thinking again about the "qualifications" Scripture lists for elders. They are listed out in two places we are all familiar with, listed below....
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Tim 3:1-7)

For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
(Titus 1:7-9)
What do these things have in common?

None of them can be measured in a meaningful sense by a man's resume.

But when a church is looking for a new pastor, what is one of the, if not the, first things they ask for?

A copy of his resume.

What can a church possibly learn about a man that would indicate he is someone other Christians should follow based on a resume? His academic credentials? Paul didn't mention those. What about his prior vocational ministry experience? Nope, no mention of that either. A couple of pat sentences about what he believes that distinguishes and divides him from other Christians? Ugh.

The only way to properly judge whether a man has the qualities that indicate he is someone other Christians should follow and emulate is by observing the manner of his life, how he treats his family, how he serves others, how he manages his household and his finances. That is why I believe elders can only be properly called to lead the church from within, what I call Home Cookin'. When we start the selection process for elders with a resume, we reduce ministry in the church to little more than a job to be filled. We must be constantly training up the men already in place to be called as elders in the church. I think a year is the minimum time frame to properly get to know a man but that is not a time frame that a church looking for a pastor or a pastor looking for a job are willing to invest.

Quit asking men you don't know to send you a resume and start investing in the lives of the men right around you so that a church never finds itself "between pastors".


Aussie John said...


That last paragraph is the best advice a church could receive.

On the same page, it would prevent pastors receiving glowing written recommendations given to prospective churches, when the intent of that recommendation is to facilitate the removal of said pastor.

Arthur Sido said...

John, the whole process is frankly ugly. Pastors skulking away on "vacation" so they can preach at a new employer and all of that.