So Many Choices, None of Them Mine
Because I have so many people praying for me, I wanted to give an update on some specifics of my ministry search. This post summarizes what I have been doing in the ministry search and how specifically I desire the Lord to work in my life. I am not going to give specifics (names and locations) primarily because I do not have permission. I trust this post is helpful in giving insight to how the Lord is working in my ministry search.
As I said in a previous post, I have been engaging my network since I resigned. My network consists of ministry friends, state association representatives, and alumni placement services. I depend on these sources to pass along my information to a ministry or refer me to ministries who are looking for staff.
From my network I have learned about dozens of openings. I have attached my resume to an email of interest and sent it to more than twenty churches. My practice has been to follow-up with a phone call within two days of sending the email. I have spoken with many ministry representatives and left many voice mails. Over the past few weeks I have corresponded with pastors about theological and philosophical matters and completed at least three questionnaires. So far, nothing has gone beyond the questionnaire stage.
The time line is long. Churches work slowly, which is good in most senses—mainly that they are making a serious decision that will determine the spiritual, theological, and philosophical direction of their fellowship for many years. From my perspective, however, the time line has sometimes been an object of frustration. In the main, though, I am comfortable with the time line because I know that whatever the Lord is doing is good for me.
Because the time line is long, many days are without much news. I find myself searching church websites for information, learning everything I can about the ministry to determine whether I may fit. Some days are busy with email or phone interaction, most days are not.
Yesterday was a busy day. I received three letters in the mail. One was a letter confirming receipt of my resume, which letter I knew was coming. The other two were letters notifying me that the ministries were seeking other candidates. The latter two letters were disappointing, but, I am trusting God to do what only he can do.
I also received a phone call and an email. The phone call came from a church in which I am very interested. It was an encouraging call, saying that I was one of five potential candidates with whom they were moving forward by sending questionnaires. The email came from a different church. They were also asking me to continue in their process and complete a questionnaire. I am thankful for the opportunity to continue the discussion with both of these ministries.
There are yet two other ministries which are also interested in speaking with me. Both of them are wanting to have an informal, face-to-face meeting within the next two weeks. While this scheduling possibility makes packing and other responsibilities I have at home more complicated, I am more than happy to speak with them. In doing so, I hope to learn much about the men and their ministries. I will trust the Lord to give me wisdom as I prepare mentally, praying for grace when I meet with them.
My wife commented tonight that I should be elated because there are four churches actively engaged in discussions with me. Yet I found myself contemplative more than joyous—not that the two are mutually exclusive, but joy was less evident on my face. I found my soul busy speculating on the future, trying to figure out what the Lord will do. At the heart of it, I believe this is a sinful effort to wrest control away from God. And, as futile as all other efforts of sin, it cannot be done. God is in control and I must trust Him and repent of wanting to control that which does not belong in my hands.
I must be active in what only I can do and trust God to do His part. Please do not mistake this with a “let go and let God” mentality. No, I have a part to play: only I can send emails, only I can make phone calls, only I can complete questionnaires. God must do the rest: He must make provision for a ministry to appreciate who I am, how I believe, and how I preach and teach. Only God can prepare a position for me.
I know I have dozens of people praying for my situation. So you can pray more specifically, here is my request: Ask God to grant me wisdom as I interact with churches and pastors. I want to be honest in my answers and discerning in my queries of their ministries. Ask God to grant me patience as I wait through this time line. I want to continue growing in the grace and the knowledge of my Savior. Ask God to give me the desires of my heart. I trust that what I want is what God wants—I want to serve in pastoral ministry in a local church.
My prayer today is this:
I hang on thee; I see, believe, live,
when thy will, not mine, is done;
I can plead nothing in myself
in regard of any worthiness and grace,
in regard of thy providence and promises,
but only thy good pleasure.
If thy mercy make me poor and vile, blessed be thou!
Prayers arising from my needs are preparations for future mercies;
Help me to honour thee by believing before I feel,
for great is the sin if I make feeling a cause of faith.
Show me what sins hide thee from me and eclipse thy love;
Help me to humble myself for past evils,
to be resolved to walk with more care,
For if I do not walk holily before thee,
how can I be assured of my salvation?
It is the meek and humble who are shown thy covenant,
know thy will, are pardoned and healed,
who by faith depend and rest upon grace,
who are sanctified and quickened,
who evidence thy love.
Help me to pray in faith and so find thy will,
by leaning hard on thy rich free mercy,
by believing thou wilt give what thou hast promised;
Strengthen me to pray with the conviction
that whatever I receive is thy gift,
so that I may pray until prayer be granted;
Teach me to believe that all degrees of mercy arise
from several degrees of prayer,
that when faith is begun it is imperfect and must grow,
as chapped ground opens wider and wider until rain comes.
So shall I wait thy will, pray for it to be done,
and by thy grace become fully obedient.
—Valley of Vision, 14
 There is no normative process for filling a staff position in a local church. Broadly speaking, I am familiar with six stages: (1) A church receives a resumes, examines them, and chooses a few with which to continue. (2) The church sends and receives questionnaires to learn more about the applicants. There is usually exchange of documents such as the Statement of Faith and constitution. (3) Phone interview. (4) Informal visit to church. (5) Candidating weekend. (6) Vote. There are many variations and it is customary for a church to only consider one candidate at a time after step three.