The Problem With Resumes

by Eddie Rasnake

Editor's note: The principles described in this series were successfully tested by the Woodland Park Church Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., a few years ago when the present senior pastor was called.

Perhaps nothing is more intimidating than a group of people bearing the responsibility of calling a senior or supporting pastor. It is a long and complicated process, and will be evaluated long after it is finished. Those entrusted with so great a task often are given inadequate direction on how to accomplish it. Even when following an established process, the group's members, if they hold their role with integrity, must ask, "Is the process given to us the right one?"

Fortunately, there are objective principles in the Word of God to guide such a process. Before looking at those principles, let's identify what not to do.

How Not to Do It

Most churches looking to hire a staff member start by forming a "Search Committee." Then they attempt to get as many résumés as possible and begin the daunting task of weeding through them to see which ones look most promising. Next, prospects are paraded before the church with their best foot forward as the field is narrowed. When the committee is confident they have identified the most qualified applicant, they make their move. Hopefully, they can agree on which one they want, and hopefully the one they want wants them. More often than not, this is not the case.

If this process is successful in filling the vacancy, we assume it has accomplished its purpose, but has it? Current statistics show that in the Southern Baptist denomination the average pastorate lasts less than four years (not much longer than the "honeymoon")<![if !supportFootnotes]>[i]
. Other denominations report similar difficulties. This is especially troubling when you consider that research also indicates a pastor's greatest effectiveness is not reached until five to eight years in his position.<![if !supportFootnotes]>[ii]<![endif]>,

Could it be that we are using the wrong process? While the résumé approach may be the best system for hiring a restaurant manager, it clearly has more in common with the world than with the Scriptures. Inherent in that approach is the danger of turning the search into a beauty pageant at the expense of the biblical concept of "calling." There exists a very real peril of focusing on the person instead of focusing on God. The question to be asked is not, "Who is the most qualified?" but "Who is God calling?"

What Is a "Calling"?

The idea of a "calling" from God is clearly what the Apostle Paul was expressing when he said in Romans 1:1 (nasb): "Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle." Most of the time this particular Greek word (kle\ts) is used, to refer to the general sense of our being called by God as believers, but as we see here, it sometimes points to a specific calling to a specific task. First Corinthians 1:1 tells us that Paul was, "...called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God."

We see this idea exemplified in Moses as he dealt with the rebellion of Korah. In Numbers 16, Korah led a group of men in rebelling against Moses' authority, arguing that they were just as qualified to lead as He. To use modern terminology, they were saying, "Our résumés are just as good as yours."

Moses' only defense was not based on his abilities, his experience, or his credentials. He simply pointed to the fact that "...the Lord has sent me to do all these deeds; for this is not my doing" (v. 28). His only credential was the "sending" of the Lord. If the Lord Jesus had selected His disciples by the résumé method, it is doubtful any of the Twelve would have made it, for they were, "uneducated and untrained men" (Acts 4:13).

The Problem with the Résumé Method

There is nothing inherently wrong with looking at a person's résumé, but it really doesn't tell you much about who he is, or what he will become. One of the dangers of thinking too highly of résumés is looking outwardly rather than inwardly. Consider the difference between King Saul and King David. Saul's appointment was initiated by the people, not God. It is evident from 1 Samuel 8 that the people wanted to be like the other nations. God's greatest judgments often are simply giving us what we want so that He can teach us to start wanting what He wants. Israel was using the world's standards to look for a leader instead of God's, so God gave them Saul.

Saul had a great résumé. He came from good stock. His father was a "mighty man of valor" (1 Sam. 9:1). The Scriptures tell us he was a choice man; the best looking man in Israel. He was so tall that others came only to his shoulders. He was everything Israel was looking for in a king. He was not, however, what God was looking for, and ultimately he was rejected.

When God appointed a new king over Israel we witness the right process in action. First, Samuel saw the need and God laid on his heart a direction to look (Jesse, the Bethlehemite). Then God had Samuel consider each of Jesse's sons, one at a time. When Samuel saw Eliab, the oldest, he thought, "Here is the man." God corrected Samuel's wrong thinking, saying, "...man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7). Only when David is brought before him does Samuel hear God say, "This is the one."

What a difference this process produces! With Saul, the Israelites focused on outward appearance and got exactly what they asked for. The problem was, they were asking for the wrong thing. With David, Israel got what God was asking for, "...a man after My heart, who will do all My will" (Acts 13:22). If a church is asking for the wrong thing, God may just give them a Saul, but pretty soon they will have to start looking again.

To be continued

1 As reported in Southern Baptist Churches Today, Phillip B. Jones, February 2001, www.namb.net.

2 "While pastors are leaving churches at a more rapid pace than ever, numerous studies have concluded that the most productive years for the pastor may depend on longevity. Lyle Schaller found that the greatest growth of churches occurred in years five through eight of a pastor's tenure. Kirk Hadaway, whose research was limited to Southern Baptist pastors, concluded that the most productive years were three through six. And George Barna's data point to increasing productivity for pastors between years three and fifteen." (Ten Tough Questions for Church Leaders, Part 2, Thom Rainer, www.rainergroup.com/rainergroup/10questions_part2.asp)

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

Eddie Rasnake is associate pastor of Discipleship Ministries at Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn. Among other writings, he has authored or co-authored nearly all of the Following God series published by AMG Publishing in Chattanooga

<![if !supportEndnotes]>

<![endif]>

<![if !supportFootnotes]>[i]<![endif]> As reported in Southern Baptist Churches Today, Phillip B. Jones, February 2001, www.namb.net, page v.

<![if !supportFootnotes]>[ii]<![endif]> "While pastors are leaving churches at a more rapid pace than ever, numerous studies have concluded that the most productive years for the pastor may depend on longevity. Lyle Schaller found that the greatest growth of churches occurred in years five through eight of a pastor's tenure. Kirk Hadaway, whose research was limited to Southern Baptist pastors, concluded that the most productive years were three through six. And George Barna's data point to increasing productivity for pastors between years three and 15." (Ten Tough Questions for Church Leaders, Part 2, Thom Rainer, www.rainergroup.com/rainergroup/10questions_part2.asp)

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

2011 Disciple 155x50 2011 AMG 155x50
Disciple Banner Ad