by Greg Anderson –
You are in the middle of planning your sermon for the upcoming week when your cell phone rings. You do not recognize the number. You don’t even recognize the area code. You take the risk that it is not a marketing call, and after a quick “hello” hear something like…
“Hi. My name is Marie Smith. I’m a member of the Main Street Church search team. We are looking for a new preaching minister and you have been recommended to us as a potential ﬁt.”
You converse for several minutes, agree to prayerfully consider your interest level, end the call, lay your phone aside, and stare at your sermon notes in stunned silence. After replaying the conversation in your mind a time or two, you utter a silent prayer asking God to carefully guide next steps then send your wife a text that says, “You’re not going to believe what just happened…”
Of course the scenario doesn’t always play out that way, but it may sound somewhat familiar if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a “you’ve been recommended as a potential ﬁt” call. No matter how the conversation goes, a super important question is, “What do I do now?” The following observations may provide some insights.
Pause. This is one phone call. There’s no reason to panic, nor is it the right time to start looking at how much houses cost in that region of the country. Breathe deeply. Say a prayer of thanksgiving to God that someone thinks enough of you, your family, and your skill set to recommend you to an open position. The worst thing you can do is dive into frenetic activity and hurried conversation.
Pray. If you’re at work, make it a ﬂash prayer, “God, be gloriﬁed in all things.” Once you get home, you can share the highlights of the conversation with your spouse (or later with a trusted friend), and then set aside speciﬁc time to prayerfully process if the Holy Spirit is impressing future conversations on your heart. If a search team member asks you to prayerfully consider the possibility, he or she will schedule a follow-up conversation. Use the in-between time wisely by spending more time praying that anything else.
Prepare. Prepare your heart and mind for deep conversations with the Father, those you love, and those who love you. Stay focused on your current work. An exploratory phone call and a job oﬀer are two very diﬀerent things. Frankly, it is unethical to talk potential job possibilities with another employer while you are at work. So, suggest that future conversations occur on your personal time. In addition, beware of “the grass is always greener” syndrome. It’s amazing how many issues you see in your current work when another church is interested in having a conversation with you. This can be magniﬁed if the church that calls is bigger and has more resources. Focus on where you have seen and are seeing God at work in your current ministry.
Practice. Engage in two or more spiritual disciplines. If the caller oﬀers a week for you to pray, then take time to map out what that week will look like for you. Spend time in Scripture focusing on the call of God. (Jeremiah 1:5, Matthew 6:33, and 1 Thessalonians 1:11 are just a few examples that come to mind). Consider fasting for one day and using that time to hear God’s voice. Take one or two long walks and experience God in nature as you prayerfully listen for his voice. I’m not suggesting that you practice every spiritual discipline, but I am recommending—at a minimum—practicing a few. How can you make a spiritual decision without availing yourself to spiritual discernment?
Plan. Once you have taken a week or so to see if God nourishes a desire to know more, you can plan your response to the inquiring church accordingly. If you believe God has you where he wants you, then articulate a response that is polite and well-crafted. You do not want to treat the conversation ﬂippantly or come across as arrogant. God may have orchestrated this entire conversation because he wants you to engage with this church in another way in the future, e.g., teaching a seminar, leading a retreat, etc. So plan your “no” response prayerfully and carefully. On the other hand, if you feel additional conversations are worth pursuing, then articulate a response that enthusiastically summarizes the rationale for your conclusions and allow the search team to take it from there. Do not send a resume, bio, photos, sermon links, etc., until such items are requested. Being asked out and being asked to marry is not the same thing. It is wise to keep that in mind in these very early stages.
In the next blog post in this series, we will explore Transitions Through the Eyes of the Candidate – The First Oﬃcial Conversation.