Summary: Annual sermon, D. C. Baptist Convention. Clergy and laity will be in conflict, but it can be creative when we recognize our humanness, turn our competitiveness in productivity, and learn to identify where God is already at work.
I've done a little work through the years in helping ministers get positions on church staffs. Every Baptist minister, I guess, has done that. Where are the bishops when you really need them? But it's been fun to help young ministers, particularly those who were students of mine from my campus ministry days. Incidentally, since anyone of us could find ourselves in need of such help at any given moment, I make it a policy to share with those whom I have placed one key Scripture verse. It's Luke 23:42, where the penitent thief cries out, "Remember me when thou comest into Thy kingdom"!
I've liked helping young ministers think through exactly what the right place would be, testing the potential in this church or that, looking for the right fit.
And so I thought maybe I would just bring one of these placement cases with me today and let you help me assess whether this minister and this church are right for one another. Would you just check out these descriptions, and let's see if this fellow and these people might not fit, hand in hand.
The minister was well-trained, but mostly in another faith. His training for Christian ministry consists of a background in investigation. It seems he spent a good while arresting and prosecuting people with suspicious and seditious intent. In fact, he even assisted at least one execution.
Further, this preacher, having become a believer in a very sudden and dramatic way … one might even feel that there was a degree of instability in his decision … this minister trained for his new profession not with a formal education, but largely by reflecting alone in solitude for some three years and by meeting briefly with some of our denomination's leaders, with whom he has subsequently been known to disagree vigorously.
The brother whose resume' I am studying has no family life to speak of, has not remained in one situation more than a few months before moving on, and has built no buildings. He has started a capital funds drive, but has not yet completed it.
Honesty compels me to mention that he does have a prison record, that he is tough on young associate ministers, and that some feel he is, shall we say, opinionated and contentious.
But this much we can say, positively: This fellow can preach a humdinger of a sermon; he can write a letter that will fairly jump off the page; and, if worse comes to worse, he can make an honest living at a secular job.
You think he is not too promising? Well, however, listen to the kind of church I propose he go to. Don’t you think he might serve well in this pulpit?
The church is located in a seedy part of a seaport town, not too far … or I guess I would say, not far enough, from the red-light district. There are some ugly rumors … but I won’t go into that.
The congregation is one of those troubling multicultural, multiracial, multinational, and therefore multiproblem crowds. Everyone has brought to church his own ideas. And, although theirs is a short history, still they have been around long enough to have built up factions, cliques, and divisions. In fact, I think this is the church in which first arose the old joke to the effect that whenever you get three Baptists together in a room, you will have at least four opinions!
I don’t know if we would want to tell the prospective pastor this or not, but the church has been very upset lately over some lawsuits. Some of the members have taken other members to court to get their disputes settled. But I guess that’s because they are so used to being in court. It’s just a natural place for a lot of them, because quite a few of the church members are known to have been involved in everything from theft to prostitution to plain old public drunkenness. Going to court is like going home for some of these folks.
However, it seems that the members of the church would prefer that their new minister not get into things like that. They want somebody who will deal with the really important stuff, like speaking in tongues, like the proper form for the Lord’s Supper, like what kind of body we will have at the resurrection. You see, they want someone who will deal with the really spiritual things and stay away from talking about worldly things like sexuality and stewardship. Just somebody who is a Bible-believing, Spirit-led preacher whom they can then dissect just like the other preachers they've had.
So what do you think? What kind of match will they be, this minister and this church? What sort of relationship could you expect, this pugnacious preacher and this contentious congregation? If you were doing placement, would you ever in your wildest dreams think it could work, a partnership between the Rev. Mr. Paul and the First Baptist Church of Corinth?!