Mark D. Roberts

Part 3 of series: Advice for Pastor Search Committees
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Today I continue to offer some advice for pastor search committees. And today, like yesterday, my counsel is a brief quotation from Scripture. Yesterday I urged pastor search committees to â??Seek first the kingdom fo Godâ? (Matt 6:33). Todayâ??s exhortation comes from 1 Thessalonians 5:17: â??Pray without ceasing.â?
Of course this is something all Christians should do, both on the basis fo common Christian sense and in response to the clear teaching of Scripture. â??Pray without ceasingâ? doesnâ??t mean you shouldnâ??t do anything other than kneel before God in prayer for all of your waking hours. Rather, it involves staying in consistent communication with God, keeping the channel open at all times. If you tend to stop praying when you say â??Amen,â? then perhaps you should stop saying â??Amenâ? rather than stopping your prayers.
Although all Christians should learn to pray without ceasing, this practice is especially helpful to pastor search committees. Why? To begin, prayer helps us to seek first the kingdom of God. When we come before the King of kinds, when we remember his greatness and holiness, we find it hard to hang onto our own agendas. Yes, I know that we generally approach God with our own needs and wishes. Indeed, Scripture invites us to do this very thing. But as we pray, as we spend time with God in prayer, as we allow the Spirit to pray through us, we discover that our grip on our will loosens as our desire for Godâ??s will increases. Thus, in prayer, we find an increased desire to seek first Godâ??s kingdom.
For this reason and for others, itâ??s essential that pastor search committees spend ample time in prayer together. Opening and closing each meeting with prayer are good starting points. But sustained group prayer will help a committee to seek Godâ??s kingdom together. Moreover, such prayer fosters spiritual unity, a crucial quality of a health search committee. In the context of a committee meeting, you may engage in a heated conversation with another member. This can lead to division and anger. But if you both come together in humble prayer, with the support and accountability of the other committee members, youâ??ll find your differences shrinking and your anger subsiding. After prayer, it will be much easier to apologize and forgive.
Search committee members should pray, individually and together, for each aspect of the search process. When itâ??s time to consider applicants, each individual should be lifted before God in prayer. Committee members can ask, not only for Godâ??s guidance for themselves, but also for those being considered for the position, that they might know and do Godâ??s will.
Given all the work search committees â?? and there is plenty of it! â?? some folks may be tempted to shortchange prayer. But this is risky, indeed. Perhaps the best argument for spending extended time in prayer comes from the example of Jesus himself. As you may recall, before he selected his disciples, he spent the whole night in prayer (Luke 6:12-16). (Wouldnâ??t you love to eavesdrop on that prayer!) The way I figure it, if the sinless Son of God spent so long in communication with the Father before choosing those who would minister in his name, surely we ought to devote ourselves to prayer when weâ??re seeking a pastor. (Photo: Christ Praying in Gethsemane by Heinrich Hoffmann)
Times of personal and corporate prayer can be enriched through reflection on Scripture that leads into and gives shape to prayer. You might, for example, begin a time of prayer with a slow reading of Psalm 97, letting your prayers focus on the kingly reign of God. Or you might let the story of the call of Moses at the burning bush become the holy ground of your prayer.
Although most pastor search committees will not (and should not) function as a primary support group for members, committees will be strengthened if the members prayer for each other, both in group time and when theyâ??re apart. There is a danger, here of letting personal sharing consume too much corporate time. But if members support each other in prayer, group cohesiveness will be increased.
Finally, as the search committee begins to focus upon a few strong candidates, prayer for each of these people is essential. Many times (almost always?) candidates are wrestling with god on their own. Theyâ??re confronting their own â??demonsâ? of fear, ambition, pride, inferiority, etc. They need Godâ??s help, not only to discern his will about their particular calling, but also to grow more deeply in relationship with him.
The season of my life when I was considering coming to Irvine Presbyterian Church was one of the most spiritually challenging of my life. I was struggling with more than the question of whether God wanted me to take a particular position or not. This was a time of defining who I was and what was my lifeâ??s purpose. I was wrestling with God over the issue of trusting him. How grateful I am that the members of the Irvine search committee were praying for me as I found myself in a lionâ??s den of confused emotions and perceptions.
To be continued . . . .

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