The challenge is usually presented to the prospective pastor by a member of the search committee in this way: “If we call you as pastor, we expect you to __________.” (Fill in the blank.) The directive may be to remove a long time staff member, do away with a worship service, or settle a disagreement that Solomon himself would avoid. Don’t fall into this trap. If you have never encountered this, let me suggest what your response should be: “Thank you for your interest. Once you have settled this concern, please call me back.”
A new pastor has enough on his or her plate without coming into the church with a commission to deal with something that present leadership has avoided. The pastor who accepts such an assignment will find his or her tenure very short, very painful, or both.
Why would a new pastor ever accept such an assignment? First, the new pastor probably has an unrealistic view of the church and the immensity of the problem. If present leaders or the former pastor have not been able to deal with this issue, one should expect that it is so deeply ingrained and explosive that addressing it will split the church wide open. The committee is looking for a hired assassin to deal with the situation, and such people are often expendable.
Second, the new pastor may have an inflated sense of his or her own ability to work with people and deal with difficult situations. This may have been true in the new pastor’s previous church but probably only because he or she had invested in the people there and gained credibility in that particular congregation. Such credibility is rarely transferable without an equal amount of work in the new setting.
Third, the new pastor may be desperate for a place of service so is he or she is willing to accept the commission. As Alexander Pope wrote, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Don’t be foolish.
The prospective pastor should listen to the committee with a problem and remember, “There has been only one Savior in this world and you are not Him.”