When I was in college and aspiring to ministry, I was greatly influenced by a pastor in Denton, Texas. His name is Tommy Nelson, and he is preaching in the chapel of Southern Seminary this morning. Among the many nuggets of wisdom that I gleaned from him in those days was this: “Get fired in the interview.”
What was he talking about? He was telling all of us young aspiring preachers exactly what we should be doing when candidating for a pastorate. It was sage advice for me then, and I reckon it is sage advice for any aspiring pastor who may be reading this now. When the pastor-search committee interviews you, don’t hold anything back in terms of your beliefs or philosophy of ministry. If there’s a deal-breaker between you and the church, it’s better for that to come out in the interview stage than after they’ve already hired you. Lay all your cards out on the table, and let the chips fall where they may.
Sometimes surprising things happen when candidates exhibit this kind of openness. I have a close friend who once candidated for a pastorate in a Baptist church in another state. During one interview, the committee asked him what his beliefs were about the perennial hot topic of Calvinism. They didn’t know what Calvinism was, but they nevertheless wanted to know what my friend felt about it. His answer to their question was open and honest. And it led to his being able to open the Bible with the committee and lead them through his own beliefs directly from the scripture. After hours of teaching from my friend, the committee finally asked him, “Can you please come to our church and teach us more about this?” His willingness to open the Bible and make plain what he believed turned out to be just what these thirsty saints needed. Thus his teaching ministry at that church began before they ever officially called him as pastor. It began while he was candidating, and they wanted more. He is now their pastor.
Not every story will end that way, but some will. In any case, it is always best to be willing to be fired in the interview. You’ll save yourself and the church a lot of pain and headache if you do. And who knows? God may surprise you. He might use your candid responses to open doors that may have otherwise been shut.
2 Corinthians 4:2 “But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”