Get fired in the interview

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.”


  • pauljacobsblog

    I had an interview at a church that I thought was going well until they found out that my wife was Asian. They informed me that they did not believe in inter-racial marriage. Everything went south after that.

    • Chris Harwood

      “Went south?” Golly, that’s already pretty much a low point, so it’s hard to imagine it getting worse. Or did you mean that you got up and then drove south without another word? πŸ˜›

      Denny’s comment about this being “shameful” is being generous, in my opinion.

  • Stephen Hood

    I can still remember listening to the sermons on Romans 9 for the first time on our road trip to the LA Tech vs Baylor football game. What a pivotal trip that turned out to be for my spiritual life. His tape ministry was quite a blessing.

  • Don Johnson

    This principle is also true for others areas of life, like dating. In job hunting or dating you want to put your best foot forward, but not cloak things that are important to you.

    • buddyglass

      With the slight caveat that, with respect to job interviews, sometimes you just need to get paid. You’re not looking for a job that’s the perfect fit; you’re just looking for a job. Period.

      In that case I think it’s often wise to be circumspect about things. Don’t deny Christ or anything, but if you’re asked, “How do you feel about filing reports for eight hours every day?” maybe you respond “I just want to help out any way I can” and not “Honestly I think I’ll hate every minute of it, but hey- I need to make rent this month.”

      • Ian Shaw

        Those of us that are spreadsheet/report slaves for 8-10 hours a day have to tell ourselves that every hour buddy. Coupled also with “find a happy place”.

  • Dal Bailey

    Reminds me years ago I was applying for a security for a large chain of stores and this was at their main distribution center. When we discussed pay, the offer they made, made me laugh and say “I’m surprised all of your guards aren’t stealing” turns out, thats what they were doing! I left, no way to work for pennies…..

  • Michael Karpf

    Tommy was my pastor at Denton Bible Church too! He promised me a Bible if I finished seminary (Dallas Theological). I did, and it’s the Bible I preach from.
    I was being considered for an interim pastorate at a church in Tokyo a few years ago. I answered the questions, and everything looked good; they called me to say they will get back to me for an interview. A couple days later I got an email saying I was very qualified, but my view on infant baptism differs from theirs.
    In the questionnaire I was asked if I would have any difficulty baptizing infants. I responded by saying that I do not feel comfortable baptizing infants. I am happy to do a dedication service for them, and if the other pastor is comfortable baptizing them, then it is ok with me. I got fired before I even had the interview, but it’s always best to be upfront, then have an untimely departure later.

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