Get Fired in the Interview

When I was in college and aspiring to ministry, I was greatly influenced by a pastor in Denton, Texas named Tommy Nelson. Among the many nuggets of wisdom that I gleaned from him 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 recently 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.”


  • Aaron Armstrong

    Fantastic advice! This is something we’re trying to encourage candidates to do in our interview process where I’m employed, interestingly enough (parachurch ministry). It’s better for us know where someone stands ahead of time and it makes for great discussion in the interviews.

  • Barton Ramsey

    This is great. Our pastor interviewed this way with several churches, including ours. Thanks for posting this, Dr. Burk!

  • Steve Summy

    I would submit that this is advisable (yet EXTREMELY rare) in non-ministry private sector job interviews as well. While the stakes may be different, the principles of integrity are the same.

    We are so conditioned in the corporate world to “put your best foot forward” that we sometimes forget that we’re held to a different standard.

    Thanks for the reminder

  • Daryl Little

    Good point Don. I began my relationship with my now wife, across the Atlantic via letters. It allowed me to get all the potential deal-breakers out on the table ahead of time.

    It worked rather well.

  • Rob Gates


    Great advice! Having served in four different pastorates during the past 27 years, not only is it an issue of integrity for a prospective pastor to “put his cards on the table,” but pastoral search committees should also do the same. It does no one any good to hide information that WILL eventually come out. Unfortunately, when such “undisclosed” information DOES come to light, it rarely does so without someone feeling they were misled–mistakenly or otherwise!

  • John Croft

    Good word. It seems like I’ve read or heard of many anecdotes of interviewees hiding their Calvinism until they get hired, and then preaching/teaching Calvinism from the pulpit, seemingly coming out of left field in the eyes of the congregation. This in turn leads to all kinds of problems, and many know what a hot topic Calvinism is in the SBC right now. I don’t have much of a problem with Calvinism (though I am not Calvinist), but I do have problems with people hiding their beliefs & then forcing them upon congregations. Every person who interviews for the pastorate should heed the advice of this post. Thanks Denny

  • Dan Phillips

    Totally agree. After my most recent first phone interview while candidating last year, I hung up and looked at my wife. She asked, “Do you think they’ll want a second interview?” I thought, then shook my head. “Nope.” She agreed.

    And yet they did, and here we are, and I’ve never been happier in my life.

  • Gordon Flanagan III

    God moves in mysterious ways…I have an interview tomorrow and the advice could not be more timely. I will see if I can get fired or maybe fire them up.

  • Karen McGill

    It probably works for some but doesn’t for others.
    Went to a church, the year of Mohler/Patterson debate, shared for over an hour the biblical stance of our Calvinism, shared in later phone conversation “wasn’t trying to make calvinist” and was hired.
    Three years later church released from position after scandalizing husband over Calvinism. This was done after special called community meeting by DOM, brown informational packets sent to church members, and surrounding pastors warning them about husband, many private meetings at deacon homes, and personal letter sent by committee members with false statement regarding husband etc. etc. I could go on…..
    Being in a town with many other Calvinist Baptist and or fair minded believers received little to no help but from our local PCA now proudly a member of that denomination though ministry at is point is over but still hoping for a call. Today is our three year anniversary so this article is very timely. It still hurts and our lives have drastically changed but our belief does not waver but has strengthen.

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