One of the most frustrating experiences that I had several years ago when I was talking with congregations considering me as their next preacher was the statement of those looking for a preacher, “We’ll call you next Tuesday night at 7:00 and let you know something.” When this happened – and it happened more than a dozen times – I would confirm: “Is that Tuesday the 16th? Is that 7:00 Central time or Eastern time?” I was living in the Eastern time zone.
I would confirm our appointment: “I’ll be waiting for your call next Tuesday night, February 16th, at 7:00, Eastern standard time.”
I looked forward with great anticipation. Was I still being considered? Would they like me to come for an interview? Have they eliminated me from consideration? Am I their choice and are they ready to make final plans for us to locate to a new work?
Time after time, I would prepare the family: “I have an important call coming at 7:00. No one is to use the phone after 6:30.” This was before call waiting and cell phones. “It is essential that I get this call. I need to talk with an elder calling me about the opportunity to work with a congregation.”
7:00 p.m. EST would come and go. 7:30 would pass. I thought, “Surely I misunderstood. They said Central time. They will call in thirty minutes.” 8:00 passed. 9:00 and still no call. I assumed, “Maybe they meant Wednesday night. That’s when elders usually meet.”
In anticipation, I would prepare my family the next night for clear phone lines. My experience was: no call that night, sometimes a week or two later than promised, and sometimes never.
This was so frustrating and disappointing. That experience was so much the norm that I remember the name of an elder decades later who was different. Jimmy Vaughn from Amory, Mississippi, talked with me on the phone about their preacher search. He said, “We are talking with one preacher at a time. We would be interested in talking with you if we do not come to an agreement with the one now in consideration. I will call you either way.” He set a time and date to call. Now to my surprise, he called on the night and at the appointed time. It was so unusual, that when I see him now I refer to him as “the elder who tells the truth.”
What am I saying about the selection process? If you are on a search committee or if you are an elder working on the search process:
- Acknowledge each applicant. A form letter is better than ignoring the person as unimportant.
- If you say you are going to call, make a note and call.
- If you don’t have any new information at the appointed time, call at the appointed time and say you don’t have any new information and indicate when the preacher might learn more.
- When a preacher is no longer under consideration, contact that man and tell him he is no longer under consideration. The rejection hurts. But it hurt me more to learn of it three months after the new preacher had moved and I still had received no communication.
- Thank the person who applied and give a word of encouragement that God has a place in His kingdom for him to work.
The principle Jesus taught was, “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37, NKJV).
Next month: What can the preacher do when they don’t call at 7:00 p.m., EST?