Last month I discussed one of the most disappointing and frustrating things in the search process for me as a preacher: a promise to call with information on the search committee's progress or of the elders' deliberation, usually preceded with, “We'll let you know something next Tuesday night at 7:00": followed by nothing.
One year at the Eldership Retreat at Faulkner University, I was exhorting elders to communicate with prospective preachers – especially when you say you will. David Short, then director of Faulkner development and an elder of the University congregation, taught me a good lesson. He said, “Jerrie, we experience the same thing in raising money for the school. We present the opportunity to help Faulkner. The person needs some time to think about it and promises to call at a certain time. I also note it in my planner and confirm the date and time. Then I add, "I'll look forward to hearing from you next Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. And if you are not able to call at that time, I'll check with you a day or two after that." That gives me permission to renew the conversation.”
Thank you, David Short! That is an application of a principle that I have long believed and taught: I am 100% responsible for my communication. As I have reflected on that valuable suggestion, I wonder if I had not done that for the same reason that many have not called. Most people don't like to give and receive unpleasant news. And most of the news in the search process is not favorable – unless the church is considering only one preacher and the preacher is only talking to one congregation and they both could not envision any other being as good as the one now being considered.
I would guess that most elders or search committee members don't enjoy delivering the message, “We have decided to look elsewhere.” I know that is not the most encouraging news for a preacher with three weeks to go on a ninety-day agreement. Therefore what I need to do as the preacher wanting to know what is happening is complete the conversation. Make the call. Ask for the information I want. Minutes are free on my cell after 9:00 p.m. and on weekends. If they are still considering me or if I am the preacher they want, I learn that and the call probably will not change that. If I am no longer being considered, I learn that and I am free from thinking about that possibility any longer. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32, NKJV).