At our first transitional team meeting on August 18th, I asked the team to respond to several different questions by writing down responses on sheets of paper posted around the room.
One of the questions was this one:
“What Qualities/Characteristics/Knowledge/Skills for our Future Clergy?”
Here are some of the thoughts and concerns that were shared:
Love of Jesus and love for Jesus
Good sense of humor
No physical wall (meaning: authentic, approachable)
Acceptance of all personalities
Warn this pastor: Free range children – be able to embrace them
Openness to our “come as you are” culture
Welcoming –anyone no matter what
Sensitive to the Holy Spirit leading/moving *****
(and be forewarned: We Talk Back!)
Jesus focused, Bible Informed – someone who is real and lives the faith.
Someone with new ideas to share and willingness to share them.
Ability to be spiritually accessible
Good self image
After all this: We don’t expect perfection. Love of children all ages
A spouse who would be willing to worship and be part of church too.
Theological Orientation – someone with centrality of Christ and desire for a classical approach to theology voiced by some.
That last one might need a bit of explanation. There are two main approaches to theology which could be described as classical and progressive. That is overly simplistic, for there is actually a continuum of theology between those. And no one person could truly be described as falling into “one camp.” That’s the problem with labels -- no one fits them. Literally. Or once we apply the label we find exceptions. Some view me, for example as very traditional and others view me as progressive! Seriously, labels break down quickly.
But it is true theology is a component of anyone who might come. And theology is also a component of your life and mine.
All of us “do theology.” We are all theologians, although we might not see ourselves as such. Our viewpoints toward creation, toward humanity, toward faith, toward how we live our lives are all based upon systems of belief we have developed. Some of us are more “biblical” in that theology, meaning, we have a basis for action/belief based upon scriptural directives. Some of us are more “practical” theologians, basing our actions on “what is going on,” around us, and asking, “how might we respond?”
Another type of theology is called systematic theology. This branch of approach to theology is based as the name implies on categories (or systems) of doctrine: of first principles, of the Church, of the existence and attributes of God, of the Holy Spirit, of Christ, of Man, of Salvation, and of the afterlife. Each of these are explored and expounded upon. There are huge tomes of systematic theology from Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica to John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, to Thomas Odin’s three-volume Systematic Theology, to Wayne Grudern’s Systemic Theology. There are literally thousands more.
I think one of the main desires in the desire for classical is a faithful trust in Scripture, a deep belief in the real person of Jesus, and a relationship with him, an understanding of him as that miracle over against all others making his life remarkable. He was the Person who makes all the difference. There may be a desire of agreement on all the main issues of the day. But none of us agree on everything, so, more than likely you’ll find whomever comes will have approaches and thoughts that may differ from your own.
The most important thing, as we have discovered time and time and time again is a faithful return to Jesus. We can differ on many opinions of many aspects of life, but do we return to Jesus, do we find hope, life, and relationship and salvation in Him? Then, beyond this there can be other areas that take a backseat to Him and that’s appropriate.
As we say every week -- we are here to love God, love others, and make disciples, which are others who obey everything He commanded.
Here’s the process we are in as far as who might come next to serve as your pastor. We have just brainstormed this list. Next we will be discussing it and expanding it into categories of what are the essential qualities and what are the non-essential qualities. Part of this conversation will need to include our vision for the future, where we believe God is leading us. Then we will communicate these to our District Superintendent. Here is what we are looking for in our next pastor.
The District Superintendent, Erin Martin, loves this church. She wants the best person possible to come in to follow me. At this point, as far as I know they are seeking someone to just follow, not an interim pastor, who would have a two-year stay to prepare for the next person. Through the fall, the cabinet (all the district superintendents and our Bishop) will be discussing possible people who might be able to come here. In January, they may have some kind of list of possibilities, but also will add our congregation to the “Open List” and clergy from across the NW area can “put in their name” as possible candidates. The desire is to prayerfully align “who we are as a church,” “who we seek as a pastor,” with the folk out there. Sometimes God has sent in clergy from other annual conferences to fill vacancies. That’s how I ended up in this conference, God sent me and our family north saying, “I have new places for you.”
So, as you read this list of qualities above, do you have qualities that you would say are important to you as well? Are there other qualities you might like to see in the next clergy person who comes here? If so, email the firstname.lastname@example.org and share what those might be. Virginia will add them to our list as the transitions team continues to discuss and share together. And keep praying: God has said He has this and knows whom He plans to send. Our prayer is that this person “hears God’s call.”