Would the Apostle Paul get the Job?

It was a great source of encouragement to me and the leadership team to receive a clear mandate from the recent Cambray Church members’ meeting that we should start the recruitment process for a new Associate/Assistant Pastor. As that discussion showed (and many future debates will confirm!), the task of finding the ‘right’ pastor would be impossible if left to our own human devices – we are all looking for different things!

There is the hope that any prospective pastor will have decades of life experience, while still being youthful; a great preacher; spiritually mature; adept at administration; able to coordinate the childrens’/youth work; have the business acumen to restructure church organisations, while bringing the best out of a largely volunteer workforce. It is an intriguing and amusing thought that the Apostle Paul would probably not get shortlisted (let alone appointed) for most church vacancies – being around 60 years of age, with 25 years Christian leadership experience … some would say he preached too long and was not impressive; he was considered forceful, at times accused of being a trouble-maker; he often supported ministry with his paid secular work; fairly transient, typically taking charge of smaller churches; his CV indicated spells in prison; and no details were forthcoming about his wife!

So how are we to go about exploring God’s appointed minister for Cambray?

Well, first to affirm that God has someone in mind. Nothing takes the Lord by surprise, and as we pray and seek God on these matters, the promise our Heavenly Father makes is that we will be led to the person of His choice. But what if God’s ideal candidate is different to our own personal convictions? Thankfully, we have been given each other to test and weigh such things before the Lord and one another. Therefore, we must pray for unity and discernment, while we listen to the Holy Spirit and to each other.

Secondly, in the Pastoral Letters (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus) we have a helpful checklist of the qualities required of any church leader. These traits delve beneath the words on a CV and illuminate the truth behind any public ministry, evidenced by a deep love for Jesus, honesty, integrity, purity, courage, compassion, loyalty, love and respect for all ages, etc.

Thirdly, we are able to gain a sense from the direction in which the Lord is already leading us as a church. Specific aspects about Cambray’s direction and future challenges are pertinent to the profile of any new minister. A key question I would pose is: do we want to remain in maintenance mode, or to become a missional movement?
I hope the latter!

The present shape of ministry at Cambray

We are quite centralised with a leadership team of 12 plus Pastor and other staff members, with various ministries delegated to key personnel. One of the biggest challenges I think we face is how we become more flexible in our organisational life, to increase the relevancy of discipleship to everyday life contexts, while deepening the relational life of the church community that makes up Cambray. And all of this, while holding to some of our convictions that the local Church of Jesus Christ is supposed to model a genuine unity that crosses age, ethnic, social, and theological boundaries… to truly be one in Christ as part of vibrant transformative and missional communities serving our risen Lord Jesus together.

Perhaps in our search for a new pastor, we will need to be looking for someone equipped with more entrepreneurial skills in helping to expand our missional impact, which in turn would call us personally to greater investment in terms of time, effort, money and self-sacrifice; and the prospect of greater Kingdom rewards! (Mark 10:29-31). It is all very counter-cultural!

Cheltenham has a population of 110,000+, and some of us live/work in other communities. Given our aim to reach people with the love of Jesus, let’s pray by faith that the new pastor (who God is already preparing) will come equipped to help us meet these urgent challenges as a team-player… aware that one person cannot do everything. We are intended to be co-workers. Thankfully, God designed a body for both independence and interdependence. We will certainly need each other in this process and beyond.

With appreciation for your care, prayer and support as we journey together – eyes on Jesus! HE IS ABLE.

Tim Welch
March 2013