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The Problem with the “Want Ads” in Denominational Magazines

Help Wanted

I will keep the intro short: You ought to read and consider this brief excerpt from Derek Thomas’s commentary on Acts in which he shows how our expectations of pastors—and perhaps their expectations for themselves—are often far removed from God’s. If you’re in a huge hurry or have a microscopic attention span, skim right down to the second paragraph.

Paul preached Jesus. Had you spent a month in Thessalonica at the time of Paul’s visit, you could not have failed to appreciate what was central to all that he had to say: he preached, taught, and reasoned about Jesus Christ. His message was full of Christ. It was about his birth and life and death on the cross. Paul would have had to say something about who Jesus was as well as what he had done. It is possible that Paul saw and heard Jesus during those dramatic days in Jerusalem before he was crucified. Paul, or Saul as he was then known, was studying in Jerusalem under Rabbi Gamaliel at the time. But this remains only a possibility, and Paul himself never says anything that would confirm it. He had, however, seen the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, over a decade and half in their past, and his life had been turned around completely. He had changed from a persecutor of Christ to a proclaimer of Christ. But it was not a message about himself, not even of his conversion: “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4:5)

Churches seeking pastors often look for a variety of giftedness, much of it expressing personal charisma. A quick glance through “want ads” in the back of church denominational magazines will list such qualities as these: “innovative, progressive, change-initiating, team leader/builder, pastor-coach, people developer with strong organizational skills, someone who ‘can relate well to fast-track commuters’ and ‘design and build infrastructure, envision and create ministry delivery teams.’” Adding, perhaps, such characteristics as: “approachable, dynamic, catalytic, able to lead worship through drama, audiovisual technology, banners, dance, etc.” The equivalent advertisement in Paul’s day would have been looking for someone entirely different:

A lover of Jesus Christ;
Able to provide a reasonable apologetic
And refute error;
Prepared to go anywhere for the gospel,
Suffer any trial and pain,
Even to be beaten and imprisoned;
Ready to die for Jesus at a moment’s notice.
Once again we see that the ways of God are not the ways of men.

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