Recently, a retired pastor explained to me how he secured his first call. There was a catalog of open positions published and ministers could read through and find their next position. Résumés were sent via “snail mail,” interviews were often held – if at all – by expensive, long-distance phone call and a position was offered. It seemed crazy to me to find a call in much the same way that one would order a new serving platter from Sears.
Today we have so much more technology and many more capabilities. PDFs of Pastor Information Forms (PIFs) sail through email, preachers are viewed on YouTube, interviews are held via Skype. Affordable air travel makes bringing in candidates more feasible. Yet as different as those times are, two things unite them: anxiety and providence.
I have no doubt that churches, then, were nervous – nervous about the interim and nervous about who the next minister might be. Even with all our technology, I know that churches today still feel the same way. Everyone is looking for assurance.
This assurance comes from the second part of what holds these time periods together: God’s providence. It is our good God who moves pastors about to where God yearns for them to serve. This was true then and this is true now.
The articles in the current issue of Presbyterian Outlook have all been written with this understanding of both congregational anxiety and God’s providence. In these pages, the reality of the former will not be denied. Whether your church is in an active transition or not, these articles will reveal how God works in the transitions just as faithfully as in stability. Indeed, we hope these articles will demonstrate that often God’s providence is far more visible in the transitions.
JEFFREY A. SCHOOLEY is the pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Marysville, Ohio.