Monday, May 18, 2015

"Well, I sometimes get mad" the prospective pastor told the search committee in answer to the second of the pair of questions that every search committee asks.

The first question is, "What is your strong point?"

"Preaching, I suppose" answered the candidate. Fair enough. The man might be Spurgeon indeed or he might not be able to preach his way out of a flimsy paper bag but at least the search committee and eventually the church will get to listen and judge for themselves. The worst that could be said about this answer is that the brother seriously overestimates himself.

The second question was, "What would you say is your weak point?"

At this that the pastor candidate paused for a bit of rumination and then answered that he sometimes got mad.

Surely, the committee explored this further. Surely, the committee discussed this among themselves in private without the candidate being present. Surely, surely, the committee went back to the candidate's primary and secondary references and tried to learn more. Did the man have a problem with his temper, temperament, his inability to be patient with others including deacons, church leaders, his congregation, and his family? Some illumination and expansion are demanded.

The committee conducted the degree of due diligence they thought appropriate after which they invited the man to preach in view of a call. The church called him. He accepted and soon moved to the field.

In due time the committee and the unsuspecting new congregation learned first hand about their new pastor and his problem with anger. The brother seemed to get mad over the slightest item that didn't suit him. He was indignant over the most insignificant church decision. He showed his unguarded temper over any occasion when the deacons, church committee, church leader, or congregation failed to accede to his desires.

After about a year, the pastor, having alienated all the constituent groups in the church through his anger, his angry preaching, his anger in committees, left the church for a fresh field in which to display his inability to control his anger.

A few observations:

1. Inappropriate anger is deadly to ministry. Since search committees are known not to do a thorough job, a minister who has a problem with anger can lurch from church to church for decades, leaving all of them worse off than before.

2. If an honest candidate discloses that this is an issue, a weak point, the committee had better find third parties that can move the matter from a general disclosure to specific incidents. Does the man expect everything to go his way? Are deacons expected to fall in line and never disagree? Is he someone who tolerates no disagreement without exploding in anger?

3. Do young pastors have as their role model they type of brother who has built a mega-church and who is the unquestioned CEO - his word is the first and last word? There is a market for such pastor/CEOs but not in most Southern Baptist churches.

4. If a pastor gets angry at his church, his deacons, his committees, it is to be expected that his wife and children likely gets worse treatment in the privacy of the parsonage? I'm guessing that it is likely, and lamentable.

5. Is there a solution for an angry pastor? Sure. Several SBC entities offer free counseling. An older, wiser (even a younger and wiser) minister can help. Anger management techniques can be learned.

6. I get the feeling that some of my colleagues think that to be indignant and angry is a virtue, that it shows passion for the Lord and His work. Maybe 1% of the time this is true. Church people just see a preacher/pastor who is given to childish tantrums, hardly the expression of Christian virtue.

7. In most churches there is a layman who has the interpersonal skills to approach and help the angry young man/pastor in a non-confrontational, non-threatening manner. It is a sign of maturity and wisdom for the pastor to recognize such people and give them a hearing.

8. I'm not much into psychobabble but a guy that gets angry all the time probably has something messed up. Maybe he is depressed. Maybe something else.

The people on the search committee that heard the prospective pastor admit to anger issues will never not pay attention if another brother makes the same admission.


Unknown said...

Good thoughts, all. Your words remind me (again) of how selectively we Baptists tend to apply the pastoral qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3. It's my experience that we get our plow-points hung up in the "husband of one wife" thing, but pass very lightly over other items in the list. According to Paul, an overseer ought to be temperate, not given to excess in any area of life. (Have you ever seen grossly over-weight pastors? I have.) The apostle further says that such men should be self-controlled, which certainly would seem to disqualify those who are habitually and publicly angry. Then there's the qualification that the overseer must be gentle and non-violent; if we take Paul seriously, then pugnaciousness is a deal-breaker for a man desiring to enter the pastorate. Emerson wrote that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, so perhaps that's why we don't worry much about those long as we make sure a pastoral candidate has only been married once. (Tongue firmly planted in cheek on that last sentence.)

Louis J.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything you said. Now I'm waiting for the blog post about angry deacons and/or church members.