This afternoon, the Pastor Search Commmittee that I am on presented a candidate for Senior Pastor of our church, FBCH. While originally scheduled for our fellowship hall, the event was moved to the main auditorium to accomodate what we were hoping was going to be a large crowd. We were not disappointed. The main floor of the room was basically full, with approximately 500 people in attendance. The candidate gave a brief testimony of how God has brought him to this point in his life while the PSC collected written questions from those in attendance.
The PSC, with a few of the deacons, then read each question and sorted them into rough categories. For instance, if one question was about his thoughts regarding the use of a choir or organ and another question was regarding our diferent worship services, we rolled them all up into the category of worship style preference. Even after attempting to group questions together we had a table filled with note cards. Knowing that we only had an hour and a half to have questions answered, we chose to ask those categories that had received the most questions first, working our way to the outliers if we had time.
We were very careful to not discriminate against any questions based on how difficult they might be for the candidate to answer, and sent several questions to the microphone that revolved around some hot-button issues in our church. This man answered question after question for the entire time, answering somewhere around 20 questions in the allotted time. Naturally, this meant that the content of some of he estimated 100 received questions was not touched upon, but considering the amount of questions we had received I feel we consolidated and touched upon as many popular issues as possible.
It was hard to read some of the questions and not get upset or angry with whomever had submitted it. Some of the "questions" were accusations against the PSC and the current leadership of the church. Some of the "questions" were loaded down with so much animosity in the wording that you didn't want to ever read them again, let alone "ask" this man in front of other people. Some of the "questions" had absolutely nothing to do with this man, but reflected a bitterness and anger toward the church for some previous decision or perceived slight. It was heartbreaking to know that someone in that room had a heart so full of this mess that they felt compelled to write it down for us to read.
For the most part the questions were born out of a genuine curiousity or desire to learn more about the candidate. Most of the questions we received centered around issues of vision for the church, leadership style and methods of delivery, all of which I believe this man answered honestly, openly and without hesitation. I feel as if most people in attendance appreciated the opportunity to hear from this man his stance on a variety of issues.
This day, as much as any other since I have been a part of this church, allowed me to catch a glimpse of the attitudes and hearts of the members of this body. I was not at all suprised by what I saw. I found us to be a body comprised of broken people living broken lives, attempting to seek out the man God would have lead us in the future. It's not an easy process and sometimes it isn't pretty to see a bunch of nastiness written down in ink on an index card, but that is a reflection of where some of our people are at this moment.
Overall, I think the event was a success. People had some of their questions answered and for most people, that was enough. As I looked around the room, it struck me that there were a lot of people standing around, deep in conversation. I cannot say that everyone was talking about what they had just heard, but I am sure that is what most people were discussing. I cannot say that everyone who was discussing the candidate was doing so in a positive manner, but I am sure most people were. In that moment, looking around the sanctuary, the thought crossed my mind that I could not remember the last time this many people stayed around after a service or event and talked. In my 10 years at the church I do not ever recall that many people lingering around after an event. It wasn't just that they had hung around for a bit trying to figure out where to go for dinner, but that they had stayed for a long time discussing something of importance. It is in that moment that I caught a glimpse of what I hope will be the future of our church.
I want to see people impacted by what they see and hear on Sunday mornings. I want people to stand around and talk after a message and discuss the topic at length. I want to see people taking the time to invest in others through conversation and relationship building. Most importantly, I want to see people's lives changed through not simply the power of the Word of God being boldly proclaimed from the pulpit but also through the evidence of God's presence in our lives as we live day by day. This is my desire for our church.