Body, Mind & Spirit

I have a number of clergy friends who serve in other denominations. While there is certainly no perfect church polity or procedure, I’ve come to appreciate the fact that we United Methodist pastors don’t have to search for a pulpit – and congregations don’t have to solicit candidates and review clergy resumes and applications. Even as I write this, I know of four or five congregations who have been seeking a pastor for the better part of three years. And I can name four or five pastors who are seeking pulpits but are getting no offers.

It seems like both parish and pastor could get together. But therein lays the problem.

Last week, I visited one of the top Internet “church job” sites – a kind of eHarmony for servants of Jesus, and let me tell you, it’s a meat market out there.

Take, for example, a congregation who touts their wares like this: “Older, progressive church in suburban neighborhood looking to hook up with young associate pastor, who will lead outreach-evangelism, dynamic youth ministry, and couples-singles groups. If you have exceptional communication skills, a strong back, and can survive on cans of pork ’n beans and double our membership in one year, please apply.”

Please believe me, this isn’t much of an exaggeration from some of the actual listings.

Or how about all of those pastors out there who post their head shot photographs, usually with suit and tie, on the Internet along with a resume that reads something like: “SBC pastor with 30-plus years experience seeks any pulpit that doesn’t move. Five-plus years of sermons already prepared. I excel at hospital visitation and burying the dead. I can do the occasional wedding, too. E-mail me on my Blackberry and let’s hook up at Starbucks and see if we’re meant for each other.”

I don’t know about my other UM lay and clergy peers, but all of these resumes and vacancies fill me with sadness. In spite of our peculiarities and weaknesses as a people, at least we have each other when the chips are down.

But, in the event I might have to post a resume to do the Lord’s work some day, I’ll just go ahead and submit my personal vitae now: “Slightly insane UM pastor eager to tango with any congregation crazy enough to have him. Married with children. This pastor exercises daily on a 30-year-old Nordic track he purchased at a garage sale for $20, and he can eat an entire can of cashews in a single sitting. Makes great green-bean casseroles for shut-ins. He has his own wardrobe, including clergy robe and stole, but can ‘dress down’ if you need to see more skin. Contact me on and let’s see if we were meant to sing ‘Kum-Ba-Yah’ together.”

Todd Outcalt is the senior pastor at Calvary United Methodist Church in Brownsburg and the author of 20 books published in five languages. His upcoming book, The Ultimate Christian Living, will be published in March by Health Communications, and includes essays by or about Rick Warren, Max Lucado, Billy Graham, Linda McCoy, Kent Millard and Bishop Will Willimon, among others.

… we have each other when the chips are down.