Towards vulnerability and transformation in the church
The parable of the 1 percent church
What might Jesus say about our churches’ process of selecting a pastor?
by Mihee Kim-Kort
And the disciples came to Jesus each asking: “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told them another parable:
“There was a church that sought a pastor to be its head of staff.
It was an immaculate church with gorgeous windows that let in a particularly divine light on Sunday mornings. Its floors gleamed so spotless that the reflection from the lights overhead made you feel as though you walked on heights. The walls were pure and bright, unstained by even the stickiest of children’s hands. The carpet was lush, and the dimmers were extravagant. It had an abundance of resources at its fingertips, and it professed to be ready to do a new thing.
Over the span of some months the search committee looked to three potential ministers. One was young and charismatic. Another level headed and reasonable. Still another with impressive academic credentials and experience. All three entered these conversations with uncertainty, but equally trusted God’s call, hopeful and open to the movement of God’s spirit.
The church interviewed the first candidate but immediately dropped all communications. The church interviewed the second candidate and expressed enthusiasm, but the older members of the committee doubted whether the candidate would be able to perform weekly. The church interviewed the third candidate but the committee faltered and splintered into two camps when asked what they hoped for in their head of staff.
After some time, none of the candidates was chosen, or perhaps they were at one point—no one seemed able to get a straight story from anyone on the committee.
To which candidate was the church a neighbor?”
The disciples could not come up with an answer. Was this an issue of disorganization or miscommunication? Was the search committee simply too large and mismanaged by its chairs? Was the church unaware of what was appropriate? Was the church confused about what it ultimately wanted in its pastor and thus divided?
Or perhaps, one disciple suggested, the members of this church were simply too afraid. Too afraid to trust any of the candidates with their precious resources. Too afraid of losing control of their portfolios. Too afraid of the true cost of discipleship. They couldn’t risk their resources, their social standing on just anyone . . . and so, they had no one.
Or maybe they were just rude.
“Let anyone with ears to hear, listen!”
And he said:
“Pay attention. The measure you give will be the measure you get back. Money and resources only lead you so far, and your downfall is the way privilege turns people into commodities and makes your resources more important than God’s love or prophecy. For it is the church that deals with its earnest pastors genuinely that will ultimately carry out the will of God’s kingdom and experience the joy of mutual ministry.”
Mihee Kim-Kort is a Presbyterian pastor and UKirk college minister at Indiana University in Bloomington.