Introduction Candidating at a church for a pastoral position is like going on a first date and then getting married. In a matter of weeks a candidate goes through the interview process and ends up as the pastor of a church. Virkler observes: “Probably a single sermon, or even a single day, is too short a time for a pastor or a congregation to interact enough to know whether their expectations of each other are compatible.” But, for most churches, this is the process — the only process.The key for seminarians and pastors in search of God’s call in a church is to be sensitive to the dynamics involved and to trust the Lord though it.

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The Beauty Pageant To the candidate, the entire candidating process may seem like a Preacher’s Beauty Contest. They contact the denominational office or have other means of communicating a vacancy, including internet search sites. This section of the article deals with what happens when an opening occurs at a church. For most churches, the need for filling the pulpit comes with the departure of the pastor who goes to another church. Some churches transition well from one pastor to another, while others struggle.

The committee takes resumes and conducts interviews. But we are comforted with the reminder that God is sovereign in processes even like this one. Yet, churches wrestle with departures because of the death of a minister, a pastor is called to another ministry, is terminated, or the church experienced a scandal. This is where good interim pastoral ministry becomes invaluable.

Congregations usually experience an interim period from nine to twelve months.

The candidating process can be a significant spiritually maturing experience.

For the seminarian, there may be a “great gulf fixed” between the academy and the church.

Expectations exist on both sides, some of which are real, while others are imagined.

The sooner the seminarian comes to grips with the differences between people and books, the better.

But sometimes these lessons are not learned until one is planted in the church and no longer in the classroom.

This article is concerned primarily with the candidating sermon and is written with the seminarian in mind.

The fledgling preacher needs to be aware of what takes place as he or she prepares to enter the pastorate.

I will walk through the process of candidating considering some of the elements that build into the time when he or she preaches for a call before a congregation.