Hermits Rock

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Several years ago I headed a ministerial job search for a small Church of Christ in a college town that has long been in competition with Princeton, NJ, for having one of the most-educated populations in the United States. Its people are Midwestern—slow to confrontation, private, polite. (I fit in pretty well here.) Our job ad tried to reflect these realities, but inevitably, we received many applications from men who simply weren’t qualified. Far be it from me to offer job advice to those wishing to be pulpit ministers, but prospective pulpit ministers, take my advice: know your audience. If a church’s job ad makes it clear that the church wants to witness to a community that supports an R1 institution, but all you have is a degree from the Bear Valley Bible Institute and have no desire to earn an accredited degree or, for that matter, read books, then you probably shouldn’t apply. You’re not a good fit.

Other applications were simply weird. Several we received would feature FAQ lists that identified the applicant as an orthodox believer. The questions made certain that well-worn exegetical ruts from the prohibition of instruments to the proper abuse of change agents would have no chance to become overgrown. Other applications included long autobiographies that touted the applicants’ personal histories, family ties, and Church of Christ bona fides. Looking through my files the other day, I came upon one of the autobiographers’ applications and realized that our recent (brief) discussion of cover letters would be a completely foreign discussion to its writer. Where we emphasized brevity, he wrote a 4-page, single-spaced cover letter and tacked onto the end a 3-page, single-spaced autobiography. Where we emphasized writing our letters to readers, he wrote to everyone and no one at all. Where we might consider brevity and clarity to be virtues for any good cover letter—well, you can see for yourself:

Mr. Laydon B. Syde1
Stillwater, Oklahoma2

My name is Laydon B. Syde. I am a minister in the Church of Christ since 19—.3 I am a family man who has been married for twenty-something years as of November 5, 2003 to a very lovely and sweet wife. We have two children and one beautiful grandson. I am a graduate of a small, accredited Christian college and a third year seminary student who has finished with his finial4 semester of schooling. I completed my Masters of Divinity at a seminary in the month of May 2004.

The main purpose of this letter is to inform you that I am presently searching for a full time ministering position. My hope and prayer is that if you are not presently searching for a minister, that you would bring to my attention any ministering positions you might be aware of that need filling or pass this information on to a congregation in need of a full time minister.5 I consider myself to be a motivational speaker, and an energetic evangelist in my zeal for God with proven abilities in encouragement, teaching, counseling and outreach. I am seriously searching for a congregation who is interested in helping everyone to fit in. I believe that each and every member plays a vital role in the work of the church. I am hoping for a congregation, which has a strong desire to be Christ centered and doctrinally sound as I myself am a spiritually mature person who is scripturally sound, Christ centered, and capable of presenting effective sermons, teaching well prepared yet thought provoking bible classes and working well with all facets of the congregation. I have yet to find a community, which I cannot relate to well. I am interested in beginning a long-term work/commitment with a congregation, which can be progressive, yet maintaining a strong desire to uphold the Word of God with a willingness to evangelize its local community. I love participating in and encouraging member-led in-home bible studies. I believe in making disciples by bringing the lost to Christ Jesus and keeping the saints saved through strong teaching and strong, yet consistent indoctrination of the Word of God. The Lord and I cannot tolerate “Status Quo” (falling short of the Word) or “Extreme Liberalism” (going beyond the Word). My hope is to serve in a congregation where my family and I can be a part of a team, and can develop a relationship with the congregation as we all work together to equip God’s people for his service. I consider myself to be well grounded in the faith, people oriented, compassionate and I love teaching and preaching God’s holy and divine word. I am hoping for a congregation, which is grace-based, yet progressive in thought and teaching while retaining the utmost respect for the Word of God. I am looking for a long-term work with a congregation that is willing to work with a minister who has vision. I believe I possess excellent leadership skills, which have been previously demonstrated and I have a genuine love for the lost souls of this world. I lead a godly lifestyle and I have the ability to work in a team environment. I am more than capable of expounding on the scriptures and this I do with a passion and compassion. I have a strong work ethic, which is driven by the love I have for God and his word. I believe that I exercise sound judgments and that I have the ability to relate to and work effectively with a wide diversity of people. I am a faithful, dedicated, and a godly man who is looking forward to strengthening the saved and seeking the lost. I believe myself to be a dynamic personality who will be able to work with and assist the elders and leaders of a congregation in managing plans for growth, both spiritually and numerically. I hold a degree in Bible and Religious Education from my small accredited college, which is a nationally known Church of Christ School. I am presently in the process of finishing up my Masters of Divinity Degree with another nationally known school located in the city I live in now. However, I realize that the ministry involves more than just education. Therefore I also have seventeen years of experience in the ministry, as my autobiography will show.6

I believe in declaring the full counsel of the gospel. I believe that Jesus is Lord and this is reflected in my teachings and ministry. I teach and preach both the love of God as well as the severity of our God.7 I strive to help people to come to know God through the person of Jesus Christ his Son. I also believe that the most effective ministry often comes through personal relationships and is best achieved by building trust. I declare the Word of God to the purpose of encouraging the saints, persuading the lost to come to Christ and refuting doctrinal error. I will bend over backwards to teach anyone who has a sincere desire to learn about God and his Word. I consider myself to be an excellent training minister for the entire church. I am a firm believer that God blesses those who he can send blessings through. Therefore, I know that God blessed me with the skills, talents, and knowledge, which I have received for the purpose of sharing with others. I believe that people come to church in order to get needs met. Those needs may be spiritual, (worship, bible classes, etc…), emotional (marital/relationship problems, family problems, etc…) or physical (food, clothing, help on bills, etc…). Whatever the case may be, I believe in doing all within my power to make sure those needs are met.

I love children and I love working with children of all ages. Children are the future of the Church and how well we train and teach them will determine the quality of the Church of Christ in the future. I love the Marriage and Family Ministry. My philosophy in this area is simple. The church is made up of families, therefore, as the family goes, so goes the church….8 I can relate to all age groups.

The lord has blessed me to be an inspirational pulpit preacher, challenging teacher and the ability to build rapport with all age groups…. I have been exposed to many different ethnic groups and I was blessed to be able to relate to them all very easily. I have excellent communication skills both verbal and written9 as well as people skills…. I have also been blessed with excellent facilitation and administrative skills. I can work with most any leadership. I love training leaderships and potential leaders for the Lord’s Church. I have experience in working with diverse ethnic groups. I have been blessed with a genuine love and concern for the souls of all men. In my opinion, people are people and God expects me to teach all nations regardless of nationality or race and make disciples of them. I love working with and facilitating programs for the Educational Department of the Church…. I have trained Bible School Teachers, Deacons, Preachers, elders, and all levels of Christians…. I consider myself to be biblically sound in doctrine. I stay with the book. I firmly believe in speaking where the bible speaks and remaining silent where the bible is silent.10 I also possess excellent computer skills due to my previous career.

As you will notice, instead of a resume, I have included with this a mini autobiography of myself.11 This autobiography will give you an idea of some of my past experiences and qualifications. I am a professional in everything I do; especially where the Lord’s Church is concerned…. I know and realize that the Lord’s Church/Army is a Spiritual Army and that it must out of necessity be treated as such. My philosophy on this matter is also simple. As a leader of God’s People, I must be as tough as an alligator (for protection of the church, in guarding it against false doctrines, and false teachers, all the while I remain stern and steadfast in the teaching of the doctrines and pricniples of Christ), yet I must remain as gentle as a dove and exercise compassion when dealing with God’s precious saints. This and all my philosophies I live and abide by. I do not believe in force leading God’s people, but rather I believe in leading by example just like, the Lord Jesus did.

Please understand that I myself am nothing but a servant of God. His instrument if you would. Just a vessel which God has used from time to time to deliver the Good News of His Son Jesus the Christ to a lost and dying world. I hope and pray that in this letter, I do not come off as being arrogant or as a boastful man,12 because God knows, I am not. I am nothing but a sinner saved by the grace of God just like you. As a matter of fact, I am a minister, a servant; therefore, I am lower than the least in the Church. Please know and realize, that I felt that I had to give you as much information about myself as I could in order that you might have some idea s to who I am and what I am about. I believe that with the summary of this letter alone13 with the mini autobiography, which I have sent with it, you will be afforded an adequate opportunity to gather a good and sufficient idea as to who I am.

I thank you for your consideration and time for reading these documents. I am now available for a full time ministering position. I can be contacted at the address and phone numbers listed in the letterhead above. Upon your request, I am willing to come preach and teach for your congregation for an interview. I have sent a reference list with this document. Please feel free to contact any of the people on this list. Once again I thank you for your consideration. If you are searching for a minister who is capable of leading and guiding your congregation through growth both spiritually and numerically, I believe that I may very well be your man…. May God Almighty continue to bless you and your congregational family as we continue to fight this good fight of faith?14

Yours in Christ Jesus,

Lydon B. Syde
Minister in Christ

1 Not his real name.

2 Not his real residence.

3 To respect the writer’s anonymity, other identifying details have been changed or omitted.

4 All errors are attributable to the author.

5 It seems like a bad idea to insist up front that your reader pass your application on to someone else; however, perhaps that’s just me.

6 Mr. Syde has written enough. A little elaboration here, an anecdote there and this would have been a solid—though not great—letter. We might have considered giving him a call to find out more about him. But, as you can see, he’s not done yet.

7 Only at God’s most severe does God earn a plural possessive pronoun.

8 So you know: I’ve actually cut quite a bit.

9 Honestly: would anyone hire a pulpit preacher who so clearly doesn’t know when he’s said enough? Forcing Eutychus to fall out the window every week is just fleecing God.

10 Thank God he believes he should be silent with respect to something.

11 He’s taking some liberties with the truth in calling it mini.

12 Really: there’s no need to worry about that.

13 There’s a summary?

14 Yes! It does end with a question mark!



Why you wanna post this? Especially after I sent out cover letters that were 2 to 2 1/3 pages long?

Then again, I wasn’t looking for a ministering position….

Then again, I’m not “an energetic evangelist in my zeal for God” so maybe my loquaciousness was warranted.

On another note, a more theological note, I don’t think that the Bible teaches that people come together to get their needs met… I don’t see the Bible presenting God as That Which Meets Needs.

Well, you obviously didn’t care about the raising up and training of new leaderships for the Lord’s Church/Army is a Spiritual Army

Length isn’t this letter’s greatest problem, though it is a significant problem: I did cut a lot of it. Besides, even at 2.3 pages, your letters are of a different order of magnitude better than this.

And: I’m certain that’s not the only theologically suspect claim, here.

In all seriousness, it seems like he was stoned when he wrote this.

Holy crap. That is awful and it gives me a perverse amount of pleasure to see it in light of my own job search.

However, I think you made a grave mistake in not hiring this guy on the spot. Early on he says this: “The Lord and I cannot tolerate “Status Quo” (falling short of the Word) or “Extreme Liberalism” (going beyond the Word).”

He and the Big Guy are obviously working in concert. Why would you not want God’s Personal Hit Man?

Surely, you meant to say God’s personal middle man?

What I don’t get is how anyone let him get away with sending this out? Don’t seminaries have placement people who give advice about sending out professional applications? I realize that not everyone follows the advice given, but still…

so, at the beginning of october, i sent out a letter and c.v. to a school, that is all they asked for, and letters of rec, of course, they wanted it all done on-line. the deadline is the 15th of this month. i have yet to even get an reacknowledgment of their having received the material…

do i email the administrative assistant?

i would imagine, given his age, that he went cowboy on this one…

Emailing the admin assistant is how things are done where I am. Ours spends half her day watering plants and gossiping, and the other half fielding anxious phone calls from applicants.

Yeah, I’d e-mail. Otherwise, you’re giving them too many opportunities to be rude.

Speaking of our own job apps: I’m up for a work sample/interview!

whoo woo

They liked my work sample; interview’s on for next Monday.

Fingers crossed!