“This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a [pastor], he desireth a good work. A [pastor] then must be…”?
There seems to be two models that a church follows in choosing a pastor or we should say there are two models that a church could follow. One is the default which is elect men to a pulpit committee and let them bring before the church acceptable candidates. The other is a little more controversial. This one gives the responsibility of naming a new pastor to the departing pastor. The church has entrusted their spiritual well being to this departing pastor so why not continue to trust him with his replacement. If the departing pastor is being removed due to spiritual, moral, or ethical inefficiencies then he is, of course denied this responsibility. The choice would then fall to the associate pastor or the lead elder. This is modeled after Christ, the Ascending Shepherd naming Peter as His choice to “feed [His] Sheep/lambs as well as Paul naming the man to take his place when he moved on to plant other churches.
The trouble with the democratic styled pulpit committee is that each member may have a different idea of what a pastor should be and different goals for the church. Sometimes members can be led by feelings and will try to overthrow the process if their guy is not chosen or will sow discord if they have differences of opinion with another member. These members would have different life experiences that may greatly color their views. Also some may extend this process to hold onto their position of responsibility and control.
Having said all of that we will now give unsought counsel to churches and pulpit committees. This counsel comes from experience and close observation. We have served upon a pulpit committee in the past and know the rigors thereof. We have also observed others pulpit committees in action. We are therefore confident in our counsel. Our counsel will also be Scripturally sound. Our counsel is as follows:
The church would do well to be involved in the process. Some ways for the church to be involved are by requiring a report naming all candidates and the reasons for their elimination. This will keep the committee accountable to their decisions.
The church should be prepared and be capable of replacing members of the pulpit committee if the process is becoming problematic.
If the church has a deacon board the pulpit committee should not be made up of exclusively deacons. There is a reason some joke about a deacon board being a demon board.
The church should require the candidate to preach only new sermons or to bring only new messages. Most candidates will preach “sugar sticks.” The sugar stick is a sermon/message preached many times and is brought to perfection. Sugar sticks do not give a true picture of the potential. The minister under consideration should preach (5) five messages and end with a rigorous and lengthy Q and A in view of the church. This should not be problematic for a man of God who walks with God and receives from God. A schedule could look like this. Friday night, Saturday morning/evening, Sunday School/Sunday morning . Sunday night should be given the the rigorous Q and A. After all how much can a church learn from one message.
Some questions should include:
- What direction would you take the church?
- Can you define prayer?
- Would you describe your prayer life?
- What are your views on evangelism?
- How has your ministry changed over the years?
- Have any of your Scriptural views changed over time?
- Do you have any regrets?
- How do you see your role as pastor?
- Why are you seeking this pastorate?
- How would you feel we do not call you to pastor?
- What are your views on Bible schools?
- How do you understand Scripture on tithes and offerings?
- Could you define the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ?
- Who is Jesus Christ?
- Could you explain your understanding of the Trinity?
- What is Hell?
- Who are some of the authors you read?
- What does it mean to love one’s enemies?
- How much time do you spend in preparing for Sunday?
- Could you rate the following: The lost, witnessing, your family, your time spent with God, the church, and God’s glory?
The above (20) questions should give a good understanding of your candidate. The candidate’s answers should be listened to very carefully and he must not be allowed to answer questions vaguely. His body language should be read as well see 2 King 8:11,12. The congregation should be afforded the opportunity to further question the potential pastor.
If the process makes slow progress the pulpit committee should address this with the church and encourage them to continue to persevere and to pray as this is a most important decision. If some do choose to leave do not allow the remaining church members to view them as defectors or false brethren. They should be considered saints on a different path.
If the pulpit committee seems to have become a stumbling block to the process the following might be considerations:
- Is the bar being held impossibly high?
- Are there some problems between members on the committee that is holding up the process?
- Is it possible a member has allowed his responsibility to be changed into a way to hold control and a respected position?
- Is the committee out of touch with the church membership?
- Should a member be replaced or should the committee be streamlined?
- Should the departed pastor be consulted?
- Does any one member hold too much control or power? Is there a member being overly intimidating?
- Is the committee using fallacies instead of Scripture to find the right man?
Some questions that might be asked potential pulpit committee members that could keep the process Scriptural and therefore on track:
- Could you define the position of pastor?
- What are the responsibilities of a pastor?
- What is more important God’s choice or yours? Read body language.
- Does the candidate have to be baptist?
- What are some deal breakers?
- How long have you been attending this church?
- Would you share your testimony?
- Who holds the authority in the church after Christ? The pastor or the deacon/elder board?
- How would you respond if you were asked to resign your position on the pulpit committee?
- How long will this process take?
- Would you allow the new pastor to make big changes if they had Scriptural support?
The above (11) questions could be adapted to become questions the potential pastor could ask the committee.
After all is said and done the faithful members on the committee or the departed pastor (depending on the model chosen) should be held in high honours as they have proven to be men that care for your spiritual well being.
To those who have serves on a pulpit committee, well done and thank you. To those serving presently, God be with you and may He grant wisdom liberally. To those that will be members on a pulpit committee, Godspeed.