Choosing a Pastor
As I write this article, there are many strong churches that are without a pastor. It is amazing to me how many churches have recently had a man of God step down and have been thrust into the process of choosing a pastor. This scares me because many churches have never been properly trained on how to look for a pastor. Throughout the years I have helped many churches go through the process of choosing a pastor. The one thing I always caution them with is that they want to find a man of God, the man whom God wants for their church.
I remember Dr. Jack Hyles telling the story about how he was called to be pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. He was pastoring a thriving church in Dallas, Texas, when he received a phone call from a man who asked him if he would candidate for the First Baptist Church in Hammond. He didn’t want the job and told them he wouldn’t consider it. After contacting Bro. Hyles many times,
they asked him if he would at least pray about it. He promised that he would at least pray about it. Bro. Hyles said that he really didn’t want to go, but he prayed a short prayer and told God he prayed about it. Through a series of events, Bro. Hyles eventually took the pastorate at the First Baptist Church in Hammond, and the rest is history. If this church would have been as careless about finding a pastor as many churches are today, they would have never had Bro. Hyles as their pastor and many would not have been influenced in a mighty way under his ministry.
Let me remind you that God always has a specific man of God for a specific place. You can get any man of God to pastor a church, but you want the specific man of God for your specific place. David was the specific man of God for Israel. Elijah was the man of God Israel needed. Elisha was that man of God to take over after Elijah went to Heaven. God prepared Moses to guide Israel through the wilderness, and He also prepared Joshua to carry them into and through the Promised Land. God will always have a man of God; it is your job to get God’s mind to find that man of God for your place.
One of the most important decisions that a church will ever face is the process of choosing a pastor. The man whom you choose to be your pastor will determine the future of your children and grandchildren. This decision should never be taken lightly. Too often churches rush through this process only to choose someone they later regret. If they would have been more deliberate in the process of choosing a pastor, they would have found that right man.
The desire of every church should be to find a man of God. The choosing of a pastor should not be a beauty contest, but it should be a quest to find the man whom God has prepared to pastor your church. You must be careful about who you even bring in to candidate because you don’t want the church to fall in love with the wrong man. If those who are in charge of finding a man do their work before, then the wrong person will never be brought in to candidate. This doesn’t mean that the first person that is presented to the church is the right man, but if the man is vetted before he is brought in, then you won’t have a man who will change the direction of a church.
The process of choosing a pastor should not be a quick process. I was a member of a church in the past that was too quick in choosing a pastor, and they chose a man who changed the direction of that church. The direction of the previous man of God was biblical, but because they were too quick in the process, they chose a man who didn’t have the same direction that they were taught for years. Let me make this clear, one of the most important things you learn about a man before you bring him in is his direction. His direction will ultimately determine where you will end up spiritually. Whenever you look for a pastor, I believe there are several things you should consider about this man before you even ask him to come candidate.
1. Start the process out with prayer.
I am amazed how this is the most avoided part in the search for a new pastor. Choosing a new pastor should never be approached flippantly. It should be such an intense search that you start it out by getting God involved. I believe that before the pulpit committee ever discusses one man that they should have a prayer meeting for God to guide them. I am not talking about a five minute prayer of guidance, I am talking about the whole purpose of the first meeting should be to pray for God’s wisdom and guidance in the choosing of a pastor. Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:” God will never help you to find the right man if you don’t ask in prayer. Furthermore, James 1:5 says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” You need God’s wisdom to find the right man, and you will only get it through prayer.
Moreover, I think it is wise that the church calls several prayer meetings so that the church can get the mind of God in choosing a pastor. These prayer meetings should be for nothing else other than praying. No one needs to bring refreshments, it is a time of prayer. It is not a preaching service, but a prayer service. The church needs to pray that God would prepare the man’s heart who He wants to pastor their church to accept their invitation. They also need to pray that God will prepare their heart to accept this new pastor.
2. Don’t accept any resumé of a man who called wanting the position.
It is imperative that you understand that anybody calling wanting to be your pastor should immediately be taken off the list for consideration. The man you want will be busy in his own ministry. He won’t be looking for a “step up” in the ministry. If a man is willing to look around for another church while he is pastoring, then you can rest assured that he will look for a “better place” once he has been with you for awhile. God says in Proverbs 25:6-7, “Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men: For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.” The right man will not be looking to go somewhere else, he will only be looking to do what he is supposed to do in his present place.
3. Get at least three men to consider.
The search for a pastor should not be a beauty contest, but it should be a search for a man of God. However, I believe before you call a man to candidate, it would be wise to consider at least three men. In the business world it is a known fact to get three bids before choosing a bid. Likewise, you need at least three people whom you would consider looking at to be a candidate for your pastor. Let me make this clear, you will only bring in one at a time, but I believe a list of men would be good to talk about.
When you gather a list of three men, after you have researched each man you should put them in the order of which you believe is best. Then you start at the top of the list and ask that man to come and candidate in your church. The church will then vote on that man, and if he doesn’t get enough votes or if he declines the invitation to pastor, then go to the next man on the list.
4. Do you know this man?
Now I know that the pulpit committee won’t know everyone, but they should have some wise men who have been around the fundamental Baptist movement for years who know this man. If nobody knows about this man, then this should bring concern about with whom he has been associated. I believe the pulpit committee should have wise men from the outside who gain nothing from this process to give them names. This will help you to bring in people who are of the same philosophy and direction of your church.
5. Have you seen his work?
It is important that you know what this man has done before you call him to candidate. If this man is currently pastoring, then have a couple of men who the church trusts to go and see the work. If he is not currently pastoring, then ask seasoned men of God about this man. They may know something about this man that you will never find out on your own. Call previous churches where this man has pastored and at least find out why he left. If he is an evangelist, then look at that man and see what he has built. I have a good pastor friend in Texas who was an evangelist for many years before he took the church he now pastors. This church could see that this man was a solid fundamentalist who had built a great ministry. It is imperative that you look at the man’s past work.
6. Do you know what he believes?
DON’T EVER call in a man if you don’t know what he believes. You should never consider a man of God if no one knows where he stands on the main doctrines. Philippians 4:5 says, “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” The word “moderation” is talking about one’s beliefs. A man of God who hides what he believes is a man of God who can’t be trusted. If you call in a man who has the wrong beliefs, you risk the church falling in love with him. Then you will have a problem!
7. Have you heard him preach?
In the technology world in which we live, there is no reason that you shouldn’t be able to get some sermons that this man has preached. You should listen to several sermons and not just one. One sermon doesn’t define a man. However, you can find out a lot about the man if you will listen to four or five sermons. Listen to a Sunday morning and Sunday night sermon. If you can, get a Wednesday night sermon as well. Listen to three or four weeks of sermons so you can find out what kind of preacher he is. Is he a topical preacher or a preacher who goes verse by verse and exegetes the Scriptures? My opinion is that a topical preacher is the best preacher. My reason for saying this is because you wouldn’t go to a doctor who goes through his medicine cabinet and picks up the next medication on the shelf. The next medication may hurt you, or it may not help your current problem. A topical preacher is like the doctor who diagnoses the problem, and then give a prescription for the sickness. The topical preacher will weekly give the people what they need for that week. You don’t need a preacher who simply preaches a sermon, you need a preacher who will preach the message from God that the people need that week.
8. Is he a personal soul winner?
This will knock out many men. Proverbs 11:30 says, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.” Sadly, there are many preachers who rarely lead anyone to Christ. I recently talked to a pastor who asked missionaries how many people they led to Christ in the past year. He told me that there were many preachers who only led ten people to Christ. That is sad! If the preacher won’t be a soul winner, then the church won’t be a soul-winning church. If the preacher isn’t a soul winner, then he won’t have the wisdom necessary to help his church. You want a man to lead the church who has a burden for souls. The degree of a man’s soul winning will determine the degree that he has an outward vision verses an inward vision that is looking more for transfers than he is new converts. Personal soul winning should not be an option. It is a must in choosing a man of God.
9. Does he understand Sunday school philosophy?
Sunday school is the ministry that goes hand-in-hand with the Great Commission. Part of the Great Commission is discipling. Having a good understanding of Sunday school is important if you want your church to grow. Thriving independent Baptist churches are built on soul winning and Sunday school. Soul winning gives you prospects to fill the Sunday schools so that you can train them to send them back out. Sadly, very few men have a good understanding of Sunday school. If they only have a few Sunday school classes in the church where they currently pastor, then I can promise you they don’t understand Sunday school philosophy. If a church averages a couple hundred, but only has a couple adult Sunday school classes, then again they probably don’t have a good understanding of Sunday school philosophy. If you want your church to continue to grow and reach the lost for Christ, then the man you choose needs to have a good understand of how to build the Sunday school.
10. What are his standards?
A man’s standards are important because they will define whether this man practices biblical separation and holiness. The man you choose to be pastor should not believe that standards are only for church, but he should believe that standards are for the home as well. Don’t choose a man who has lower standards than the church currently has. If anything, choose a man whose standards are higher. I would rather a man pull me up to his level than have a man who will pull me down.
11. Who would he have as guest preachers?
Whenever choosing a pastor, it is important to find out who he would invite as guest preachers. This is important because pastors usually choose their friends to be guest speakers. If they would invite men of God who are weak, then that means he is considering a weaker stance. Ask him to give you five names of preachers he would want to invite as a guest preacher in your church. Who he puts on that list will highly define his direction and philosophy of ministry.
12. What colleges would he suggest?
Bible colleges show a man’s direction. I don’t believe that a man only has to have one college that he pushes, but I do believe you need to know where he would counsel your children to go to Bible college. If he promotes a college that is liberal, then you can rest assured that he will eventually take the church in that direction. The colleges a man pushes define his school of thought.
13. Is he a builder?
You don’t want a man who will only maintain the work, but you want a man who will build the work. A man who will maintain lacks in vision and work ethic. A man who has great vision will desire to take the church to new heights. He won’t be satisfied with the present size of the church, but he will want to take the church to new heights by building it.
14. Does he have a good family?
When you choose a man to be your pastor, you are also choosing his family. If he has family problems, then your church will be infested with family problems. One of the requirements of a pastor is that he “…ruleth well his own house,…” (1 Timothy 3:4) This man must not have the idea that the ministry goes before his family. This is detrimental to all! He must be of the philosophy that family comes first before the ministry. I have watched too many men of God who have put the ministry before their family to the detriment of their children and marriage. You want a man of God who is strong on the family, for the strength of the church is the family.
Choosing a pastor will be one of the most important decisions you will make in your life. Don’t take anyone’s word about a man, know these things for yourself. Choosing a man of God will affect your family for generations to come. By the way, these principles will apply when you are moving your family to a church. When you choose the right man of God to lead your church and home, it will lead to God’s blessings. Be very deliberate in your choosing of a man of God to pastor your church.