Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in church, church leadership, church members, churches, pastors | Posted on 06-11-2014
I’ve been out of ministry for over five years now and it had helped give me a refreshing insight to some of the things we do as churches.
One of these issues is the hiring process for pastors. Many churches don’t have a hiring process. But churches outside of denominations that have a system of bishops often employ the use of pulpit committees.
I’d like to call into question the typical use of pulpit committees and ask whether they are still effective. In the sense in which I’m asking, I’m talking about churches who have never stopped to question the “why” and “how” of their pulpit committee. Those churches who have no decided strategy on calling a pastor other than looking at his resume and qualifications.
It’s an important question to ask – actually, there are several important to questions to ask:
1. Who should be on the pulpit committee?
Pulpit committees are typically made up of a couple of church leaders, a trustee, a younger person, a member of the church who has been there for a while, and someone the church views as “very spiritual.” Now, I’m speaking in generalities here, because each church employs their own strategy. Some churches might have a staff-oriented view where the church leadership makes the decision. Some might employ a member from each committee from the church. Others might invite people from different age groups to sit in on the committee.
The real question is, “Who is qualified to choose the next pastor?” Many would say, “God should choose our next pastor.” Of course, but who in the church will dedicate themselves to the practice of prayer and discernment in order to reach that goal?
2. What qualifications should matter?
I’ve seen so many different ways for a church to choose a resume to look at. I saw a church receive 500 resumes. They then took a questionnaire about what the church members wanted in a pastor (ie., “What age should he be?” “What should his education be?” “How many children should he have?“) They narrowed down the results to the most popular in each category. They were able to get rid of all but 8 resumes. They were left with eight 50-something year old pastors with at least 15 years experience with at least two children, a seminary degree, who loved to preach, was willing to visit the elderly on a regular basis, and met at least 20 other specific categories.
I’ve also seen churches measure the success of a man by his education. I’ve also seen them decide education interfered terribly with spiritual development.
I’m reminded of God selecting David as King of Israel. David wasn’t even on the radar of men for the choice, but he was God’s choice. I understand that the analogy can break down at points, but there is a kernel of truth for us. If we don’t have spiritual discernment about a pastor and if we aren’t willing to look beyond his resume and look into his journey, we may miss some joy.
3. How are we going to ultimately choose a pastor?
Let me relate two stories to you. I saw a church pick out the perfect pastor for them. His resume was sharp, his interview was great, and his family looked awesome. His sermon in view of a call was outstanding. The pulpit committee had done their research, done several interviews, called his references, and been very thorough. He stayed there for a few years and moved on. Was it successful? I can’t measure that. But that happens all across America in churches every year.
Now let me tell you this story which may unnerve you a bit. I have a friend who goes to a Brethren church. If you aren’t familiar with the Brethren, they have Mennonite beliefs. They don’t practice the outward dressing lifestyle like Mennonites, but they have Reformed theology. They are big into sovereignty. Every two years, they rotate in their new elders. My friend was up to be considered as an elder.
For the election, they cast lots. Yes. They cast lots. Biblical? Absolutely, look it up. There were four worthy men to take two extra elder positions. They held a solemn ceremony where four Bibles were placed on an altar and in each of them was a piece of paper. On two of them were black dots. Each man was to choose a Bible. If they got the black dot, they were an elder.
When my friend was describing this to me, I said, “Are you serious? How can you leave it up to chance like that?”
He said, “We believe God is sovereign. All four men are qualified. If God is in control of all things, the right men will choose the right Bibles.”
Now, you’re probably not going to be choosing your pastor that way. But those are two ends of the spectrum. How we decide to choose church leadership is important. And it’s important for us to know why we chose our leadership that way.
Ultimately, the way we choose our leadership needs to be biblical. It needs to be dependent upon God. It needs to factor out our personal feelings about what we think the church needs and what God wants for our fellowship.
I can’t tell you how many times over the past five years I’ve seen a church fire a 40-year old pastor to either hire someone just like him or someone his exact opposite. That’s why returning our hearts to God and looking among the luggage is so important when we are looking for a leader. We might just be surprised.
Book: In Search of God’s Man: A Help for Pulpit Committees, by Douglas Devore
Helps for Pulpit Committees, by David Cox
The Top 5 Mistakes of Pulpit Committees, by Baptist Bulletin
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Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.
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