This is not an easy question to answer. Well, no, actually, it is easy to answer. The problem is that the answer is not easy for most to do.
The biblical model appears to be that a local congregation should raise up their leaders. There are entry level tasks a person can do in church. If they show themselves faithful, then they can be a more official deacon. If this stage goes well, then the elder role is a possibility.
Paul’s biblical qualifications for pastors and deacons should be the main criteria. Here is the first problem people run into: the Pauline qualifications are all moral character issues. There is no way you can know this about anyone unless they have been in the church for a while.
Here is a second problem: not all churches agree with the deacon and elder roles of church government (I have no desire to argue this issue incidentally).
Here is a third problem: there are many people who don’t like Paul’s qualifications. They are awful male sounding! Pastors’ kids have a bad reputation. According to Paul, a pastor who doesn’t have his kids in subjection shouldn’t be a pastor. The whole “husband of one wife” deal, is this divorce and remarriage or polygamy (I have no desire to argue these issues incidentally)?
If churches got rid of all pastors who did not meet Paul’s qualifications, you’d have many job openings. I think this is fine, but the many churches that would have no pastor would not.
And here is a fourth problem: few pastors would be interested in doing things this way as they like to jump around to greener pastures. It’s not very dignified or impressive to stay in your little local church you grew up in. Most churches that managed to get a biblically qualified and biblically faithful pastor would run em out of church quick anyway!
Most churches today exist to ease the guilty conscience of their pastors and their parishioners. We keep busy doing things that look impressive. All our busy must surely mean we’re serving the Lord. It takes hard work to live by and teach biblical standards, few pastors have the time or desire to do so. And the lovely parishioners will not endure sound doctrine but prefer teachers who will scratch their ears.
So, there are at least four sticking points so far! Issues that churches fight and have fought over for years. Denominations have been formed around these disagreements.
Everything is a mess.
We’re not even trying to use Paul’s qualifications for church roles anymore. Oh sure, a few churches seeking pastoral candidates will throw it in the list of their requirements, but it is basically lip service.
Pastors are hired more on educational degrees and past success growing a church.
Instead of raising up leaders in local congregations to serve that same congregation, we’ve hired out our training to seminaries.
I went to seminary. It prepared me none at all for pastoral ministry.
Using a degree to prove qualifications works ok in the world, but the church is not the world. Yet we’ve completely bought into the world’s system on this issue.
Then we’re shocked so many pastors are awful.
I am not shocked.
The Bible gives us the recipe for a healthy church. Churches do not follow the Bible’s recipe, but cook up their own and then gag on the disgusting pottage they created.
There is a better way: God’s way to build God’s house. Unfortunately, no one really wants to build God’s house God’s way. We mostly want an institution we’ve built for our own ends.
OK, whatever, do what you want. Don’t let the Bible stop ya. You will reap what you sow. Have a nice time. Go back to tweaking seminary classes and being busy in a church and hiring according to your preferences. I’m sure you’re pretty close to the winning recipe.
The opinions expressed in this article are one reason why my church was small! If you’d like to know more ways I shrunk my church, CLICK HERE to get a copy of my new book, because you too want to fail at being a pastor, don’t you?!
3 thoughts on “How Should Churches Select a Pastor?”
Musical, tall, type A extrovert motivational speaker whose sermons rhyme or spell a word is my cynical opinion. Paul or Jesus would not make the cut.
Do you believe a pastor who commits adultery is permanently disqualified from pastoral ministry? I was in a church with a pastor who has a history of adultery, which he committed while he was the pastor. He had an affair with another member’s wife, and a child resulted from the affair. After the Lord providentially exposed the pastor’s sin, he was disciplined and removed from the pulpit. But after several years he persuaded the church members to restore him to the pulpit.
I believe he should be disqualified, yes. Do churches act on that? No, most do not. Our notions of grace have been used to undermine standards. The church is massively hurt by this.