How to find a pastor
    October 9 2017 by Mark Dever

    Times of pastoral transition are critical periods in the life of a local church. What might have been a relatively peaceful and edifying church community can be thrown into uncertainty when a preacher resigns.
     
    There is danger of confusion and even decline.
     
    That raises questions about a current trend: why are there so many old and dying churches in our communities today and yet so many church plants?
     
    It could be because we have not been very faithful in finding good pastors for existing churches. So, what can we do to find the preachers we need?
     
    Here are 11 steps to aid churches in thinking about how to find a new pastor.
     

    SEBTS photo
    Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., offers local churches 11 steps for finding a new pastor in a talk given at the 2017 9Marks at Southeastern conference.

    1. Prepare

    One of the most important parts of a pastor’s ministry is helping to secure a sound teacher to follow him. We should always be preparing the congregation for the next man.
     
    Pastors do this by making sure we are financially prepared to no longer need this job; not being defensive and envious of others’ gifts; teaching the whole counsel of God, which produces a mature congregation; helping the congregation realize God’s gift of other elders in the church, teaching them the New Testament qualifications and helping them expect to hear others preaching; and by recommending a name or names from inside or outside the congregation to succeed when the time comes.
     
    A current pastor’s help in the transition is faithfulness, not interference – loving, not lording. These are sheep he has loved and cared for, and this decision is of utmost importance. It should be prayed about regularly, both privately and publicly.
     

    2. Agree

    The preaching pastor and other elders should agree together, either on the date the current pastor will cease being responsible for the preaching ministry of the church, or the date they would like to begin the search for the next preacher. This helps ensure the smoothest possible transition.
     
    Perhaps the current minister moves on to another church, or perhaps he (or other elders) can sense he is wearing out, and needs to start thinking about changing his role. Honest, sensitive, open conversation about this among the elders is helpful.
     

    3. Communicate

    The elders should lead and advise the congregation throughout the transition, not a specially called committee created for the purpose of calling a new pastor.
     
    The elders hold an office mandated and described in the New Testament (Acts 20; 1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). If these men are those whose faith we should emulate and whose examples we should follow (1 Corinthians 11:1; Galatians 6:6; Hebrews 13:7, 17) then it follows in this decision – one of the most significant that a church could make – their leadership would be most important.
     
    In cases where you need to find a pastor before you’ve recognized other elders, then a recognized body of deacons might be the second best alternative.
     
    Some people reading this may be serving on such a “search committee” right now. And the first thing I say to you is “thank you.” Thank you for the time, prayers and care that you are investing in your church.
     
    Please do not read my instruction as aimed at you personally. I’m simply trying to take the general principles of the Word, the Bible, and see what help they might give a church in finding a new pastor. I think a search committee stands at a disadvantage to the biblically-mandated, recognized officers of the church.
     

    4. Search

    Elders can gather a name or names of potential candidates, preferably from within the congregation, but also externally.
     
    Throughout this process, it is a good reminder that we recognize elders; we don’t make them. They are gifts of Christ to His church (Ephesians 4:11), created by the Holy Spirit, who makes us bishops or elders to care for the church of God (Acts 20:28).
     
    We begin this search internally, but often we need to look outside of our own congregation for someone to preach regularly. It’s very simple. Find a church you like, with a pastoral ministry you would like to emulate, and approach that pastor for a suggestion.
     

    5. Propose

    The elders should decide who they believe is best suited to serve the church in this role at this time, and provisionally move forward with that name. At any point further along in the process, if it becomes clear this person is not the best fit, they should propose the name of another candidate.
     
    Beware, at this point, of temptations to prefer a winning personality over godly character or requiring unbiblical qualifications, such as doctoral or other degrees of education. Churches should also be wary of business leaders or others who could seek to influence the decision to call a pastor from unbiblical motives.
     

    6. Preach, pray and talk

    If the pastoral candidate is coming from outside, the elders should listen to sermons in person or online.
     
    After this, the elders could arrange for the brother in question to come and preach for the congregation, have larger and smaller settings to meet with them, and answer questions from the church.
     
    The elders should also ask why the pastor of another church is even considering leaving his current position, and whether his church knows that he is considering this possibility.
     
    Think carefully, church – we shouldn’t want to be stealers of successful pastors from other churches! Why would we think God loves our congregation more than the one we would take this pastor from? Being secretive in this process suggests that something may be amiss.
     

    7. Recommend

    The elders should bring to the congregation the name of the person they concluded would be good to serve as the next preaching pastor.
     

    8. Consider

    The congregation should have time to consider the man brought before them, whether it be two weeks or two months. We want to encourage carefulness in making such an important decision, without unduly drawing the process out.
     

    9. Vote

    The congregation should vote to affirm this man as their pastor. I take this as an implication of the responsibility the congregation clearly has in the New Testament for bad preachers. If congregations can un-choose their teachers, as in Galatians 1:8-9, and choose the wrong ones in 2 Timothy 4:3, they must be able to choose them in the first place.
     
    In Acts 27, the ship’s crew made a decision by voting. It was a familiar method in that world to make and confirm a legitimate decision, so much so, that when the decision making process is not specified, we may assume the decision was made by a vote.
     
    We also know the local church chose Paul, Barnabas and others to go to Jerusalem to consult about the gospel (Acts 15:2-3). We know the Corinthian church acted by a majority in 2 Corinthians 2:6 to punish a man in unrepentant sin. It’s no stretch to see the church so making other decisions, especially this most important of decisions – who will be their main preacher of God’s Word.
     

    10. Welcome

    You want to end up with a pastor, happily settled, well taken care of (if possible). I’ve heard too often of church leaders saying about a pastor, “We’ll keep him poor and God will keep him humble.” That’s a terrible attitude to have to your new pastor.
     

    11. Encourage

    The new pastor will need to begin looking for his own successor, of course! Think of 2 Timothy 2:2. One thing that will help him do that is the encouragement you give him, of sharing some of the benefit that members have known – this would be the Galatians 6:6 kind of encouragement, or 1 Timothy 5:17.
     
    Pray for him, and pay for him. Encourage him. Receive him as a gift from Christ to your church.
     
    Friends, this choice is so important. It’s analogous to a man or a woman selecting a spouse. Who you choose as your pastor will determine so much of your church’s ministry in the years and decades to come!
     


    (EDITOR’S NOTE – This column has been adapted from a talk by Mark Dever at the 2017 9Marks at Southeastern conference, which was held Sept. 29-30 on the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. Used by permission.)
     

    10/9/2017 9:39:03 AM by Mark Dever | with 0 comments




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