Thursday, January 5, 2012

How to Call a Godly Pastor

Over the decades that I have been an ordained minister, I have watched many churches conduct pastoral searches. Too often the church's final choice turned out to be disappointing, or worse.

The basic problem is that churches rarely use biblical standards for evaluating a pastoral candidate.  There are many books, denominational guidelines, and checklists for pastoral searches, yet most of them neglect the clear instructions of the New Testament as to the kind of man God says should serve Him and the flock. 

There are four specific passages of Scripture that outline and explain the qualifications of a godly pastor.  Here they are, the most specific first: 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Acts 20:28-32.  Through a careful observation of these passages, we can glean a list of biblical qualifications by which to evaluate a pastoral candidate:

  • Husband of one wife (morally pure and faithful) (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6)
  • Good manager of his own household (1 Timothy 3:4; Titus 1:6)
  • Temperate (1 Timothy 3:2)
  • Prudent, sensible (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8)
  • Respectable (1 Timothy 3:2)
  • Hospitable (1 Timothy 3:2)
  • Able to teach (good communicator of biblical truth) (1 Timothy 3:2b)
  • Ministers according to God's will as revealed in Scripture (1 Peter 5:2; Titus 1:9)
  • Able to defend the faith with sound doctrine Titus 1:9
  • Not addicted to wine (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7)
  • Not pugnacious or quick-tempered (1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 1:7)
  • Not self-willed (Titus 1:7)
  • Gentle (1 Timothy 3:3)
  • Not contentious, argumentative (1 Timothy 3:3)
  • Free from the love of money (1 Timothy 3:3; 1 Peter 5:2b)
  • Not a new convert (1 Timothy 3:6)
  • Good example to the congregation (1 Peter 5:3)
  • Of good reputation outside the church (1 Timothy 3:7)
  • Just, righteous (Titus 1:8)
  • Holy, devout (Titus 1:8)
  • Self-motivated, eager (1 Peter 5:2)
  • Alert to spiritual danger (Acts 20:28, 31a)
  • Compassionate  (Acts 20:31b)
  • Overall--Above Reproach 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6
Since no one is perfect, a church might rank candidates as to the degree to which each demonstrates these characteristics.  For example, one candidate may exhibit more hospitality than another, yet be weaker as a teacher.  A candidate may be a bit fiesty, but he expounds the Word well and can defend the faith.  But please note: Certain qualifications are absolute--yes or no. For instance, if a candidate is not morally pure, faithful to his wife, he is not qualified for the pastorate. Also, if he is addicted to either money or wine, look elsewhere. 

Of course there are other factors to consider when calling a pastor, like his compatibility with the congregation and the local culture, his style of preaching, teaching, and other aspects of ministry. But the Scriptural qualifications listed above need to be settled first.  If a pastoral candidate is deficient in God's standards, how could he possibly be an effective pastor?