Having recently been on a pastoral search committee for many months it helped solidify some important qualities to look for in a pastoral candidate. My hope is that this might be useful to other pastoral search committees in local churches.
First what are some of the characteristics we should look for in a candidates’ sermon?
- Authoritative – this “text” is binding upon believers and not to be demeaned.
- Logical – the train of thought is followed easily and well structured.
- He preaches BOTH the indicatives and the imperatives. The NT uses indicative statements when discussing the certainties of what God has done, is doing or will do for us. Imperative statements (on the other hand) are commands declaring from God what we should do. What God commands us to do (the imperative) as Christians is always based upon what He has done, is doing or will do for us in Christ (the indicatives). For example, the first three chapters of Ephesians are indicatives, declaring the foundational grace we have in Christ, while the following chapters, which say “therefore …” (live this way), are imperatives. Selecting a preacher who understands this should be a number one priority because this is the clearest indicator of whether he is preaching a full-orbed gospel, avoiding both legalism and antinomianism. What God has done for us in regeneration & justification results in preaching faith and obedience, because it is God working in us that makes this a reality.
- Exegetical accuracy (including Christocentricity). In his sermons, does he demonstrate the significance of every text in the light of Christ and his cross? Does he demonstrate the centrality of Christ in both Testaments and in all different genres of the Holy Scriptures?
- Doctrinal substance: Fear of man plays no role in how he preaches the text. If a Text speaks of an unpopular doctrine, he does not avoid it simply in order to maintain peace. It is the preacher’s job to communicate the fullness of God’s message.
- In the pulpit doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about self – for the most part, leaves “me” of the message – He points to Jesus Christ. Although an occasional testimony to the power of God's grace in his life, tasteful confession of personal struggles, etc., if it does not detract from the message of the gospel, may be appropriate.
- Pointed application – What is the message about, and what is the listener to learn and remember for the day/weeks ahead?
1) Did the sermon comfort the distressed? andGod has made provision and He is relentless in reminding us that “our relationship with Him lasts because He chooses us, not because of our devotion and/or obedience. If we only do the former(#1) we’ll comfort the self-righteous; if we only do the latter (#2), we’ll lose our audience without Christ.
2) Did it distress the comfortable?
It is key to find leaders who are passionate about their calling, who, as the apostle Paul says, are in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in the people he shepherds. So they must be relational and have a big heart for saints and skeptics alike. But the Bible specifically characterizes leaders as:
1)Those who take initiative [there is a problem and here is how to solve it] (Nehemiah 1:4-7; 2:6-8, 17-18; all of ch 3; Acts 27:9-10; Proverbs 16:9). Motivating people not through manipulation, force, hype or theatrics but communication courage and strength in ways people can understand and explaining how a goal is attainable and leading us there. Not a passive leader (good leaders never are) but one who leads and who is not afraid to get his hands dirty alongside his people. And people will follow his lead even against ridicule, discouragement, deceit and opposition (Nehemiah 4-6). Someone who knows how to overcome obstacles, organizes, and motivates followers. This is an essential quality of ANY effective leadership.Note: no human pastor will be perfect in all of these areas, but a qualified pastor will demonstrate growth and basic abilities in all of them, even granting occasional failures and imperfections. Hope you find this list helpful.
2) Who have good judgment. Not a risk taker who will wager with his people’s souls. Someone who will not subject his people to unnecessary hazards (doctrinal and otherwise). The fastest way to lose credibility as a leader is to make a foolish decision that leads people down a blind alley. Many young persons in ministry make ill-considered decisions - leading without knowing where they are going. They do not count the cost and are not sensitive to God's leading. A leader will assess the risk and plan for contingencies.
3) Who are courageous (Psalm 93:4, Acts 27:22; Philippians 1:21) In Numbers 13:1-3, 25-30 the majority were intimidated by the situation. But godly leaders chose to believe God for the resources to overcome all obstacles to success.
4) Exhibits humble gentleness and genuine compassion with the sick, hurting, and despairing.
5) Who speak with authority. This kind of authority of course is not born of self-confidence but relies on the certainty of God's promises. God cannot deny himself and a leader speaks definitively and with certainty. Of course this means he must know and trust the God of the Scriptures and believe with unshakable conviction that God's word is true and be able to communicate his own convictions with confidence and conviction. Unless you have this firm trust that conveys strength you cannot speak clearly or with authority (2 Corinthians 1:20; 2:14). Verbally you will not project certainty or courage and, in this case, will find it difficult to lead people. A biblical leader speaks with absolute confidence because he derives his authority from God's word. This does not mean he has to speak with authority on every subject, but on subjects the Scripture clearly views as important. The word of God is not merely an opinion but is authoritative.
6) Who strengthens others (Acts 27:25) He gives them a reason to hope in the future, hope in something bigger than themselves (The One True God) even when it may appear that there is no hope. He does not avoid hard, unpopular truths if the Text he is preaching from declares it.
7) A leader takes charge. This kind of leadership is tested and proved in crisis, who can handle stress, solve problems, bear burdens and find a solution when everyone else is confounded. This is not conferred by title or rank but through influence. He never, therefore compromises absolutes. Compromise may be good in handling relationships but not principles. In morals and principles in the word of God it is never right to compromise. One who does not take charge may take the pragmatic way out, which may come out of cultural necessity, but a good leader is not afraid to make hard decisions that may seem impractical to the average person. Many people are timid and fearful of hard circumstance but biblical leaders are not. A real leader knows the difference between that which is negotiable and that which is non-negotiable because he lives from the word of God. This means the leader will draw everyone focus on the objectives, not the obstacles.
8) Who earns people's trust. When you observe the candidate’s interaction with people individually and in groups, does he easily connect and earn their trust.
9)The pastor's personal life, of course, has an exemplary moral deportment and reputation (along the lines of 1 Tim. 3).
10) A keen ethical sense and ability to give practical counsel in difficult situations.
11) Reading/study habits -- does he read a variety of authors with differing but essentially gospel-based viewpoints, from a variety of time periods, with discernment and not blind allegiance?
12) exegetical helps -- does he make use of technical exegetical study helps? Is he sufficiently capable in the original languages to put exegetical commentaries, theological dictionaries, and so on to good use?