Fortunately, there are a number of good books and handbooks available today on this important process. They each offer something a little different, some methodology that makes it a useful contribution to the pastor search library.
But this post will be different, because I’m writing today about the spiritual (supernatural, if you will) aspects of the search process. This is no criticism of anyone else’s work, just a helpful (I hope) addition to it.
The following are three suggestions for those who are looking for the best pastors they can find for their churches:
- Pray like crazy.
I don’t totally understand why God wants us to pray so much and so fervently, but I know that it matters a great deal to Him. It’s not that we’re earning rewards through our effort (and it does take effort); it’s more likely that we are demonstrating our humility and our faith when we pray long, hard, passionately and together. And God loves our humility and faith; they “become” us as weak and sinful creatures.
And we are looking for a miracle aren’t we? And God is the one who does miracles, isn’t He? Who wants a “good match” when you can have a miracle? I just heard a pastor-search story that was shot through with the supernatural. The process had God’s fingerprints all over it and the result has been an excellent Kingdom-expanding, pastor/church combination.
I have coached several search committees. The ones that prayed the most got the best pastors. Hands down. Prayer is the most important thing you can do in seeking a new pastor.
- Accept God’s ownership of and purpose for your church.
I just wrote “your church” didn’t I? But it isn’t, is it? Consider these words from Acts 20:28: “Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood.” Who owns the church? God does. What did He pay for it? His own blood (which, incidentally, is a powerful statement about the deity of Christ, isn’t it?).
Did you die for it? I don’t think so.
Even if you’ve worked – hard – in your congregation for thirty or forty years, you don’t own it or any piece of it. God doesn’t offer stock options to those who serve faithfully. It’s all His all the time.
As the sole owner, God gets to say what it’s for. What it’s for is making disciples (Matthew 16:18 and 28:18-20). It’s not your religious club. It’s not your “friendship pool.” It’s not your support group. It’s not for “fellowship,” for the best fellowship is a delightful fringe benefit we enjoy when we’re working together to make disciples. It’s not primarily for worship, because we’ll do that much better in heaven. We can only make disciples while we’re down here on earth and that’s what the church is for.
If you want God to give you the best pastor possible, put your church back on the altar where it belongs. Accept God’s ownership of and God’s purpose for your church.
And by the way, if you sincerely want a non-missional pastor who will care for your needs while you grow old and die together, God will likely give you exactly what you’re looking for.
- Be willing to be surprised by God.
I love the way God surprises me personally and I also love the way He surprises churches. His surprises are far better than our plans and expectations (Ephesians 3:20,21).
But I really don’t love those congregational surveys through which we ask church members what they want in their new pastor.
I’ll return to this subject (pet peeve) next week; for now I’ll just say that congregational surveys typically result in one of those “pastoral profiles” which sounds something like this: “We want a pastor who is forty years old and has twenty years of experience as a senior pastor. He should be tall and handsome and have a beautiful wife and two or three perfect children. He should be a dynamic and inspiring leader who never actually changes anything, etc.”
Okay, you’re all familiar with those formulas. Here’s the problem: those fantasy pastors don’t exist. Even if they did, you can’t feed your pastor profile into an application which will automatically match you up with the guy of your dreams.
The other problem with this is that the pastor “of our dreams” may not be the pastor of God’s dreams and God’s dreams are so much better than ours.
I heard of a pastor-search team that insisted that their new leader would have to be under fifty years old. They looked fruitlessly for over a year. Eventually they were persuaded to expand their profile to age fifty-five. The result? They almost immediately found (through a surprising channel) a wonderful fifty-three year old pastor who is doing a great job leading this church.
So is it okay to formulate a pastor profile at all? I would say “Yes, it is, if we major on spiritual, character, philosophical and skill-based qualifications and keep a wide-open mind regarding particulars like age, appearance, experience, number of children, etc.”
Next Week: Three more suggestions for getting the best pastor possible.