Since our ministry exists to strengthen the Body of Christ, we are providing this resource below to offer some suggestions to help churches find a Biblically faithful pastor for their church.
Current stats show that only around 37% of Christian pastors have a Biblical worldview, so it's urgent that churches and their pulpits are revitalized and progressive pastors aren't given any more positions of influence.
We recommend that pastoral search committees/elders allow their candidate time to prayerfully review and prepare their answers to some (or all) of the questions below.
Ideally, the candidate should be someone that has been closely observed in their life and doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16) within each church.
However, not all churches currently have enough willing, qualified and capable men to pastor (as a lead or associate pastor) their church. Thus, many churches end up needing to look for a pastor outside of their current church.
Wither way, the search committee must be willing to listen carefully to those that know this candidate personally and/or be willing to closely observe their teaching, family and ministry and take that into account. If this candidate passes the “test” in his life and doctrine (just like a deacon in 1 Tim 3:10) after close examination and/or examination after being put forward to the congregation, then there should be no concern .
Sample questions for a Pastoral Candidate:
Tell me about how you came to faith in Christ?
Tell us about your calling and desire to be a pastor (1 Timothy 3)
Why do you want to be a pastor?
1. Does your wife support your calling to be a pastor?
2. Tell us about your children and their walk with the Lord?
3. Do you have any concerns about your families stability?
4. What is your financial need in order for you to serve as a full-time pastor at our church?
How do you explain the gospel?
Tell us about your view of preaching? How much time should a lead preaching pastor spend in preparation for their sermon each week? Any preaching samples we could review?
Can you explain the similarities and differences between teaching and preaching? Do you think it matters?
What creed & confession(s) do you subscribe to and why?
Tell us about what you are currently reading in the Bible right now and how it is convicting, encouraging and challenging you to trust and obey the Lord more?
How do you hope to grow as a teacher-pastor this year? What is your game plan for growing in a few specific areas?
Tell us about some Christian authors that have greatly influenced you outside of Scripture.
Can you explain your view of Genesis and how that will affect how you pastor?
Can you describe some non-essential (important but not necessary for salvation) doctrines and how you will navigate that pastorally when church members express different viewpoints?
What is your stance on critical race theory and Biblical Justice? Should CRT (critical race theory) be used as an analytical tool or not?
What is your stance on the abolition of abortion? How would you address a church member advocating for other Christians to support a political candidate that is in favor of abortion, same sex marriage and gender mutilation of younger kids?
What is your view of Biblical marriage? Divorce? How will you address homosexuality and gender confusion in your teaching?
Describe what Biblical shepherding looks like according to Scripture?
What are some potential pitfalls and dangers for a Shepherd? Are you prepared to suffer in ministry?
How are you currently leading/pastoring your family?
Prayers & Evangelism:
Tell us about some prayers that the Lord has answered for you recently?
How can we pray for your family now?
Tell us about some lost people that you have been praying about?
How are you currently doing the work of an evangelist (per 2 Timothy 4:5)?
Tell us about your recent evangelism conversations? Can we join you in evangelism soon?
Tell us about what objections you are hearing to the gospel in your evangelism conversations?
How do you define apologetics? What do you see as the interaction between apologetics in evangelism and in discipleship?
For more on the interaction of apologetics and evangelism, see my article here on this topic.
Church Health & Discipleship:
What do you think are some of the biggest weaknesses in the American church today?
What do you think are some strengths of our particular church?
How do you define discipleship?
What does discipleship look like in your life outside of your family? Who can speak of your discipleship/investment in their lives?
What do you think about the recent Barna, ACU, & State of theology stats on professing Christians and pastors and their lack of a Biblical Worldview? How do you think the church can better equip the saints?
How will you equip the saints to know and defend the gospel and a Biblical worldview (per Ephesians 4; 1 Peter 3:15; 2 Cor 10: 3-5)
How important is it for church members to understand church history?
What do you think church membership mean? How to suggest we can improve our church membership process?
What do you think should be the oversight of elders of the curriculum taught in women's ministry classes/events?
What is your view of Biblical church leadership with Elders and Deacons? Who can and should hold these offices?
Should a church be elder or deacon led? What’s the difference between church leadership being run like a business vs a group of pastor-elders? Do you think the difference matters? If so, why?
What are your thoughts on decision making in church leadership? Are you in agreement with unanimity? Why or why not? How will you handle disagreements among elders? Is there space for respectful disagreement amongst church elders? If so, what should that look like? Are you willing to spend intentional relationship building time with our eldership to strengthen our unity and sharpen each other (Proverbs 27:17)?
Below are some important articles on the topic of unanimity that every church leadership should read carefully. It's important that church leadership teams are on the same page on how to make decisions and handle disagreements:
Article from 9Marks against unanimity in all decisions with one caveat: https://www.9marks.org/article/should-elders-insist-on-unanimity/
This 9marks' article argues against unanimity, except in the case of selecting a new pastor. The author argues that all elders should agree that the next elder-pastor is Biblically qualified.
Pastor John Piper’s concern with the unanimity model: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/should-only-unanimous-decisions-guide-the-church
The case for unanimity by John MacArthur: (see the section on “what is the role of an elder” https://www.gty.org/library/articles/451016/answering-the-key-questions-about-elders
Cultivating unity in an eldership: https://christianstandard.com/2018/08/from-unanimous-to-unity/
Still Unsure on how to move forward?
If you still have reservations about said candidate after much prayer and discussion, make sure that you learn how to articulate it and don't merely lean on a gut feeling.
For example, do you have some of these reservations:
Do you believe that this candidate is not Biblically qualified to pastor or do you have some other reservation?
Do you think the candidate is bot mature enough for the role yet? Note that a candidate may be an aspiring pastor but still too young to pastor if they are immature. However, I would be cautious of using the “too young” card, since 1 Timothy 3 & 4:12-16 makes clear that people should not look down on a young pastor and they are commanded to devote themselves to growing in public reading and teaching in scripture. However, yes, it should be noted that said candidate should not be a recent convert (1 Timothy 3:6). Its a spiritual maturity issue, not primarily about age.
Do you believe there is a personality conflict with the candidate that would significantly hinder the effectiveness of the leadership team in the church?
Do you have good reasons to believe that a transition into this position would not be good for the candidate's family?
Do you have concerns with the candidate's explanation of their favorite author and how his influence may negatively impact the church? (i.e. Tim Keller promoted soft critical theory and theistic evolution- would these views influence their pastoring as well?)
Do you have a different view on doctrine with this candidate that you believe is “essential” or very important? If so, would you be willing to meet up with the candidate to seek clarity on the issue (particularly if the other committee members feel strongly in favor of said candidate)?
Do you have concerns that the candidate will have immense difficulty in connecting with the people in your context due to a lack of language skills, relational intentionality or some other reason? If so, yes, it can be Biblical to not move forward with a Biblically qualified candidate yet they might not be a good personality fit.
Did you have any misunderstandings or any areas that you are still unclear about after personally (or with a committee) meeting with this candidate? If you do have not have any Biblically disqualifying concerns, then you should meet up with the candidate and base your decision to move forward or not on that discussion and on your own observations.
Are you still not sure how to articulate your concern? If so, I recommend first seeking clarification via the routes listed above.
In the words of Greg Koukl, “If there’s something that bothers you about a decision, try to figure out what it is, but don’t over-spiritualize it. Don’t read into it some kind of subtle message from God.”
When leaders base an important decision on who the next pastor will be primarily on a mystical feeling (“I just don’t feel this is the right person”), instead of upon a Biblical test, then you are setting up a concerning precedent and example to the flock for decision making. I recommend reading this article by Pastor John MacArthur on the dangers of mysticism in decision making. Also, read this Biblical counseling article on the dangers of mysticism and how it undermines good discernment.
So, how should your pastor search team move forward?
Pray. Fast. Discuss.
Respectfully debate through differing views for a while and see if you can’t come to an agreement, or at least a majority agreement.
As mentioned above in the 9Marks article above, unanimity isn't always Biblical (2 For 2:6, Acts 1:26) or necessary, but it is certainly preferred when choosing another pastor.
If the majority is in agreement and they are unanimous that there is no sinful disqualification for the pastoral candidate and there are none of the reservations listed above, then I personally advise moving forward in faith and trust between each other and hiring the candidate. If anything comes up that is concerning when the candidate is brought forth to the congregation, then deal with that issue with grace, Biblical wisdom, patience and humility.
One thing must be clear: The American Church needs more Biblically qualified pastors. Since this is true, we must be committed to entrusting the role of faithful church eldership to "faithful men, who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim 2:2) and encourage them to immerse themselves in regular teaching of God's Word (1 Tim 4:6-16).
Let's not turn away young men that desire to be pastors for unbiblical reasons or because they don't meet your churches "brand." The sad reality is that some churches may have (to varying degrees) given into a business or "attractional church" mindset that may overlook a Biblically qualified man due to them not meeting their "marketing standards" (i.e. charismatic speaker with a great personality).
If the church has a need and there is a Biblically qualified man before you, then I suggest that you move forward withone of these routes:
(1) appoint them as a pastor-teacher in your church
(2) give them opportunities to preach and teach and encourage them to exercise their gifts within the church (1 Tim 3:12-16) and/or
(3) help them find an opportunity to serve another church that is also in need of a pastor.
If this candidate is clearly called and gifted for pastoral ministry but you choose not to move forward with this candidate, I urge your leadership to encourage this candidate.
Giving out encouragement should be especially true if this candidate is already a member in your church and you have a close relational proximity to speak into their life.
If they greatly desire to pastor and are Biblically qualified yet don’t receive the calling from your church, encourage them in their calling as this disappointment may greatly confuse and discourage them on how to move forward. If they need more maturity in a particular area, then encourage them in that area.
All in all, you must encourage these young men to continue to be faithful to the Lord and serve our Lord without grumbling or complaining and be the leading servant (Philippians 2:1-14) who serves our Lord without seeking attention or honor from others (Matthew 6:1-4).
May the Lord be glorified and His Body be better equipped to discern the calling of many more young men and their calling to the pastorate!