Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lead by a stranger

I appreciate almost everything about Russel Moore. I liked listening to him as guest host for Al Mohler. His tweets are often hillarious and his blog posts are typically serious and thought-provoking. He is probably shorter than me. He loves orphans and is one of the loudest advocates for adoption in the church. So I always am sure to read everything he puts out. You should too!

Dr. Moore tweeted over the weekend that his home church, Highview Baptist, just announced that their pastor search committee was unanimously recommending Dr. Les Hughes as their next "senior pastor". The webpage of Highview gives an overview of his background....

Ministry Experience

Senior Pastor, Westwood Baptist Church (December 2000-present)
Alabaster, AL

Chairman, Dept. of Christian Studies and Philosophy/Head of Church Relations, Mississippi College
(August 1996-December 2000)

Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Summit, MS (1993-1996)

Senior Pastor, Crystal Springs Baptist Church, Tylertown, MS (1991-1993)

Senior Pastor, Mountain Creek Baptist Church, Florence, MS (1986-1991)


Bachelor of Arts in Religion
Mississippi College (Clinton, MS), 1989, With Honors

Master of Divinity (Biblical Languages)
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 1991

Doctor of Philosophy (New Testament/Greek)
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 1994

Wow! That is quite an impressive list of credentials. No doubt he is a great guy, very smart, an accomplished deliverer of sermons. He has been married for over 25 years and has four children. By the description above, this is a family man, an accomplished minister, an author, in short a man that any church should love to have leading them. So what is the issue, why blog about this?

Highview Baptist is in Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. Hughes is from Mississippi and has served in churches in Mississippi and Alabama and was educated in Mississippi and Louisiana. That raises a question for me. How well does the Pastor Search Committee know Dr. Hughes? I am sure they have had several formal interviews and informal conversations. They have no doubt heard him give many sermons. I would hope they have met his wife and family a time or two. Does that really tell you who a man is? I have been interviewed lots of times for jobs and I almost always am on my "A" game, dressed properly, etc. An interview, even a series of interviews, doesn't tell you much about who I am.

What about the rank and file "laity" at Highview? They will be asked to vote to accept Dr. Hughes as their chief elder, or "senior pastor". They will be asked to submit to his authority and put money in the plate to pay his salary. Yet I doubt that many of them have even met Dr. Hughes and if they have it is probably not much more than a meet and greet. How can they know that this man is someone they should imitate and follow other than based on the recommendation of the "pastor search committee"? Again, let me be clear that I have little doubt that Dr. Hughes is a wonderful man, father and husband, someone who is committed to following Christ. My point is that there simply is no way for the members of Highview to know enough about him to warrant following him as an elder.

A stranger cannot be a leader in the church. An impressive resume, even being a great guy, cannot substitute for the experience of living lives together and recognizing in a brother the qualities that make him an elder in the church. We need to get back to the Biblical model of Home Grown Elders, following men we know instead of getting to know men we are supposed to be following.


Les said...


I agree with you about Russell Moore. Like reading him.

Caveat: I am still convinced that there is nothing unbiblical about having pastors (elders) who receive renumeration. I still believe in what some call the institutional church.

Now with that out of the way, I do agree that the best application of the biblical model of church WOULD be that future leaders (pastors/elders/shepherds) come from within the ranks. Raise them up as God leads and enables.

I also believe that the best understanding of church leadership is several leaders, vocational and lay. Plurality if you will.

And while I think it is fairly reasonable to assume that this new pastor is a godly man and will make a good leader, the way these things work is less than desirable for some of the same reasons you mention.

I am not suggesting mammon is involved with this case, but I do think mammon is involved in far too many cases of pastors moving from church to church. Not that most pastors are getting rich. They're not. But from my experience and knowledge on the ground, of a pastor wants to ever better his financial situation (security) and maybe get an ego lift, he usually has to move up.

Aussie John said...


After sixty years in churches from being pew-sitter to pastor,and everything in between, I am thoroughly convinced that your words are the only sensible/Biblical option: "We need to get back to the Biblical model of Home Grown Elders, following men we know instead of getting to know men we are supposed to be following."

Arthur Sido said...


I think those are sound words. My way of thinking is that if a chuch has to hire a man from outside of the state to be an elder, then the prior pastor/elder was not fulfilling his primary calling per Ephesians 4:11-16.

I would say that there is a linkage between paying elders and "moving on up" to larger churches. When a man is dependent on his pay from the church for the support of his family, it becomes a lot easier to explain a move to a larger church for a more secure financial situation as a "calling". I don't begrudge a man seeking to better his financial situation but an elder who works outside of the church is not subject to the same pressure to relocate to improve his financial situation.