Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Answering questions the Bible doesn't ask

R.C. Sproul Jr. wrote an essay on the ten questions you should ask before "calling" a man to be pastor: 10 Important Things To Ask a Potential Pastor. They include questions on what a man has done for the unborn, what books he has read, his view on the meaning and purpose of the Sunday morning meeting and who his heroes are. They are variations of similar questions you would ask any potential employee, albeit with a decidedly religious flavor.

Here is the problem with this whole exercise. We are never called to follow men based on the answers they give to a search committee during an interview. We are to follow men who live lives worthy of emulation.

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. (Heb 13:7)

I am not sure how we can do that outside of knowing a man for a number of years, to see how he lives his life, how he cares for his wife and his family. How can you imitate the faith of a man you barely know? There are many qualities we should see in a man recognized as an elder (Titus 1: 5-9; 1 Timothy 3: 1-7). None of them have much to do with who his heroes are or the last five books he has read and none of them can be gleaned through his answers to ten questions or ten thousand questions.

There is simply no way to know who a man really is based on listening to a couple of prepared sermons and going through a couple of interviews. That is why elders should be called from among the men of the church, not hired in from outside of the local body based on extra-Biblical qualifications. If the Bible portrayed pastors as employees to be hired (and fired), these questions from R.C. Sproul Jr. might make some sense. When examined in light of the Scriptures, they make no sense at all.

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Anonymous said...

This is not what my denomination teaches, but I absolutely, wholeheartedly, 100% agree with you on this. You know that I choose to stay where I am in order to honor my husband, and because no matter how many things they may have wrong, these people are believers, and it is good to gather with them. (And we love them!) But yeah, I'm so with you on this!

Jonspach said...

Titus in Crete - do you see him operating in some office other than pastor?

Jeremy Lee said...

I guess you would have protested if you were part of the church in Crete or Ephesus when Paul sent Titus and Timothy to lead those churches.

Apparently, you also would have been unhappy with the Apostles for sending Barnabas to assist the church in Antioch. Then Barnabas brought in Saul of Tarsus to help with the church.

You are correct to say the Bible does not ask these questions and that the search for a pastor should not be treated like any other job interview. But, the Bible does not explicitly or implicitly teach that a pastor must be chosen from among the congregation.

It may be a good idea and is probably ideal, but your view on this comes from the same place that Sproul Jr's questions come from, practical experience. It is hypocritical to criticize Sproul Jr for extra-biblical questions when you add an extra-biblical requirement for elders.

Alan Knox said...

Sometimes, using Scripture to answer questions that Scripture doesn't ask helps us to ignore the answers to questions that Scripture does ask.

Like your example: If we answer the question, "How do we determine the best person to hire?" then we don't have to worry about answering the question, "How will we know what this person is truly like?"


Arthur Sido said...


Titus in Crete - do you see him operating in some office other than pastor?

Titus was clearly all over the place. He strikes me as being more of a "church planter" or a missionary than a pastor, hired by the church in Crete. Here is a sampling of places he was travelling to...

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. (Gal 2:1)

For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. (2 Tim 4:10)

When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia. (2 Cor 2: 12-13)

What was Titus doing in Crete?

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— (Titus 1:5)

Note that Paul left Titus in Crete to appoint elders in every town. So the picture we are getting is that Titus was appointing elders in the local churches around Crete, from among the men who were there. Also, Paul was expecting Titus to leave:

When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. (Titus 3:12)

That is hardly the picture of the vocational pastor we have come to assume. Titus was not a permanent employee of the church in Crete.

So no, I don’t see Titus as the pastor of a church in Crete.

Arthur Sido said...


On the contrary. See my comment above to Jon. Titus clearly was appointing men already in the church in Crete. I would also argue that Paul didn’t send Timothy to lead the church in Ephesus, he was to remain there to deal with false teachers in the church. That certainly seems to suggest that had Paul not so urged him, Timothy would have moved on.

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. (1 Tim 1: 3-4)

He is correcting those who are failing in their stewardship. It is fair to assume that given Titus that these were men from among the local body. Nothing about the letters to Timothy imply that Timothy was the pastor of the church there. Nor is there an example of men being hired from outside of a local congregation to come in to that congregation to lead it. There is also nothing wrong with men coming in to help out at a local church. If you needed help up north, you would only need to ask and I would come up in any capacity you needed. That is not the same thing at all as hiring me after a couple of interviews to be a pastor in your church.

I think we refer to 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus as the “pastoral epistles” and read about overseers/elders and assume that Paul is talking about the pastoral employee system we have in the church today. The Scriptures paint a very different picture.

Arthur Sido said...


You are absolutely right to honor your husband and his leadership in this matter. There is no perfect gathering this side of the wedding feast of the Lamb. That doesn't mean we should strive to be more faithful in our gathering.

Mark Collins said...

Allan Knox said, "Sometimes, using Scripture to answer questions that Scripture doesn't ask helps us to ignore the answers to questions that Scripture does ask." It's not hard to see why men like RC Sproul Jr continually do this.

RC Jr isn't ignorant of the biblical requirements for being a pastor. He just ignores them and substitutes his own standards. Why? For one thing he probably knows he falls so far short of the qualifications for being a pastor. The denomination that defrocked him had no trouble determining that he was unqualified for the office, but he's determined that he IS qualified, and what RC Jr thinks about it is all that matters.

Green said...

I agree these questions are extra-biblical. That's not always a bad thing though. It depends on why the questions are being asked. What's the motive? Is it, as some are saying here, to divert attention from far more important questions?

Because of what I know about some of R.C. Sproul Jr's history I'd like to propose another question. It's something that pastors often miss when they start up a church, as R.C. did, and if ignored can be very harmful. It's a question that applies to existing churches, mission churches, and church planting.

Question 11, Church Growth: "What's your philosophy on church growth and what should be the methods used, and not used, for growing a healthy church?"

In 1996 RC Sproul Jr moved from Orlando Florida to Bristol VA and formed a new church. He called on Ligonier Ministries supporters in the area, mainly using the Table Talk mailing list, to form his new church. All of them were existing church members, but that didn't matter to R.C. Several PCA churches in the area were especially targeted. They were enticed to drop their church memberships and join R.C.'s startup church. In one case a Ruling Elder renounced his PCA church membership to join R.C.'s church, all with R.C.'s blessing. Most viewed R.C.'s actions as poaching, which it was. It seriously disrupted the peace of several churches for years to come. He definitely didn't score any points with pastors in the local community.