I just got an email from someone posting to a mailing list, sent on behalf of the pastor search committee at a local church. It was pretty standard stuff but those job postings always make me ask a few questions…
Shouldn’t they be looking to their own men to recognize as elders?
If they don’t have any men who are ready to be elders, doesn’t that suggest that the last few pastors didn’t fulfill the role they are actually called to in Scripture (Eph 4: 11-16), i.e. equipping the entire body for the work of ministry? If so, doesn’t that bring into question the model they are using?
A man who has ties to the community he lives in is, not invariably but likely, more attuned to the ministry needs of that community and also that local church. A man with ties to the community and a job in that community already is more likely to stay in that community for the long term than a man who is hired from somewhere else and moves his family to a new town. Especially the church that sent the email this morning. It is a church of 130 people in a small city (around 100,000 in the region) where almost a quarter of the population is below the poverty line and the median household income is $26,000. Those sorts of demographics for a church scream “stepping stone church”. Churches smaller than this one in even less well populated areas are often either revolving doors for pastors or home to bi-vocational pastors.
It would be a remarkable change if local churches got serious about equipping men in their own gatherings for the work of ministry. If you have the typical pattern of one “senior” pastor and he leaves, it leaves the church in turmoil and adrift until a new guy moves to the area for however long he stays or until “God calls him” to a different, presumably bigger church. If however you have a strong team of servant leaders that have self-supporting jobs and one of them moves, the rest keep on ministering and equipping future elders and leaders. No need for pastor search committees and men surreptitiously interviewing with another church while their current employer is clueless. That wouldn’t solve every problem but it should alleviate the problem of organizing a new pastoral search committee every 4-6 years.
Elders should be recognized/appointed from within their local body (Titus 1:5). Everything that Paul lists as desirable qualities in an elder requires knowing a man, who he is, how he lives, his family, etc. and none of those can be truly gleaned other than through years of knowing him. The best interviews and sample sermon mix tapes don’t tell you about the man himself and whether he is a mature believer who lives a life worthy of emulation. Recognize the men God has placed in your local assembly as elders and if you don’t have men that are ready for that leadership role, get them equipped. Hiring a man to ride into town with a white hat to be your “senior pastor” is a cop-out and almost certainly a temporary solution. Do the hard work, invest the time in one another and make it the mission of every local church that every man is either ready to be an elder or on his way to being an elder.
Eternal damnation is real and because of that truth there is no room in the church for spectators. Every single Christian needs to be equipped and active in ministry. No exceptions. No subcontractors. No hired professionals.
(I wrote about this a few years ago in a post Home Cookin’)