I have been on staff in two churches when the membership had the daunting task of selecting its next pastor. In both situations, I served in an interim worship role. In 2012, I was the candidate in consideration for what would become my first pastorate. As I said, discerning God’s will for a pastor is a daunting task. What I think many fail to realize is the Bible gives a lot more direction about the process than many search committees utilize. The most surprising thought is that it may be found in a passage of Scripture related to the selection of King David.
In I Samuel 16, Samuel the prophet was charged to go find the second king of Israel. Saul, the current king, proved to be a bad choice. Samuel went to the house of Jesse, a man who had several sons who could have easily fit the bill. There was one, however, who was not present. The absent son, David, was out in the field tending to sheep. Everyone assumed this shepherd boy did not meet the qualifications for royalty, but God has a way of redefining what qualifies a person. God said this to Samuel in I Samuel 16:7 – “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” With this in mind, here are some considerations:
God’s system of qualification often differs from man’s. Think about it! When we are searching for a “qualified” individual for a pastoral staff candidate, here are the things I often see. I will share from a Southern Baptist perspective because that was my alignment for many years.
XYZ Baptist Church of Anytown, USA is seeking a qualified pastor with a minimum of 5 years experience to lead our church. This candidate must possess a minimum of a Master of Divinity from 1 of the 6 Southern Baptist seminaries in our country. Doctorate preferred. Must have a proven track record as an effective leader in personal evangelism, discipleship, and church growth. Candidate must be between the ages of 30-50. If interested, please submit resume and sermon links to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If anyone looks on the outward appearance, it is a pastor search committee. Look how limiting this is! David would have never become king of Israel had some pastor search committees looked at his resume. Let’s face it! The boy stunk like sheep. He was too young. He didn’t have “royalty training” from 1 of the 6 SBC seminaries in the country. The only thing David had going for him was that GOD QUALIFIED HIM! God qualifies the called rather than calling the qualified.
I have been passed over by many committees who have looked at me for Lead Pastor or Worship Pastor. You may ask, “Why?” Here are some reasons. One church removed me from consideration because my choir didn’t smile enough. Another dismissed me because my degrees from Liberty University were not included in 1 of the 6 SBC seminaries. Never mind I have a Master of Divinity. One pastor almost passed me up for a worship position because I didn’t have a music degree (despite 13 years experience at the time), but God ended up leading me to that church. Some didn’t like my age. Now, most won’t touch me because I’m divorced and remarried. (Spoiler alert: the woman at the well became a 5-times divorced evangelist! That won’t fit the narrative for many churches.)
My advice to pastors and churches who are seeking God’s direction for staff positions – Stay open to God’s will! Your ideal candidate may not be God’s ideal. He or she may not have the education level, age, or socioeconomic status you have in mind. That’s okay! The first disciples were an odd mix of people, but they were the ones God chose to get the good news of the Gospel out to the world. If someone is chosen by God, who are we to do anything but approve?