In Search of a New Pastor

On any given week, there are usually several hundred churches across our state looking for a new pastor and additional staff members. Their pastor left or a staff member went to a new position, and the church probably has elected a search committee and given them the responsibility of going hither and yon, to and fro, to find just the right person to come and be their pastor. It is a huge responsibility and one that has been fascinating to watch all across my days in the ministry, but it goes far beyond that.

There is a large search firm that advertises on television and radio and through all kinds of media. The ads present the possibilities that they can find just the right person for almost any need that any business or profession would have. In recent ads, it caught my attention because one of the things they say, sometimes numerously, is you can say “goodbye to post and pray.”  What they are referring to is the practice of posting a need for a particular person, a particular skill, a particular area of work, and they will bring folks to your attention that would be available. The posting of the need is then joined by praying that someone will respond to it.

This search firm, and it is just one of many, has a database through which they can cull to find just the right person whether it is an engineer or a janitor or teacher or technician. Just let them know what you need and they will get you the qualified candidates. All of this is made possible because of our computers and the World Wide Web, but now there are a number of search firms that are focused just on ministry and especially the pastorate. They can find who you need and help determine what it is you want and what your people think is right. They can package it together, find the person who would be interested, and all will be well in the Kingdom of God.

This mindset has increasingly come into the church, so much so that people actually think that you can post the need and the right person will pop up on the screen. Maybe you just need to Google them and find the size, person, age, and description of the next pastor, and his face will appear. You can find the perfect candidate or maybe even several right candidates and never leave the comfort of your computer screen and your mouse in hand. You can even click to hear him preach or see a picture of his beautiful family or get high profile references or read his strengths and weaknesses. Even Christians, who know the Lord and want to follow His guidance, have come to say like the other search firm, “goodbye to post and pray.”

Hold on just a minute. I would like to interject that this may not be the wisest and best approach for the people of God to always follow. I know the computer is an amazing thing. I know there are people who find connections in business or maybe in their love life and maybe you can even make connections with possibilities of people who could come and help lead your church, but there is more to finding the leaders in God’s church than just flipping through resumes on a computer screen.  Let me just share a few thoughts with you.

  • Never lose sight of the fact that Jesus is the Lord of the church, and as Lord of the church He knows His servants and He knows how to guide a committee to them. He knows where they are, and He knows where the committee is. I know God uses human instrumentality, but do not lose sight of the fact that God is at work both in the committee in their search to find the right person and for the right person to be available to God to be used.

I read in Scripture in Revelation 1:16 and 19 that Jesus holds the stars in His hand. It’s talking about the seven stars that will be in the seven churches that you will see in chapter two and three. He reveals that they are the seven angels or messengers or it appears what we call pastors are the ones in His hand. He guides them, uses them, corrects them, blesses them. I am of the opinion that God still works through pastoral leadership and through committees that will seek God’s leading to the right pastor. For everyone involved, it requires spiritual investment on the part of the church and the people who will pray. People who will seek and consider who the Lord wants to have and have an open heart to the Lord to do what He wants them to do.

We can get His leaders in place when we get in our place before Him. Listen, the Lord knows where folks are. I think about Saul being anointed as king of Israel and when Samuel found him, he was out chasing donkeys for his dad. The Lord knew where he was and what he was doing. He knew how to bring about a relationship. Peter and James and John were down by the seaside fishing when Jesus found them. He knew where they were, redirected their lives, and they became Kingdom leaders. Isaiah was grieving over the death of King Uzziah when the encounter came and God called him, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”  “Here am I,” Isaiah said (Isa. 6:8).

  • Jesus leads His church. He is the Lord of the church, and He leads us. Often when a church is looking for a pastor, both the committee and the church will focus on the search effort and the kind of person they think they need or want. There are times when more than the need to get the pastor, the church needs to get themselves together. Oftentimes our churches go looking for the right guy to come and guide them but have not at all thought about or considered the things that they need to do before finding him.
  • Jesus longs for His church and all of His people to be a part of a redeemed, caring fellowship carrying out the mission for Him to reach a world for Christ. He is at work in the search. He is at work in the pastor who needs to come and serve. He is at work to bring them together, but then He is at work longing for them to be the community of faith reaching out and caring for those who need a Savior, for those who need a fellowship where they can find hope and healing, longing for them to come together and be His people. That will take place when we come together under Him in an atmosphere of amazing love.

Peter writes in his little book of 1 Peter 4:8, “And above all things have fervent love one for another.”  Then he adds in that verse, “For ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’” As we move forward to do what God wants us to do, a church and a new pastor need to be immersed and remain in the love atmosphere of Jesus, one toward another and toward Him. So often, the smallest things throw us off kilter and we lose the warmth of our relationship. In some churches, three or six months into the relationship we think we need a new pastor because we got the wrong one this time. Well, love him and be loved by him. Love covers a multitude of sins.

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Jim Futral

Executive Director-Treasurer