Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Caution for Pastor Search Committees

While on the subject of Pastor Search Committees (see previous post), I want to issue a caution to such committees.

Usually a search committee will develop a "requirements list" for the church's future pastor. Often this list is based on perceived church needs or likes. One of the items normally on that list is some level of formal education. If you read search committee postings for potential pastors you will often read "Seminary graduate" or "Masters degree required" or something similar.

I have nothing against a committee having a "requirements" list or making education one of those requirements. However, I believe the true "requirements" list for a pastor is the one recorded in the Scriptures.

Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:2-7; ESV)

There is nothing here demanding the prospective pastor to have a formal education. Obviously, if he is to be an able teacher he must know the Word of God (not only factually but also theologically). Yet I have met many "uneducated" men who have a better grasp and understanding of Scripture than some seminary graduates. History confirms this truth. Probably the most notable example would be Charles Haddon Spurgeon. What a shame (or should I say sin?) if the "search committee" of the New Park Street Church had told C.H.S., "Sorry, but you have no formal education, no seminary degree, so our committee will not consider you for the position of our pastor."

Please do not misunderstand me. I am NOT arguing against formal education or seminary training. Rather, I am attempting to make the point that our search committees should look first to the Scriptures for the requirements of a pastor, not to their lists.

Perhaps instead of viewing the "requirements list" as requirements, maybe committees should take them as guidelines. The primary mission of the committee is to determine if the man being considered meets the requirements listed in Scripture AND if the Lord has called this specific man to be their next pastor.

No matter what approach a committee takes in attempting to discern the qualifications of a prospective minister, I exhort them to seriously question ANY candidate on their Bible knowledge and theological understanding of Scripture. Such a practice should apply whether the man sitting before them is a seminary graduate with a Th.D. degree or someone who has no formal education past the 6th grade.

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