How to Call a Pastor
The calling of a pastor ranks third in difficulty in the task of finding the right man; the first being the finding of the right husband and the second is the finding of the right son-in-law.
The problem is complicated among Chinese churches in North America because of their usual bi-lingual and bi-cultural natures, and in quite a number of cases, it is more like bi-cultural and tri-lingual.
Linguistically, a pastor would need to speak English to minister to the local born, Cantonese to those from Hong Kong, and Mandarin to those from Taiwan and Mainland China. (To be really ideal, he should also know Swatowese and Taiwanese and maybe even Shanghainese.)
Theologically, he should be trained both in the Far East as well as in North America to be familiar with the terms in both Chinese and English.
Culturally, his appropriate response to the factual comment “your wife really sings well,” could be “no, I don’t think so,” or “yes, I think so, too”, depending on whether the one making the comment is a westernized- Chinese or a Chinese-Chinese. He should like both potato and rice equally.
Who can find a worthy pastor? For his price is far above rubies.
FORMATION OF A PULPIT COMMITTEE
A pulpit committee should be formed as soon as it is known that the pastor has submitted his resignation and a definite date of departure has been set. If circumstances allow, the pastor should be a member of the committee since he may know more prospective ministers than others in the congregation.
A pulpit committee should be comprised of three to seven members depending on the size of the congregation. Members of the committee should be among the most spiritually mature of the congregation choosing from the ranks of elders, deacons, Sunday School teachers, etc.
A pulpit committee should meet at least once a month for prayer and planning, even if no prospective candidate is in sight.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF A PULPIT COMMITTEE
The all-important responsibility of a pulpit committee is to find a new pastor who is after God’s own heart. In more specific terms, members of the committee should:
- Ask God to clearly show what kind of a pastor He has in mind for this particular congregation at this specific time.
- Sample the feelings of the congregation to see what kind of a pastor they want.
- Determine what are the qualifications and responsibilities of a pastor if the constitution and by-laws have not spelled them out.
- Contact prospective pastors through email, phone calls and finally in person.
- Listen to the prospective minister preaches in his churches and meeting places if at all possible.
- Look carefully and prayerfully into the background of the prospective ministers, including their family lives. Interview the prospective ministers, their present and former church members, colleagues and other ministers/missionaries. More specifically, check into their beliefs, their integrity and the effects of their ministry.
- When satisfied that one of the candidates has met all the basic requirements, the committee should then present the candidate to the congregation. The usually way of presenting a candidate is to have him preach in church, meeting with as many groups in church as possible and have an in-depth fellowship/interview with members of the pulpit committee. (One or two trusted ministers may be invited to participate in this interview to help evaluate the candidate.) This interview should be open, relaxed, frank and sincere. The candidate is not being interviewed for a job and members of the pulpit committee are not just in the process of hiring a pastor. It is a mutual seeking of the will of God to see if the candidate is suitable for this local church at this particular time. Humility, honesty and a seeking attitude should be exhibited by both sides.
- Meet as soon as possible after the candidate has visited the church to determine if he is suitable or not. If the candidate is found to be unsuitable, then the pulpit committee should continue the process of finding another candidate to be presented to the church. On the other hand, if the candidate is found to be suitable, then he should be recommended to the congregation or to the board of elders/deacons, depending on the structure of the local church, for their approval.
QUALIFCATIONS OF A PASTOR
One would be hard-pressed to find a Biblical example of a modern pastor with his two-thousand-volume library, Monday off, two-week annual study leave and seven-plus years of post high school education. But the qualities of spiritual leaders are evident from the lives of the Biblical saints: from Moses to Mary, from Joshua to John, and from Abraham to Apollos. Besides, there are specific portions of Scriptures pertaining to the qualifications of spiritual leaders in the New Testament church. Even though many passages can be cited, the most important ones are probably I Timothy 3:2-7, Titus 1:6-9 and I Peter 5:2-3.
For convenience, I have set these three passages alongside of another (see table). From the table, it should be obvious that most of the qualifications listed in one passage are to be found in the other passages, and this is especially true of I Timothy and Titus. Similar qualities as the two listed in I Peter “not greedy for money” and “lording it over” are found in the other two passages.
One of the ways to categorize these qualities is as follows:
- Personal (Quality nos.2, 6, 7, 9, 14, 16, 17, 18).
- Family (1, 11);
- Relationship with others (3, 5, 12, 13, 15);
- Attitude toward money (10);
- Attitude toward alcohol (4).
These qualities stress the importance of a spiritual leader to conduct himself properly, to relate to others in a godly manner and to correctly respond to life situations. These qualities are above and beyond this right standing with God, his right relationship with God is assumed.
RSPONSIBILITIES OF A PASTOR
A pastor is sometimes expected to be a spiritual know-it-all and do-it-all. From baptism to burial, from preaching to pasturing, from administration to accounting, from counseling to chauffeuring, from Sunday School to Sunday Service, from teaching to telephoning, from here to there to everywhere, a pastor is sort of a spiritual healer – dentist, chiropractor, family-practitioner, nurse, medical-technician – all rolled into one.
Seeking to be all, sometimes he becomes none at all.
Running the risk of over-simplication and stretching out my neck like an athlete crossing the finish line, I’d like to suggest that a pastor’s responsibilities are basically three:
- Maintaining spiritual soundness
- Manifesting personal integrity
- Making sense in preaching and teaching.
Maintaining spiritual soundness includes: “Hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught” (Titus 1:9); “Contend for the faith that God has once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3); “Build yourselves up in your most holy faith” (Jude 10); and “I am not ashamed of the gospel” (Romans 1:16). In brief, a pastor must be doctrinally sound. More, he must demonstrate his faith by his life and this leads to our next point.
Manifesting personal integrity includes: “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?” (James 2:14); “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you” (Acts 20:18); “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing” (Acts 20:33); “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers” (I Cor. 6:7-8); “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (I Cor. 11:1); and “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice” (Phil. 4:9). It is very important a pastor exhibit a Godly, Scriptural life and integrity.
Making sense in preaching and teaching includes: “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17); “A workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15); “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (II Tim. 2:2); “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (I Tim. 5:17); and “Preach the Word… correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction” (II Tim. 4:2).
It would be unfair to expect every pastor to be eloquent, but every pastor should be expected to faithfully teach the Word with his mouth, and more importantly, with his life.
SOME PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS
Before a pastor is called, I would like to suggest the following areas, the nitty-gritty which might prove to be naughty, naughty, for your consideration. The candidate’s belief: make sure that there is no conflict between his belief and that of the church. Among others, these several issues should be raised: inspiration of the Scriptures, mode of baptism, infant baptism, the Lord’s Supper, predestination, eschatology, role of women, and church structures. The candidate’s family: let it be known that the acceptance of a pastor is sometimes dependent upon the profession of his wife. Whether the church’s judgment of her employment is right or wrong is almost beside the point when a particular case is under consideration. The role of the pastor’s wife should be discussed at great length: What is expected of her in her home? Her church? Does her outside employment have to be approved by the church? Can the pastor choose his own housing? Does the church wish to have a say in the number of children in his family?
The candidate’s work: the calling of the pastor, both his original call into the ministry and his special call to this particular church, has much to do with the quality of the work of the pastor. What is his relationship to the other leaders in the church? What is his scope of ministry? What are his gifts? What are his emphases? What are his weaknesses? How does he view himself and others? What is his working habit? What is his leadership style? How often can he accept outside speaking engagements?
The candidate’s finance: both cents and scents do affect one’s senses. To avoid any guesswork, let the dollars and cents be spelled out, either by the candidate or by the church officials. If we could accept the statement that one man’s luxury is another man’s necessity, and vice versa, we would have avoid criticism.
And now the bottom line: call the pastor only when members of the decision-making body can say: “We have confidence in this man and his family and we have no reservation about working with him for the glory of God.”