I announced to my church last month that I will be leaving this summer to take a new ministry assignment. In order to prepare for the transition, I wrote some things for the congregation to think over regarding what they should be looking for in the next shepherd.
This series was written primarily for my own church, but I’m posting so that it might be a help to other churches in the context of a search, or to encourage pastors who are praying and preparing for service.
What a church should look for in a pastor can be found in the acronym PASTOR.
First and foremost, a pastor--I’m thinking lead pastor primarily--must be a preacher (P). This does not mean that he needs to be the next Spurgeon, MacArthur, or Piper. But it does mean he needs to have a passion for preaching, and gift in handling the Word. Here are several reasons why preaching is so vital.
Preaching was a priority for Jesus. His earthly ministry revolved around preaching (Mk 1:38-39). Christ-like pastors are preachers at heart.
Preaching was in the DNA of the apostolic church. Acts 2 shows how the church was founded on Peter’s sermon at Pentecost; Acts 6:2b reminds us that preaching must never be set aside, “It is not right that we should give up preaching to serve tables.”
Preaching was passed to the next generation church. In the pastoral letters (Timothy & Titus), the qualifications for an elder includes being able to preach and teach (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:9). Paul encourages Timothy, as he passes the baton, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim 4:2).
Preaching has fallen on hard times again as many churches now look for leaders who are more focused on innovation, creativity, and platform. When preaching is neglected, it will only weaken the church over the long haul.
My advice to churches looking for a pastor: focus primarily on his preaching. Does he have a passion for the Word of God, and can he communicate it well? Can you tell that he has the Word truly stored up in his heart (Ps 119:11), so that it has transformed his own life? Is his desire not only to master the Word, but be mastered by it? If this is so, then he has his priorities right from the start, and is modeling his ministry appropriately after the Lord Jesus:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because he has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives.” (Lk 4:18 NASB).
*photo credit: pexels.com