Daniel and I have been going through the book Church Elders by Jeramie Rinne talking about what our process would be to install a plurality of pastors at Redemption Church. As we’ve been pouring through this resource and exploring what the Bible has to say about the biblical qualifications, it’s led me to think that the way we typically hire pastors is one of the worst ways to find out if a pastor is called and qualified.
Why Resumes Don’t Give Good Information
If you’re looking for employment for a job in the secular world, they typically want to see a resume. It tells a potential employer your work experience, your skills, how long you’ve worked in a field, and your credentials for the job you’re working. It’s a starting point to see if they’re interested in your background. If they like what they see, then they will usually call you in for an interview to ask you further questions. Once they’re satisfied and they think you’ll be a good fit for the position, they offer you the job.
This may be a great way to hire for business, but is it a good way to hire pastors?
Well, let’s look at that. Pastors are supposed to be shepherds, teachers, and overseers. They lead the charge in discipling, equipping, evangelizing, modeling, and raising up leaders. In the business world, the main qualification is to be skilled in the position you are applying. In the church world, skill is important, but it’s not the most important. Nowhere in the New Testament does it say that elders should be men with a great resume. In fact, in Philippians, Paul tells everyone about his resume to show that its inconsequential and worthless. He says that he count it as loss.
The main qualification for a pastor is character. Character is not something that can be doctored up on a resume. It is something that happens as a result of the sanctification process of following after Jesus. Here’s the list of qualification 1 Timothy 3:1-7 gives for the qualifications of a pastor:
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 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.
Apart from “able to teach,” these are a list of character qualities.
How Then Should a Church Look for a Pastor?
This is a tough question. On one side, a resume is a starting point. I know of several churches looking for pastors to fill roles. What I would suggest to them is to ditch the resume at first. Find a few guys you feel good about for whatever reason. Seek out recommendations from other pastors you trust. Talk to people who really know this person. If you can talk to the church they pastored at before, do that. (Of course, use common sense here. Don’t just call the church without asking the candidate first.) There are many reasons why pastors leave churches. Some good. Some bad. Sometimes, the church will have wanted the pastor to leave because he addressed a sacred cow in the church that no one wanted addressing. Other times, he will leave because he was just tired and wanted a change. The church will know a pastor well enough to know if he has character qualities or not.
The Importance of Good Character
It’s really easy to wow somebody with great credentials on a resume and a ton of letters behind your name, but if they don’t have good character, you don’t want them. In looking at these qualities, it’s really easy to see that these qualities are not demonstrated with any pastor perfectly. In speaking honestly, there are times when I don’t manage my household well, or I don’t act self-controlled, or fail to be hospitable, or communicate poorly in a sermon. However, the calling does not fail at imperfection. The qualities fail when a person loses the humility to admit those faults and seek to improve them through the grace of Jesus. Humility is the key. Recognize your faults and follow God’s leading. Know that a pastor won’t be perfect, but he should be humble enough to admit that.
Absolutely. Instead of letting the resume be the starting point, use it to learn some additional information about the candidate after you have learned something about his character. Maybe there are aspects of your church culture that wouldn’t be a good fit, or he has more experience as a pastor who can deal with a certain situation that your church is addressing. Some pastors are more administratively gifted. Others are more people oriented. Those are all important things to look at. Just make sure you have looked at this after you’ve looked at his character first. If he doesn’t have character, then it should automatically disqualify him.
Character is important, but it’s even more important in the role of the pastor.