Wednesday, January 4, 2017

"Come Be Our Pastor Even Though We Don't Know You and You Don't Know Us!"

Shortly after I resigned from being an institutional pastor, the church where I had been employed put together a search committee. After sifting through resumes and conducting interviews, the church hired a man to be their new pastor. He had previously worked as a pastor in another state, but came to Georgia for this new job. I'm glad to say (for both him and the church) that he remains at the church five years later.

The above procedure is the norm in our country. When a pastor departs a church - for whatever reason - the church's response is to hire someone else. The person they end up bringing in is almost always someone they did not know prior to the resume/interview process. Essentially, the church is saying to the person they select, "Come be our pastor even though we don't know you and you don't know us."

Frankly, this is an odd arrangement. One of a pastor's primary functions is shepherding. How can a pastor shepherd a flock he doesn't even know?

Also, when we look in the Bible we see that character, not skill, is what is most important for a pastor. How can a church possibly make a judgment call about the character of someone they have only spoken with a few times?

What the church in our country has done is adopt the secular business model. As in so many other ways in church life, institutional Christianity has rejected the model God has given us in scripture. When we look in the Bible we see something stark: elders (a much more common term than pastor) always came from their own churches.

Let me state that again: elders always came from their own churches.

Local churches in the New Testament didn't put together search committees to look through a stack of resumes. Rather, they simply watched the lives of the men in the church. They then recognized men of high character for being what they already were: elders. After they were recognized, they didn't change what they were already doing.

Today's churches have this whole process upside down. It's no wonder that pastors come and go about as frequently as college football coaches do. The hired pastor doesn't know the people and they don't know him. It may work out, but it probably won't. He'll likely stay for 3-4 years, but then move on to "greener pastures."

This mess of a model doesn't work. Churches would be wise to look within. They should be mentoring young men through the years so that when they get older they can take over some of the eldering functions. More important, churches should foster high character from within. Looking outside only leads to the current sad situation we have in our country.

Elders must come from within.