In the book of Ecclesiastes chapter 3, King Solomon writes about the different seasons of life. A time to be born, and a time to die. A time to laugh, and a time to mourn. A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what has been planted.
I can see these seasons vividly in my own life. And currently in the life of our family, God has given us the call to pluck up the roots we have planted here in Camilla Georgia, and to follow His call for the sake of His glorious name. I will be filling the role of lead pastor at a wonderful church in Birmingham Alabama.
The exciting part of this is the thrill of walking in obedience to the Lord, and anticipating how He will continue to use our family for His own glory in this next season of our lives. The hard part is leaving behind the church family we so dearly love. It has been my joy to love and shepherd the congregation of First Baptist Camilla, and we will greatly miss their fellowship.
As I think not only of my own future, but also the future of First Baptist Camilla, I cannot help but be excited for the man God that has chosen before the foundation of the world to love and lead FBC into its next chapter of ministry.
As it pertains to being a pastor, there is no perfect shepherd except Jesus Himself. It is my hope that the man God calls to lead this precious flock will not be a perfect man, but rather a Christ exalting man. As I prepare to depart from FBC, I want to make sure the church is well guarded and in the next season of it’s ministry.
Already I have begun praying for the man whom God will eventually call to be the new pastor of First Baptist Camilla after my departure. There are many qualifications that we can think of to attach to the office of Pastor. Here below are five necessities that every church should consider when evaluating a man to be their Pastor.
Far too often, churches fall into the trap of seeking a Pastor who will fit the mold of their preferences over him being a man of God. A pastoral search committee would do well to steer clear of asking candidates questions like “What kind of worship music do you prefer?” “Would you have the choir in robes or casual?” “Are your sermons no longer than 20 minutes?” “What is your favorite football team?” Ok, maybe that last one was a bit far fetched, but you see the point. This is not to say that these issues are not worth discussing, but are they really proper criterion to evaluate if a man is called by God to lead a church?
As long as his worship preference is glorifying Christ, does it really matter if it is played with a guitar or an organ? And as long as the choir is praising the Lord, is God really concerned with formality of their attire? And if the Word of God is being proclaimed from the pulpit, and we are truly finding our joy in His word, does it really matter if he preaches longer than a thirty minute sitcom? Personal preferences have no part in evaluating the calling of a shepherd. When considering a pastoral candidate, the question is not “Does this man please me?” The question should be, “Is He pleasing to God?”
2. Interview his family
Paul Washer once told of a time where he was invited to be the guest preacher for the evening at a certain church. The congregants were so impressed with his ability to proclaim the word of God that they asked him immediately after the sermon was finished if he could consider being their full time pastor.
Brother Paul responded, “Are you insane? All you know about me is that I can recite a few Bible verses and expound upon them! You have never seen if I love my wife, or asked my children if I teach the scriptures to them in our house, or asked about my prayer life.”
Here is an example of what Paul was relaying to this church. When you go to the grocery store in search of tomatoes, you don’t walk over to what looks like a tomato and just blindly grab the first red tomato you see. A wise shopper will inspect the tomato for blemishes. In the same way, when a church looks for God’s man to lead them, you don’t want to make your decision on what is presented at a mere glance. In order to know his true character, you must inspect more closely by witnessing how he shepherds his own family. Because if he does not love his wife, and does not lead his children, how can he lead a church body?
3. Look For Brokenness, Not Perfection
2 Corinthians 5:17 says that when God saves us, He literally recreates us anew. But in order to be recreated, a man must first be broken. My kids love Legos. A few weeks ago I walked into their room and Luke, our four year old, had built something with the Legos. Notice I didn’t say what he built, because I have no idea what it was. Luke said it was a car. But if it was a car, it was very flawed. In fact, it didn’t resemble a car at all. Later I found out that he had tried to build the car on his own with no direction. So I got a picture of a Lego car off the internet, and using that as our standard, we broke down his mismatched Lego creation and rebuilt his car.
Granted our finished product wasn’t perfect, but it was a starting to look better than it previously did. In the same way, Romans 3 says that we all fall short of God’s perfect standards. We are incapable in our blind sin to seek God or even understand Him on our own without God intervening, breaking us down from what we were, and remaking us, using the image of Christ as the standard.
A friend of mine bought an old, broken down Ford truck a few years ago. If you have seen the red truck on the old television show ‘Sanford and Son’, that was the truck with a lot of rust and dents added in. I thought to myself “What a waste of money.” However, a few months went by and he had fully restored the truck. New paint, new engine, new everything. I hardly recognized it. I was amazed at the truck because I had seen the decrepit state from which it came.
Brokenness over past sins is not a point of weakness, but rather it is a chance to be amazed at the grace and mercy of God in the life of a man. To be left in awe of God’s new creation. If a pastor cannot boast in his weakness, then he has yet to understand how brokenness magnifies the glory of God in his own conversion. Rejoice in the beautiful, grace covered scars of your leadership.
4. Seek an Expositor of the Word
Exegetical preaching is preaching the full context of God’s Word. It is to take a portion, or most times, a complete book of the Bible and preach verse by verse through the text. There are a few reasons why exegetical preaching is so very important.
For starters, its Biblical. In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul reminds young Timothy that all scripture is good for teaching and reproof. Exegetical preaching not only forces the preacher to preach the feel good portions of scripture, but also the harder to swallow verses. Exegetical preaching also protects the congregation from the pastor preaching on his hobby horse, or what he feels most passionate about.
Also exegetical preaching protects everyone from misinterpreting the scriptures. I always use the example of the movie Rocky with our congregation. Imagine you’d never seen or even heard of Rocky. You arrive late to the theater and enter mid way through the movie. As you take your seat, it is the part of the movie where Rocky is walking down an ally, with his dirty old t-shirt, black hat, and bouncing his rubber ball. Bored, you immediately leave the theater thinking that the movie Rocky was about a back alley bum. But you neglected to see the beginning of the movie or the end.
You had merely drawn conclusions based on the small portion you saw. You wrongly interpreted the point of the movie because you had viewed it out of context. In the same way, expository preaching is like watching a movie from start to finish. It protects us from interpreting scripture out of context.
This is not to say that all topical preaching is of the devil. Topical preaching does have its place and can be a great tool if used properly. However, the brunt of what is spoken from the pulpit should always be exegetical, not topical. If a preacher is to properly convey the word of God in right context to his hearers, it must be done exegetically.
5. He Must Be Missional
This is something that is sometimes neglected when looking for a pastor. Far too often, the main concerns are only internally focused on the believers inside the immediate church building. The danger is hiring a maintenance man, and not a pastor. It is not enough that a pastor meet the weekly standards of two or three times a week preaching, visiting the sick, and creating the order of worship for next Sunday. If that is the only requirements, the church will maintain, but will not grow. It might be a beautiful monument in the community, but it will never be a movement of God.
“Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” John 21:21.
As believers, we are a sent people. In the book of Acts, Jesus charged the disciples to be witnesses for Him beginning in their hometown of Jerusalem, and gradually working outward until they were ministering to the ends of the earth. Imagine if the disciples had never left Jerusalem in preaching the Gospel. If that were the case, the Gospel would have never reached the ends of the earth, and you and I would have never heard the name of Jesus.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ has never been defined by the maintenance of a building, but rather the movement of a mission. Jesus was driven by the mission of advancing the Gospel. And if the shepherds of Jesus that follow after Him are to walk in His footsteps, then they will be missional as well.
In Romans 8:28, God reminds us through the words of Paul that all things work together for the good of those who love Him. All things. Not just in good times, but also in the unexpected times. As hard as it is to leave our friends and church family behind, I have no doubt God has divinely orchestrated these events before the foundation of the world for our good and His great glory. It is only when we take a leap of faith that we begin to walk towards the promise land.
I pray for my church family at FBC that I love so much. And I pray for the Godly man who will end up being their next pastor. I pray that FBC will listen well, and I pray he leads well as he follows the prompting of the Holy Spirit. May we all continue to walk in obedience to His calling, wherever He may lead.