Friday, March 23, 2012

Qualifications to be a Pastor

I've been cleaning out my computer and stumbled upon an old list I made for a member of a pastoral search committee at our church who asked what qualifications I would want in a new pastor. Amazingly, I did not include "loves Jesus." How could I forget that? Anyway, here's what I wrote (and I'm delighted to say this is what we got, plus the "loves Jesus" part).

The candidate I believe is qualified to be our pastor is one ...

- Who loves the Bible and accepts its teaching as authoritative.

- Who sees the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament.

- Who studies all the relevant passages in the Bible to reach his conclusions instead of reaching his conclusions and then going to the Bible to find a verse to confirm them. In looking for a pastor, I'd ask: Are his sermons serious explanations of what the Bible teaches, or does he just pick a verse that seems to bear some relation to his topic, use it as a touchstone, then take off to discuss what he wants without much further reference to the Bible?

- Who preaches mostly from the Bible, and only occasionally refers to other disciplines, such as polls, psychology or sociology. In looking for a pastor, I'd ask: Does his inspiration seem to be drawn from the Bible, or from other sources? While there's nothing wrong with these other sources, I think the vast majority of the sermon should be from the Bible itself.

- Who sticks with one good version of the Bible as his main preaching Bible, and uses other versions and paraphrases (such as The Message and The Living Bible) only on occasion to give a fresh look at a biblical passage. When a pastor switches from version to version with no explanation of why, it sometimes makes me wonder if he is just trying to find a version that agrees more closely with what he wants to say. Overly suspicious of me, perhaps, but the thought occurs.

- Who explains the relevant Bible passages relating to his topic, especially those that seem to take a different view. When I hear a message and instantly a well-known Bible passage pops into my mind that appears to contradict the pastor's point, and if he does not address that issue, I doubt his message.

- Who does not pronounce authoritatively on topics the Bible has nothing to say about.

- Who preaches both theology and practice. The Bible has both; so should his teaching.

- Who speaks clearly. If he uses obscure theological terms, he should explain them.

- Who, in a book study, does not neglect difficult passages. The easy passages I can figure out myself; it's the hard ones I need help with.

- Who, at the end of his sermon, leaves the congregation enlightened, encouraged or challenged.

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