Tim Challies on Biblical Discernment in Your Pastor Search

Tim Challies on Biblical Discernment in Your Pastor Search
In his book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, Tim Challies defines discernment as:

The skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right wrong. It is a task in which we attempt to see things as God sees them.

Perhaps at no other time is discernment more important for a local church than in calling a pastor. As a pastor, author, frequent conference speaker, and blogger, Tim is uniquely positioned to give input about the importance of discernment for churches as they search for a pastor. I asked Tim to share his thoughts about how local churches can grow in their discernment as they go through the pastor search process.


You recently joined a pastoral staff. What did you learn from your own call that might be helpful for churches in the midst of a pastoral search?

I am concerned that this may sound prideful, so I say this with caution, but I feel like my call came in the most natural way and in some ways the most biblical way. My call to ministry came from within my own local church, which is to say that I did not respond to an external prompting or even an external desire, but to the leaders of my church who said that they had identified within me the qualifications for a man called to ministry. That call was subsequently confirmed by the members of the church. It was in this way that I felt both called and then confirmed in that calling.

You have a very helpful chapter in The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment on the gift of discernment. How might this chapter help churches in the midst of a pastor search?

Discernment is a gift the Lord gives so a few can help the many in areas that require particular wisdom and insight. It strikes me that this is exactly the kind of gifting needed as a church seeks a new pastor. I suppose this means that people with the gift of discernment, and especially leaders with the gift of discernment, would be ideally suited to be involved in the search for a new pastor.

How would you suggest that a local church cultivate corporate discernment as they prepare to call a new pastor?

Spiritual discernment, despite what many Christians seem to espouse today, is not about intuition or hearing audible voices from the skies. Rather, spiritual discernment is a discipline of the heart and mind as they are trained and shaped by the words of Scripture. What this means is that the way a local church can best cultivate discernment is by a commitment to the preaching, the understanding, and the application of the Bible. Any church that considers calling a pastor should first be wholly committed to hearing from God in his Word.

In The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, you describe how government officials are trained to develop the discernment to identify counterfeit money. Is there a need for local churches to develop the discernment to identify “counterfeit pastors”?

Absolutely! The Bible is clear that the church is responsible to search out and weed out false teachers; it is clear that there will always be false teachers rising up in opposition to what is pure and true. Certain individuals are specially equipped in knowing God’s Word and applying it in such a way that they can see counterfeit pastors for who they are.

The way to train such people is largely simply to have them committed to that same study of the Word of God. The commitment to discernment is really a commitment to knowing the Bible so it can be applied in all areas of life.

What qualities should stand out about pastors truly called to pastoral ministry?

Let me answer just as it pertains to the area of discernment. A man who is called to pastoral ministry should know the Word of God to a sufficient extent that he has gained the ability to discern truth from error and right from wrong. However, this gifting is given to people in differing degrees, so I think it is equally important that a man learn to surround himself by other discerning men who can help him with this task. I love a pastor who is aware of his weaknesses and who then works diligently to surround himself by people for whom those areas are strengths.

Are there any issues or areas that churches involved in a pastor search need to give extra attention to in today’s church environment?

I guess there are certain issues that are always applicable and other issues that are particularly applicable at a given time and in a given situation. One of today’s challenges is in finding men who truly understand the nature of good and evil, that there is no option between the two, and that if you affirm something to be true, the opposite must be false. The whole nature of truth is under attack today and pastors are not at all immune from it. A second challenge is in finding men who are not driven by pragmatism, but who understand that they are first and foremost called to be obedient (while allowing results to be a secondary concern).

Many thanks to Tim Challies for answering our pastor search questions! To hear more from Tim, read his blog at challies.com or follow him on Twitter @challies.

Your Thoughts
Why is spiritual discernment necessary in your pastoral search? How can your church implement discernment as you search for a pastor?

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One Response to Tim Challies on Biblical Discernment in Your Pastor Search

  1. Ron Evartt says:

    Jesus knows what we need:

    Mat 6:8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

    Mat 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
    Mat 7:8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

    Mat 7:11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

    Mat 18:19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
    Mat 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

    Mat 21:22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

    Luk 11:9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
    Luk 11:10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

    Luk 11:9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
    Luk 11:10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
    Luk 11:11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
    Luk 11:12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
    Luk 11:13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

    Joh 11:22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.

    Joh 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
    Joh 14:14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
    Joh 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

    Joh 15:7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
    Joh 15:8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
    Joh 15:9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
    Joh 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.

    Joh 15:16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

    Eph 3:19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
    Eph 3:20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
    Eph 3:21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

    Jas 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
    Jas 1:3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
    Jas 1:4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
    Jas 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
    Jas 1:6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
    Jas 1:7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
    Jas 1:8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

    1Jn 3:22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
    1Jn 3:23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
    1Jn 3:24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.

    1Jn 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
    1Jn 5:15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

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