There are a lot of things a church should look for in its next pastor. But as your church considers different pastoral candidates, I want to make sure this is toward the top of your list: a supernatural faith in the power of God’s Word.
AS IMPORTANT AS ANY OTHER QUALITY
I’m talking about a man whose conviction here runs so deep that it profoundly influences the way he works and lives. He plans his weekly schedule based on this conviction. He rests his daily mood upon this conviction. He even picks his clothes in the morning knowing that, it’s not how good he looks that will bring life to the dead, it’s the resurrection power of God’s Word and Spirit.
This is as important as any other quality a pastor could have. It’s as important as swimming is to a lifeguard, throwing is to a quarterback, or adding is to an accountant. It defines the very the task of what a pastor does.
THE POWER OF THE WORD
Humans create with hands, shovels, and bulldozers. Not God. God creates with words. He says, “Be,” and it is. He says “Peace” to riotous wind and waves, and they obey. He says “Come forth” to dead people and their eyes pop open.
Just as astonishing, God tells the light to shine in dark hearts, giving them the ability to see the glory of his Son (2 Cor. 4:6). His word of power saves (Rom. 10:17). It fundamentally changes people (1 Thess. 1:5-7). It gives the new birth (1 Peter 1:23).
Now get this: God gives his faithful servants the ability to do the same things. “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God” (1 Peter 4:11). This is why Don Carson calls preaching “re-revelation.” A preacher’s primary task is to say again what God has already said. Did you think life comes to the dead through the power of our intelligence or humor or charisma?
Picture Ezekiel standing in a valley of dry bones. He preaches God’s Word, God’s Spirit blows, and the bones come to life. Your church wants a pastor who believes—deep in his bones!—that the same supernatural power is available to him. POW! He doesn’t rely on “the weapons of the world” but on “divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4). KAZAMM!
WHY THIS IS CRITICAL
Why is this critical for who your church should look for in a pastor search?
- It will keep him from manipulating. Paul said he “renounced secret and shameful ways” but instead “set forth the truth plainly” (2 Cor. 4:2). If a man believes that the Word alone is powerful to save, that’s what he’ll do—preach plainly and not try to emotionally manipulate.
- It will keep him from building your church and your spiritual life on his personality. Paul wasn’t a “trained speaker” with an impressive resume, like the “super-apostles.” He just preached Jesus, the Spirit, and the gospel (2 Cor. 11:4-5). Likewise, you want a man who is a good steward of his gifts, but doesn’t rely on or trust his gifts to give life. He plants and waters, but relies on God to give the growth (1 Cor. 3:6-7). Men who build on their personalities have churches filled with nominal Christians.
- It will keep him happy. A man who trusts God to save by his Word and Spirit is a man who can sleep at night, because it doesn’t finally depend on him. This is a happy man who probably has a happy wife and children because he spends time with them. He doesn’t carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. This is a man who won’t burn out as easily and will serve your church for years.
- It’s the primary means to your growth and the church’s growth. It’s through the words of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers that God’s people become prepared for works of service “so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13).
- It’s your best hope of reaching non-Christian neighbors. “Faith comes from hearing the message,” says Paul (Rom. 10:17). Can the message be proclaimed through special programs and events? Of course. But you want a man who recognizes that it’s the regular, weekly “in season, out of season” work of “great patience and careful instruction” that saves the lost and builds up the saints—you want a man who “does the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:2-5).
HOW CAN YOU TELL?
How do you know if a pastoral candidate has these convictions?
- Consider what he’s excited about. Does he make good but secondary things primary?
- Ask him about his philosophy of preaching.
- Ask him what his last ten sermons were.
- Ask what he could imagine preaching in the first year at your church.
- Ask about his personal evangelism and personal discipleship of Christians. What role does the Word play?
- Look for evidences of patience. A man who believes in the power of God’s Word will be a patient man, not someone who insists on quick, visible results.
Jonathan Leeman is the editorial director of 9Marks in Washington, DC, and the author of Reverberation: How God’s Word Gives Light, Freedom, and Action to his People.