Finding a Pastor in the 21st Century

TGC Panel Part 1 of 4

At the 2011 Gospel Coalition National Conference, Chris Brauns led a panel discussion focusing on pastoral transitions. Participants Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, and Rick Thompson talked about the challenges churches face as they try to find a pastor in the 21st century.

Finding a pastor has never been easy. In this first segment of the Gospel Coalition panel discussion, participants identify several unique challenges that churches face as they try to find a pastor in the 21st century. These challenges include:

  • A weak economy and declining housing prices. Rick Thompson opened the panel discussion by saying that current economic factors make finding a pastor difficult. This same point was made by Collin Hansen (see here). A sluggish economy makes it difficult for a pastor to find an open job and churches to find a qualified pastor.
  • The blurring of denominational and theological identities. As I asked in the discussion, “How do churches find a pastor when we may be able to tell more about candidates’ theology based on the blogs they read than the seminaries they attended?”
  • The pastor search committee or pulpit nominating committee is not always representative of the church. Lig Duncan encourages pastors seeking churches to be aware that those who ask the interview questions may have a different set of values than the church as a whole.

So how should a church address such diverse factors when searching for a pastor?

Of course, there isn’t any one solution. But Mark Dever offered this excellent advice in the panel discussion: churches trying to find a pastor should identify a like-minded church and look for help from that church. It is certainly a mistake for churches to go through a pastoral transition on their own without any outside help.

Churches going through a transition in leadership can also be encouraged by the New Testament’s explicit attention to pastoral transitions. In the book of Titus we read that Paul specifically left Titus in Crete for the purpose of overseeing transitions in leadership.

“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.” Titus 1:5

Paul certainly could have used Titus’s support as he forged ahead in proclaiming Christ. But there were unique challenges in Crete that included divisive, insubordinate, dishonest people. Paul encouraged Titus that the challenges in Crete could only be faced by understanding how sound doctrine shapes life in the church (Titus 2:1).

Even as Paul encouraged Titus that sound doctrine should inform leadership transitions, churches today should make it their ongoing goal to let the Word of God lead their search knowing that God’s Word is living and powerful and sufficient to address the unique challenges faced by churches trying to find a pastor in the 21st century.

Your Thoughts
Do you think it’s a particularly difficult time to find a pastor or has it always been this tough?

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