Common Mistakes When Looking for a Pastor

TGC Panel Part 3 of 4

The road to a new pastor is surrounded by deep ditches. The TGC panel talks about some of the ditches they’ve encountered and advises on how to keep out of them within your own church.


At the 2010 Gospel Coalition, Chris Brauns led a panel discussion that focused on pastoral transitions. Participants included Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, and Rick Thompson. This segment begins with a consideration of the “e-harmony” approach to pastoral searches. Mark Dever then lists mistakes churches often make in calling a pastor.

Leading a pastoral search is like driving through the mountains on icy roads. At any given point, it is easy to go skidding off the road. The bad news is that, given that it is a drive through the mountains, the ditches can be very deep. But the good news is that so many churches have navigated pastoral searches, the road is now well marked. For churches willing to take the time to listen, many common mistakes can be avoided.

After watching this video, pastor search committees and pulpit nominating committees might choose to discuss the different points Mark makes. For instance:

  • Mark warns against “denominational leeches.” By this he means that churches should be aware that sometimes district or regional leaders may not have the best interests of the church in mind. Hopefully, self-interested denominational leaders are rare. Still, this is a caution to keep in mind. Having said that, I wonder if the more frequent error is churches that aren’t willing to take advantage of wisdom available to them.
  • Mark encourages churches not to be “ageists” in calling a new minister. He particularly stresses that churches should be willing to call a young pastor, though like a puppy in the short run they may occasionally chew up some of the furniture. Is your church willing to call a young pastor with whom you can grow together?
  • Don’t necessarily be an MDiv “require-er.” Mark rightly points out that qualified candidates may or may not have a particular degree. In When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search, I give suggested interviews for pastoral search committees.

Excerpt from When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search:

The candidate’s educational background will have been a vital part of his formation. The ideal seminary degrees are a Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree or, a step further, a Theological Master’s degree (ThM). In many seminaries, these require that the student will have studied the original biblical languages, in addition to biblical and systematic theology. These MDiv and ThM degrees are designed for the express purpose of preparing the individual for the pastorate. The standard accreditation association for seminaries is the Association of Theological Schools (ATS; see You can check on ATS’ website to see whether or not a particular seminary is accredited. There are solid seminaries that are not ATS-accredited. But you may want to investigate further if the seminary does not have this accreditation.

Don’t automatically rule someone out who does not have a seminary degree. I know more than one effective pastor who does not have a seminary degree. Even C.H. Spurgeon—”the Prince of Preachers”—had no seminary degree! If a candidate does not have a seminary degree, you will need to evaluate the level of motivation he has shown in studying on his own. Look at what he has done so far. Is there concrete evidence that this is one of those rare men who are committed, self-disciplined, and self-motivated enough to prepare themselves for ministry without formal theological education?

Your Thoughts
What other ditches are there in the road to finding a new pastor?

3 Responses to Common Mistakes When Looking for a Pastor

  1. vann ross says:

    Can I get from anyone the qualifaction questions for the committee to ask a Pastor?

  2. Ayu says:

    Chris Blackstone,Thanks for your comment. I spend quite a lot of time eppuqiing congregations to evaluate preaching in a way that requires active participation.I agree – I think churches need help understanding what it means to be Word-centered. Of course, most churches would say that is a priority. Do they really know how to go about being Word-centered?Chris Brauns.

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