Filed under: Pastoral Search Committees
If nothing else, read through the prayer suggestions at the end.
Most pastoral search committes / pulpit nominating committees would say that they believe prayer is important. But, how many really pray . . . As always, it would be encouraging to hear if you find this helpful. You can e-mail me at chris at theredbrickchurch.org (or course, you have to use the @ sign without spaces).
Section 3: Praying as a Search Committee
Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field (Matthew 9:38).”
The enormity of the work needed in hearts should motivate you to pray. Calling a pastor will only be successful if God works in the heart and lives of the search committee, the leadership and congregation of the church, and the pastor you will call. It will only work if the Lord of the Harvest sends a worker to pastor in the harvest field of your community. Depending on the size of your church, your search will necessitate that dozens or hundreds or even thousands agree. You will probably be asking your next pastor to leave a place where his heart is knit together with others and to begin to grow new roots in a different place. It will be a hard decision. Your search committee will need to be patient and to submit to one another.
Then there is your time. Many search committees may meet on a weekly basis. Whether or not it is this often, it will require a tremendous amount of your time, all this while you try and get your kids to soccer practice, your tax return submitted, your lawn mowed, or to do whatever other daily tasks fill your life. To give the time to a search committee that is required, amid so many demands in life, will require hearts to be both softened and strengthened.
Let me give you even better motivation to pray individually and as a search committee. Consider the example of Jesus.
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot (Luke 6:12-15, NIV).
Here was Jesus, chairman of a perfect search committee of one. He had perfect wisdom and discernment. He was the greatest recruiter in the history of humanity. Yet, before he met with candidates for spots on his team, he spent the night in prayer. Consider another example from the book of Acts.
They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. After going through Pisidia, they came into Pamphylia, and when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia (Acts 14:21-25, NIV).
Notice that the text says that they appointed elders for them in each church with prayer and fasting. The entire process was bathed with prayer. The early church also associated prayer and fasting with calling pastors.
My goal in this section is to call your search committee to lead your church in praying for the pastoral search process. As you work through this brief section, keep this strong statement in mind. Without much prayer, your search committee will not achieve success. You may find someone, your congregation may even be excited about him, but God will not be in it unless there is a work done by the Spirit in hearts.
At this point, you may be saying, “Yeah, yeah. We know this. We believe in prayer.” You may be tempted to just scan the rest of this section. I encourage you not to do that. It is too easy to move quickly past prayer. I see it in my own experience. Let me be transparent. I look back now over a number of years of ministry. Throughout that time, I have consistently been involved in recruiting. I have recruited youth pastors, adult ministries pastors, worship directors, Sunday School workers, and Vacation Bible School workers. I have to tell you, I think a lack of prayer for God to raise up the right workers has been one of my greatest deficiencies. I am convicted even in writing this. When was the last time I stayed up all night praying for workers? I complain at points about not being able to sleep. Maybe God doesn’t want me to sleep! Maybe the Lord wants me to be up all night praying for more people to join the team.
How about you and your search team? How well have you done so far in praying for your next pastor? You may be well into your search process. Have you had any organized concerts of prayer? Has anybody stayed up all night? Has your search committee fasted and prayed? Have your elders or deacons fasted and prayed? Have there been any meetings in homes where you fasted and prayed? Have your other staff members met together just to pray? When you do pray, how much time is spent on prayer requests and small talk and how much on actual prayer?
Keep thinking about those questions and consider some additional passages.
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field (Matthew 9:35-38, NIV).”
Jesus challenged the disciples that the workers are few and that in response they ought to pray. His point applies to churches looking for pastors today. Gifted and qualified pastors are rare. The right strategy in the face of this need is to cry out to the Lord to do a work in hearts and call workers. The words Jesus used in this passage are strong ones. We might even paraphrase the passage, “plead with the Lord of the Harvest to throw out workers into the harvest fields.” Jesus is saying, “Pray that the Spirit would do such a work in the lives of potential harvest field workers that they would be thrust into the game.” Likewise, your search committee should continually pray that the Lord of the Harvest would send out a particular worker into your harvest field.
Meditate on a couple of passages Paul wrote.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-to the glory and praise of God (Philippians 1:9-11, NIV).
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2, NIV).
In these passages we see that knowledge or depth of insight is something that we ought to pray for and develop as we spend time in the Word. We should pray that our minds will be renewed in order that we can test and approve God’s will. In calling a preaching pastor, your search committee will make hundreds, if not thousands of small decisions. How do we go about the process? When do we stop receiving resumes? How often should we meet? What do we think of individual sermons? On and on it goes. These decisions will range from the small to the large. Some you will make intuitively, in an instant. Others you will work through carefully over time. Each of these decisions will require wisdom.
Pray that God will grant it to your search committee, church, and potential candidates.
Prayer also is important in leading your congregation. If the church is aware that people are really on their knees, there will be an increased confidence in the entire process of calling a pastor. In turn, this will convince people in their hearts that this is God’s choice for the church and they will treat their new pastor accordingly.
The entire search process must be bathed in, immersed in prayer. Most committees and churches agree with this point. But, few actually take steps to be disciplined about prayer. If you agree that prayer is essential, then I encourage your search committee to adopt a disciplined and thought out approach to prayer.
- Do you have a person in charge of leading your church in prayer during the search for a new pastor?
- Have you ever been part of a prayer time where you spent most of your time making small talk and taking prayer requests and spent a relatively small amount of time in prayer? If so, when?
- How could you guard your search committee against not spending time in prayer?
- How would you grade your search team and church so far in their prayer efforts for a new pastor?
- Would you be willing as individual search committee members to recruit one or two people to regularly pray for you and the search team?
The following are specific prayer suggestions for your search committee. These are not the only ones. But, they are a good place to begin. You will think of more ways to pray as you pray individually and together.
Pray for patience. Commit to waiting for God’s timing.
Pray that your search committee will have the mind of Christ and agree. Much of the process is subjective. Personal opinions and preferences are involved. Differences can divide. In challenging the Philippians about unity, Paul pointed them to the example of Jesus (Philippians 2:1-12). Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). It is so easy for us consciously, or more often, unconsciously to bring our own agendas to church business.
Pray for wisdom to choose the right person. For, now it is enough to think about the below to passage and understand that your decision as a search committee will require a renewing of your mind so that you have wisdom. Notice that if your mind is to be renewed, then your committee will each need to spend regular time in God’s Word.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2, NIV).
Pray for discipline as a search committee and as individuals. The search process will require a great deal of follow through on the parts of individuals. It will also require that you stay with your agenda during meetings and do not constantly digress or retrace decisions you have already made.
Pray that God would increase his passion for preaching the Word of God.
Pray that God would give him a love for your church and the strength to leave his current position.
Pray that your next pastor would begin new relationships at your church in the right way, even during the search process.
Pray that God would prepare your pastor to better shepherd your flock through the trials and blessings he currently faces.
Pray for your next pastor’s family. Of course, he may be single or married. He may have children or not. God knows all that. Pray that God, who knows who they are, would give them strength as they consider leaving their current setting and going to a different church or beginning pastoral ministry for the first time.
Pray for patience. The search process can go on longer than expected. It is hard for people doing the work. It is also difficult for those who must wait without knowing exactly what is going on. Pray that your people would trust the leadership as the process takes place.
Pray that your people would place a priority on biblical preaching. It is easy to gravitate to personality or programs or a particular age. Pray that, above all, you would call a pastor who will proclaim the Word without apology.
Pray that your people would not react to a previous pastor. Some churches struggle with wanting a pastor who is like their old one (they had a good experience). Other churches want someone who is just the opposite.
Prayer is so important. Pray and then pray some more. Cry out to God and ask Him to thrust forth for you a shepherd who will feed your flock for years and years to come.
 The question, “Which pastor do we call?” falls in the broad area of how believers determine God’s direction or will in a particular matter. Basically, the way that Christians make decisions today is through wisdom. Wisdom is “skill for right living.” Wisdom is developed through having your mind renewed in the pages of Scripture. For further study in how believers make decisions, I would point you to one of several books. See Gary T. Meadors, Decision Making God’s Way: A New Model for Knowing God’s Will (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), Haddon Robinson, Decision-Making by the Book: How to Choose Wisely in an Age of Options, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Discovery House, 1998), Bruce K. Waltke and Jerry MacGregor, Finding the Will of God: A Pagan Notion? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002). Appendix 2, page 202, includes a section that was developed to do some preliminary teaching in this area.
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