A Northeastern subscriber writes, “Our pastor has retired after a lengthy tenure and we are seeking a replacement. Can you offer any biblical suggestions to help us in this process?”
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I honestly know little to suggest from a biblical standpoint concerning the search process itself. The modern institutional church with buildings, budgets and professional staff is an invention more recent than the Bible, so we lack specific scriptural guidance in these matters.
However, we can derive a biblical picture of the kind of person we might wish to occupy the pulpit and to provide leadership to the church. In the New Testament, that individual is probably called a “teaching elder” or a “pastor-teacher” (Eph. 4:11; 1 Tim. 5:17). This one should certainly be filled with the Spirit, be gifted as a teacher and as a public proclaimer, and possess a shepherd-heart and a servant spirit (Acts 1:8; 6:5, 8-10; 18:24-25; 2 Tim. 2:14-16). This person should also manifest a character which adorns the gospel and which attracts rather than repels persons for the sake of Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 4:12-16).
I am confident that we may expect divine guidance in such a search — primarily from outside the Bible itself — in answer to fervent prayer. This direction may come through some combination of circumstances, a unity of heart among God’s people, instinctive recognition of the right person, a dream or vision, a revelatory word or by some other means. Of course, one should interpret all non-canonical guidance in the light of clear biblical principles. However, we may confidently rely on God’s contemporary leading, and we may trust his promises throughout the Bible that he is with us and will guide us in doing his will.