There are many different, and sometimes unusual approaches to replacing a retiring pastor with a new one. Here are some we’ve seen, along with some questions posed from a biblical perspective.
- #1 The people of a congregation all vote for the candidate who may be their next pastor. Is voting spiritual? Or has it been “baptized” by secular means? The only time the New Testament mentions anything close to voting is when the disciples picked Matthias to fill the spot left by Judas. Interestingly, you never hear another word about Matthias—like he disappeared from the face of the earth! And then, Jesus appears to Paul on the Damascus Road, and fills that spot.
- #2 When congregations vote, everyone who is a “member” gets a vote. The challenge is that not every Christian is at the same place, spiritually. You can be 80 years old and be a baby Christian. As a baby Christian, how much of the Bible do you know? How steeped are you in prayer? How important is “the mind of God”…God’s will? Often, those who vote know very little about what is needed for the role of pastor in the coming years. They may or may not know the candidate at all.
In some churches/denominations, a visit by the perspective candidate is forbidden. The church must extend a call based on a description put on a half sheet of paper. Would you marry someone following that procedure? Is ignorance a Christian virtue?
This is either/or thinking. If the Holy Spirit is involved, we should wear blinders and never use our God-given intelligence or tools God has given us to assess reality? Is a pastor more spiritual for moving the family and taking a position at a church without any awareness of the strengths and needs of that church?
- #3 The latest fad is the use of “intentional interims.” This approach, often presented by the denomination, provides “gap time” between the time when the previous pastor leaves and the new one arrives. This is devastating to the momentum of most congregations.
The interim pastor is often a retired person. What can they know about a church in 3-6 months? This assumes that all churches of the same tradition are identical. However, the Body of Christ, from the neck on down, is as unique as a person—and as complex.
Even if a pastor dies in office, does it really help the mourning process of a congregation to have a fill-in stranger? Or does it widen the gap for progress?
Based on what has been said in points 1-3 of this series, there will be some directions in part 4 that will help you add your next outstanding pastor.