Questions churches should ask when hiring a preacher but don’t.

I recently read four want ads posted by churches who were trying to find a preacher. The man with the cape could never do all these churches expect. I once wrote a parody of such a want ad. It is astonishingly stupid to ask so much of one man! But that is not the focus of this post.

The ads are dead give-aways of the questions the pulpit search committee will likely ask.

  • Where were you educated and what degree have you earned?
  • How long have you been a minister?
  • What churches have you served and did they grow?
  • Are you married?
  • Have you been divorced?
  • Do you have children?
  • Are your finances in order?
  • What is your vision for a church you serve?
  • Can you live on $***** per month?
  • Etc., etc., etc.

And of course they will want to hear the guy preach, either by a recorded sermon or perhaps in person. The questions above have very little to do with the ministry of leading a church as a preacher, pastor/teacher, or whatever your group calls him.

I have served twice on search committees and both times we hired good, godly men. I have also been used as a reference by ministers seeking a job. One fellow from Arkansas called me to ask about a candidate he and his fellow committee members were considering. He asked “Is he a dynamic pulpit man?” I answered with a question, “Why is that important to you?” My question was met with an uncomfortable silence and then he finally sounded apologetic and unsure saying, “Because we want a very good preacher?”

I explained to this guy that a very good orator, with great credentials, can be a lazy jerk who does all that he does in the energy of the flesh and can not help grow Christians toward maturity and Christ likeness. I suggested that the man go back to his committee and that they should have an extended time of prayer and seeking the mind of the Lord about what their church needed and then interview preachers. Of course he didn’t listen to my advice, and neither did my friend who I tried to talk out of taking the job and it was a disaster! They were the most immature bunch you could imagine. They made the Corinthians look really good!

What churches ought to ask.

  • How do you know you are a Christian? (If he doesn’t answer this one right the interview would be over and I would want to share the gospel with him.)
  • How did you make the decision to become a minister?
  • Tell us about your prayer life? Do you have specific answers to prayer?
  • How much time do you spend in an average week in Bible study?
  • Are you walking in the Spirit?
  • If we hire you will you love our people? (People can tell if you love them or if you are just doing your job.)
  • Is your vision to help us grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, to know him more? (If not what is it?)
  • Do you preach the gospel, regularly and often?
  • How many people have you shared the gospel with in the last 6 months one on one?

There are more, but you get the idea. You see, most churches want a polished preacher who is brilliant and funny in the pulpit, loved and respected by everyone in town, and they want their numbers to increase, both in members and money. And, they often get exactly what they want.

What is your church (or mine) doing for the people of your community that could not be done by a good civic club? The mission of the church is to make men fit for heaven. If lives are not regularly being changed, if spiritual transformation is not changing sinners into saints, if the hungry are not fed, if the mourners have no one to weep with them, if the prisoners have no visitors, if people are not having personal encounters with the living Christ, when your church needs a preacher the first list of questions will do just fine.

If you want a man who is a man of God, who knows God intimately, loves people where they are, like they are, and has no greater passion than to introduce men and women and boys and girls to the living Christ, maybe the first list of questions are not the right ones.


The Preacher in the Shadows

Great job pastor, I really enjoyed your sermon!” This often heard refrain on Sunday mornings is far too often not accurate. A shockingly large percentage of those wonderful messages are actually stolen material. Plagiarism in the pulpit is becoming almost as usual as a Power Point to illustrate the points of the lesson.

I read just this morning of pastors who resigned in shame after being caught preaching someone else’s sermons. What a sad way to perhaps end a life of ministry!

We live in a fast and furious society governed by day planners and calendars and alarms on cell phones. And, ministers often have way too much on their plates to do any of it well. The ease of “cut and paste” and the temptation to circumvent the needed time to study and pray has produced a crop of habitual plagiarism preachers, …and bloggers.

Here are some simple rules to avoid being caught in the trap of stealing what someone else wrote or said and presenting it as your own original material.

  • Give credit! A simple mention of the source even if presented almost word for word makes you honest. I doubt that any minister, or writer minds being quoted if they are credited. I don’t think crediting the author will take away any of the impact of what is said or written. When I quote someone on this blog I credit them, often with a link, and send an email asking permission before, even if they have stated it isn’t necessary. Many have done the same for me and I am always glad.
  • Pray! Your ancient brothers seemed to give equal importance to prayer and the ministry of the Word. Shame on you if you don’t bathe your sermon preparation and delivery in prayer.
  • Begin your preparation with only a Bible. I have followed this rule for decades. My Bible of choice is the ESV on I even turn off the references and footnotes and read the text, comparing scripture to scripture at first using only my memory of other texts. Only after I have set what the heart of the study is do I look at outside commentary and other resources.
  • When you do use some other writer or minister’s material, make it your own before presenting it. I see nothing wrong with presenting one of Surgeon’s sermons with credit given but only after the message and biblical texts have gripped your heart and moved you toward God.

If we are nothing else, those of us who speak on behalf of God, must be people of integrity. It is easy to reason “It wont happen to me, I will not get caught“, perhaps the same sentiment of those who did get caught and resigned or were fired in shame.

I think most people are like yours truly. I am delighted when I receive a note asking permission to use a post or part of one in a church bulletin, or Sunday school class. I think you will find wonderful response when you ask permission or at a minimum give proper credit. By all means use books by gifted people, preach great sermons by others, but don’t steal anything and expect God’s blessing on your work.

I said this!


…”We will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word”.

I just wonder what it would be like if for six months if all of us had preachers like those in Acts 6:4. If the preachers’ only task was preaching and praying. If deacons really did what deacons are supposed to do, I wonder how different our churches would be?

If your preacher had a week, locked away in seclusion with just his Bible and his God, no books, no internet, do you think his preaching would improve? What do you think?