Readers Forum

A Can of Worms

The article on pastors should open a can of worms. The pattern for doing church is designed right in line with big business. The CEO pastor is sought after rather than the born-again believer that has the gift of teaching & preaching. But after all, aren't most churches set up like big business? Finance committees, promotional people, tithing teachers. Wages are set by conference & dept. heads. Financial statements take up more time in church meetings than how many new believers have come to know Jesus.

Let's face it, cultural norms are church norms. As long as we follow the wrong pattern, being hired or called will make little difference. People that continue to pattern their church after big business will continue to have high/low financial problems & in the long haul will look for the CEO pastor to fix things. The real body of Christ will sift & cull until they pray in the person that would fill his call out of love & obedience no matter about pay, fancy homes or the availability of ski resorts.

Pastor Jim Powers

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Future Price to Pay?

Only time will reveal the problems that churches will experience with "hired" ministers in the future. I have been in the ministry for almost 45 years and still look back to the moment I felt and submitted to God's call on my life. I just can't understand why churches should expect anything different from a man or woman unless they've been "called" and "equipped" by God. Usually, if there's opportunity, the "calling" will propel them into proper preparation through accredited institutions. Thank you for voicing this issue in April's editorial.

John Glover

Gober Baptist Church

Gober, Texas

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Relieving God of Responsibility

As a 33-year veteran pastor in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, I too have seen the slight-but-definite move from calling a pastor to hiring. Although the LCMS has clear doctrine about the pastoral ministry, including what constitutes a call, more and more indicators are showing that larger and smaller churches alike want to pick the pastor they want for themselves, not the one God wants for them. Detailed and/or multiple interviews, questionnaires, and even "approved lists" show up, which the candidate must achieve or not be considered.  I find this trend disturbing and amusing, since so many small churches feel they ought to be just as picky as the big ones, and then complain that they can't find men "dedicated enough" to serve them. I believe there are far more dedicated pastors willing to be called than there are churches willing to call them, unless the church's criteria are met.

Pastor Bob Tasler

Epiphany Lutheran Church of Castle Rock, CO

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#1 Requirement Omitted

Some churches list a multitude of qualifications: must have a Masters of Divinity (though a doctorate is preferred), must have graduated from a certain seminary, often little or no experience is needed, and subscribe to a certain set of standards (wholly understandable). But seldom do I find the ultimate qualification listed: Must be led by God. Paul warned Timothy of folks having "itching ears." There is nothing wrong with a good education, as there are still some good seminaries. However, Peter, James and John were not seminarians. In fact, the Book of Acts tells us they were ignorant fishermen. Their only qualification was that they walked with the Lord. That ought to be our top priority today-that the next man that fills the pulpit be required to "walk with the Lord."

W. A. Taylor, pastor

Sanford (MI) First Baptist Church

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Doesn't Care for Label

I just sat down and read your April 2004 paper.  I opened the first page, page 3, and found an article titled "Should a church Call' or Hire" a Pastor?'  As I read it I found that I was in agreement with it. The only problem I have is with the term "under-shepherd" found in the third column of the article. This term is not used anywhere in the Bible. It is a term that-although I know what it means, that God is the Shepherd and I as a pastor work for him-takes away from the authority of a pastor. Compare this to terms like "overseer" (Acts 20:28) or bishop. A pastor is not an under-overseer or an under-bishop. He is an overseer and bishop. So, too, is he as the shepherd of God's church. He is not the final authority, as we know God is, but he is the guide, feeder, and protector for the church. These are just three things that a shepherd does; not something that an under-shepherd or hireling does.

Scott Buller

Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church

Pratt, Kansas

Editor's response: Does anyone else feel it is a put-down to be thought of as an under-shepherd to the Chief Shepherd, Jesus our Lord (1 Pet. 5:4, etc.)?

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The Ten Spies Were Wrong, Too

Tragically, today many pulpit committees, like the ten spies, are looking at things from a wrong perspective. In assessing Eliab, David's oldest brother; "the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7). Some churches merely employ a hire-and-fire approach, which allows them to elect a pastor that will tickle their ears and reject the one that contradicts their whims. The Apostle Paul warned us that these days would come in 2 Timothy 4:3-5.

Franklin L. Kirksey

Tibbie Baptist Church

Tibbie, Alabama

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It's the Heart That Counts

Today most small churches are made of elderly people. The words "call" and "hire" mean about the same: they get a pastor. To me, it makes no difference. It's their heart, not their words, that will determine what the pastor can do.

Speaking of words, using the terms interim, bi-vocational, part-time, or full-time to describe the responsibility of the pastor is wrong. If a pastor is hired or called for one day or one year, the adjective in front of "pastor" means nothing in the work God trusted him to do. My kids feed my cat when I'm gone. This is part-time, but my cat gets fed and cared for.

If they call you a pastor, then, for heaven's sake, be one.

Wayne Nix

Ebenezer Friendship Baptist Church

Pittsburg, Texas

Finding the Right "Fit"

My church, the Church of God with international offices in Cleveland TN, uses a different approach. We have a centralized form of government with each state/country having an administrative bishop responsible for all the churches in his jurisdiction and oversees many programs to carry out his duties. One of the programs provides for testing and licensing of all ministers under his jurisdiction. He has the authority to remove any erring pastor and also facilitates changes when congregations decide a change of pastors is needed. The administrative bishop brings the resumes of several available ministers to the congregation for their selection and approval. The weakness of this approach is that congregations must decide on their pastor with only the information on the resume, unless they know the minister personally, which is often the case.

Whatever the approach used, the fact remains that empty pastorates must be filled. Using the term "hiring a pastor" does take on a secular tone for something which is a spiritual endeavor and which should only be done with much prayer and leadership from the Holy Spirit.

Most ministers I know did not choose the ministry because of financial gain, but rather they were "called" by God to the ministry. Often they sacrificed finances in order to preach the gospel. The minister and his family have exactly the same need for finances as any other family. Money, however, will not be the main focus for godly and mature ministers, who are coming to serve and fulfill their call from God. But the Bible clearly teaches that churches have the responsibility to support those who minister to them (1 Cor. 9:6-14).

Churches have personalities just like people do. When a church finds a minister with a personality that fits their congregation, assuming the minister has all the other required qualifications and goals, etc., then there is the foundation for a successful pastorate.

Morrell Upchurch, pastor

Baltimore Ave. Church of God, Albertville AL

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Gifts from God

In the twenty years I have served, after my calling, I have seen respect for ministers and the church in general deteriorate. God will hold us accountable for how we handle His chosen ministers, just as He has always held Israel accountable.

It is incumbent upon God's called to conduct themselves Christ-like and live a life of integrity. May the church return to respecting the men of God as gifts from God.

Richard M. Nettles, pastor

Trace Ridge Baptist Church, Ridgeland MS

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Called Through Prayer

Your article really hit home for me. When I was contacted by the search committee chairman, he said during his prayer time that morning, God had given him my name.

At first it seemed there was no way it could work. The church had always had a full-time pastor in the past and a full-time youth minister. I have owned a small mechanical business for many years and I could not immediately close the doors due to warranty work, existing contracts, etc. A parsonage was also part of the package. We own our home fifteen minutes from the church.

But the church continued to pray and we continued to pray and God moved. Somehow, miraculously all things came together. Unanimously! In February, 2004, my family began this new pastorate position. This church family had already outgrown their facility when I came. We are now looking to expand or purchase property and begin a new work. Would you say "Amen"!

I thank the Lord for churches who are still "calling" who they believe to be God's man based on scriptural principles-conviction-and the leadership of the Holy Spirit. And for preachers who will courageously preach the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, unintimidated by those who may think they "hired" them.

Rod Arnold, pastor

First Baptist Church, Watts, OK

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Watch Hidden Agendas

I wholeheartedly concur that too often congregations seem intent on filling a vacant pulpit with no regard to the risk of hiring the wrong person. I believe there is sometimes a certain amount of subterfuge whereby there is an effort to implement hidden agendas that have long been asleep.

When a vacancy occurs, or is about to occur, the first thing that the church needs to do is come together in prayer-even before a "search committee" or "pulpit committee" is selected. The church must recognize that the choice is God's because it is God's church (simple logic often neglected). A little fasting doesn't hurt, either. When church members pray together in one accord, great things happen (Acts 12:5).

Thank you for a timely and much needed editorial.

James A. Ray, pastor

True Love Baptist Church

Fairfield, CA

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Elevate the Office of Pastor

We-the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod-believe that men are called inwardly to become pastors. This inward call is the same as the calling of a doctor, housewife, or fireman. It is the vocational calling. Only after one has shown himself to be approved or eligible based on 1 Tim. 3:2-7, Titus 1:6-9, and 2 Tim. 2:15, 24-26, is he approved to study to be a pastor.

Seminaries are the seed-bed for students to learn the Bible in its original languages. After four years of seminary, the third being an internship serving under a pastor in a church setting, the seminary candidate is ready to be called. This outward call is the call of the church to serve a certain congregation. Each congregations is autonomous. The synod helps to guide the church when calling a pastor but the decision is up to the voting congregations.

I am joyfully glad that today's church is addressing the issue of whether pastors are called' or hired.' As we celebrate the twenty-first century of the Christian church, we are still able to see with clarity that God calls men to serve the church as shepherds and pastors and not as CEOs. Ever since Jesus asked Peter to "feed my sheep" and "feed my lambs," men have heard the call to be shepherds and pastors.

I think that the ancient form of the congregational call' in the Scottish church summarizes this issue perfectly - "We do heartily invite, call and entreat you to undertake the office of pastor among us and the charge of our souls." Pastors are what Luther called Seelsorger-shepherds of souls. I hope this article will help to raise the office of pastor to its biblical importance.

Scott Schaller

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Gun Barrel City, TX


Editors' final note: We've heard from many of you, and it is obvious that Bob Dasal's editorial touched a nerve. We sincerely hope that airing these viewpoints and opinions will help avert a slide into commercializing the pulpit. Thanks to all our letter writers for sharing your thoughts. But now we will have to close the books on this letter topic.

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