Finding the Right Pastor: Insights from the Bible

In 2023, I will finish my work at the church I have served for decades. My wife and I love our church and want it to flourish after we move on. So, of course, we want the next pastor to be someone God has approved for this role. But how will the church recognize that person?

The Bible’s so-called “pastoral epistles” offer helpful guidance. The third chapter of Paul’s first letter to Timothy highlights fifteen qualities of a church “overseer.” These include both character and behavioral traits, which can be seen in the overseer’s relationships.

For example, the overseer is to be a “one woman man.” This verse might lead to an argument for or against women clergy, but it is important to remember that was not in question in the first century. What was in question was the character of the pastor. Was he a “one woman man” or was he a flirt? Did he have roving eyes? Did he objectify women? If so, he was not the man for the job, whatever talents he might possess.

Another desired trait is gentleness. The pastor must not be a “my way or the highway” kind of guy. He can yield in matters of preference and opinion. He is not a bully. He does not strike out at people who disagree with him. He does not have to win every argument.

The overseer/pastor is “able to teach.” This means more than he is able to speak well or even eloquently. He is able to teach because he is always learning. He not only takes in information, but he also uses it in his own life and is able to help others do the same.

Our church, and any church, will do well to form interview questions for the prospective pastor and his references to determine whether or not the fifteen character and behavioral traits are in place. This will require careful thinking and prayerful conversations.

Many churches are aware of the leadership requirements listed in 1 Timothy 3, but the next chapter also offers valuable insights into what makes a good pastor. There the Apostle Paul offers personal guidance to his protégé Timothy on how to be “a good minister of Christ Jesus.”

The pastor’s speech should be exemplary. Preaching is critical, but how he speaks when he is not behind the pulpit is even more important. Does his speech align with biblical standards? Are his conversations true, loving, gentle, worthwhile, free of gossip, manipulation, and deceit?

A pastor’s speech is important, but he mustn’t be all talk. His “life and doctrine” must match. He should never resort to telling his family or his congregation to “Do as I say, not as I do.”

What does the pastor consider important? How does he spend his time? Does he value people more than money, character more than fashion? Is he willing to do menial labor? If church members all patterned their lifestyle after their pastor, would the church be a better or worse place?

The old apostle specifically instructs the young pastor to model a life of love. Love may be taught from the pulpit, but it is caught through personal interactions. In a world that is often loveless, the church offers a place where people know they are loved. The pastor should take the lead in demonstrating that love.

A pastor ought to be devoted to Scripture. When my youngest son was in graduate school, he told me that he had been to many churches but had not yet found a pastor who really knew the Bible. That should not be. The pastor must know the Bible, love the Bible, and read it privately as well as publicly. He should have a devotional life outside his Sunday preparations, otherwise he will teach his opinions, not the Scriptures.

It is essential that the pastor is growing as a person and as a disciple of Jesus. Paul wants Timothy’s growth to be so evident “that everyone may see your progress.” People will not follow a pastor who has already arrived because he is not going anywhere. They will follow a pastor who can say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”


About salooper57

Husband, father, pastor, follower. I am a disciple of Jesus, learning how to do life from him. I read, write, walk, play a little guitar, enjoy my family.
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2 Responses to Finding the Right Pastor: Insights from the Bible

  1. I really enjoy reading The Way Home postings. I hope you will continue even after you move on from your current church. God bless you wherever you are.


  2. salooper57 says:

    Thanks so much! I do plan on continuing the column and blog in the future. The adventure of following God into the unknown will offer opportunities to trust Him and so come to know Him better.


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