The Top 5 Mistakes of Pulpit Committees

Leader's Digest September/October 2008

Jim Vogel September 1, 2008




The process of finding the man of God’s choosing for pastoral leadership in a church is a challenging one. In independent churches like ours, the time commitment and sometimes frustrating process can take their toll on both the pulpit committee and the church family. In my current ministry on behalf of GARBC churches, I’ve observed a few common mistakes that could be avoided—and perhaps greater success achieved. Consider these five:

1. Not enough prayerful preparation

Prayer by the entire church family is crucial. Additionally, the search committee in a special way ought to emphasize prayer for God’s clear leading and for guidance as they establish and implement the process to be followed in the search itself. Want help with these initial organizational and spiritual preparations? We provide consultation to our churches in this area. Contact me at jvogel@garbc.org or 1-888-588-1600, ext. 855 and pick up a copy of RBP’s helpful book, The Right Pastor: Seeking God’s Man for Your Church.

2. Unrealistic expectations

Most of us are thankful for our churches, and we believe they deserve the very best of pastoral leadership. But, frankly, we sometimes set the bar so high we will never be able to find a pastor who can fulfill all those expectations. The bottom line: no pastor has the “entire package.” All pastors have weaknesses and strengths! That’s not to say that we shouldn’t expect a measure of skill in the pastoral roles of preaching, caring, and administration, but each man’s abilities and strengths differ from those of others. We may need to move from “great” to “good” with some of those expectations.

3. Moving too quickly

Those months or even years between pastors’ ministries can be difficult ones. In a desire to “get it done” or because of weariness with a process that can take so long, some committees rush ahead. They may ask a pastor to candidate without having taken adequate time to review references or ask questions and interact thoroughly. The results can be disastrous! Take your time. And don’t let church members who are understandably impatient deter you from a careful process. God’s man in God’s time is what you want.

4. Overemphasizing preaching

Most churches make their decision about a pastoral candidate based primarily on preaching ability. In short, if a man is a good communicator and makes a good impression from behind the pulpit on a “candidating Sunday,” he’s in! It’s almost as if we say, Who cares about the other stuff; we won’t fall asleep on Sunday mornings! Please don’t misunderstand me here. Preaching is important—I have always believed that there’s no excuse for boring people with the Bible! But pastoring isn’t just about preaching. Pastoring also involves caring ministry and administrative leadership. Find a man who likes to serve people outside of the pulpit—one who will counsel, visit, and fellowship with the church family between Sundays. Look for more than just a preacher. Look for a pastor.

5. Compromising convictions

The sad reality is that some churches are willing to rethink their convictions or core values to have a well-known or highly regarded pastor who may not share their current beliefs. A willingness to trade beliefs for a big name—it happens! No doubt an independent Baptist church has a right to vote to change its established convictions at any time, but its motivations for doing so are probably not principled under these circumstances. My advice: Don’t compromise your Biblical convictions or core values. God will lead you to a pastor who shares your beliefs.