Questions to ask every pastoral candidate

October 16, 2013
by Dr. Randy White, pastor
FBC, Katy, Texas

I am often asked what kinds of questions churches should ask of candidates for the pastor of the local congregation. While I believe we have many flaws in the concept of the role of pastor and church activity and governance today, I don’t want to address those flaws, but rather give some questions that are fitting for today’s situation as it stands.

These questions are theological in nature. My experience has been that pastors are asked pitifully few theological questions. Pragmatism rules. Since I think the biblical role of the pastor is a teaching role at its core, I also think that a church should be thoroughly acquainted with the candidate’s theological positions in the following areas. This list is not exhaustive, but it will quickly get to the pulse of the pastor’s theology.

1. What do you believe about the creation accounts in the Bible?

• Are Adam and Eve representative of the first humans, or literally the first humans?
• How many days did God create the earth? Are those literal or figurative days?
• Does the Bible teach a gap between the creation of the earth and “Day 1?” Do you teach such a gap?
• How old is the earth?
• Can evolution and creationism be reconciled, or are they mutually exclusive?

2. What is the “storyline” of the Old Testament?

• If the candidate presents the Old Testament as a disconnected group of ancient stories of God’s interaction with man, beware. The Old Testament has a very clear plot, with Genesis 3:15 as a key to understanding.

3. What do you believe about Noah’s flood?

• Did the flood cover the whole earth?
• Was all of mankind, save eight, destroyed in the flood?

4. What is your understanding of God’s promises to Abraham in Genesis 12, 15, and 17?

5. What was the purpose of the Law for Israel? What is its role in the Christian’s life today?

• Watch for an understanding that the Law was used of God to bring Israel safely to the point of the propitiation sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Look closely for the candidate to state that believers are free from the Law. You may have to dig deeper on this question because many modern pastors believe in a partial freedom from the Law.

6. How does God speak to you?

• This question will bring the candidate to display ignorance or charismatic tendencies, if he has either.
• For the informed candidate, this is a great opportunity to express the sufficiency of the Bible and the fact that the Bible is the only authority for faith and practice. If you don’t hear this declaration, beware!

7. What is the Kingdom of God?

• My preference is to hear that the Kingdom of God is future and physical, centered upon Israel and her King, the Messiah. However, there is so much poor teaching about the Kingdom today that you are likely to hear that the Kingdom is the rule and reign of God in our hearts, churches, etc. The big red flag is if this is all you hear, and the candidate does not talk about a physical Kingdom at all.

8. What are your beliefs about the End Times?

• Beware of “panmillennial” answers such as “It will all pan out in the end.” This answer is an evasion to the question. A qualified pastoral candidate should have a developed eschatology.
• You may have to ask some follow-up questions to this broad question, such as:
o Do you believe in a rapture? If so, when?
o Is the Tribulation literal or figurative? Past, present, or future? What is its length?
o Does the modern political State of Israel have a present and future role in the work of God on earth?
o How long is the millennium? (Yes, I know it seems like a redundant question to many of you—but you better ask the question!)

9. Will you present the Gospel to us?

• Key: Did the candidate’s presentation have the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as central to the presentation?
• There is a modern tendency to call people to a commitment to Christ rather than a presentation of the Gospel, “which is the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16).

10. Should every church grow?

• This is a more pragmatic question than the others, but beware of a “Yes” answer. I hope the Laodicean church doesn’t grow! Further, in a world of growing apostasy, we should be suspicious of a church that is not challenging its culture to the point that many turn away.

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SBCToday is grateful to Dr.White for this blog post. As Dr. White noted, the questions he poses are not exhaustive.
That being the case, please feel free to pose your own questions in the comment section below.
We may compile them for an additional blog post soon.

Comments are closed on this post at Dr. White’s blog, but we recommend you visit THERE.

 

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JimP

A challenge for balance in Dr. White’s post. What is glaringly absent in his criteria for a Pastor is the practical evidence of a ‘mature faith.’ A main criteria for the apostle’s Paul’s evaluation of an elder is ‘ruling over his family well.’ This has to do with a living faith, a faith that works itself out in relationship with others, not simply adhering to a set of objective doctrines. The biblical word used when objective doctrines substitutes a living faith is ‘traditions of men.’

Respectfully submitted with the intent of dialog,

Jim

Randy White

JimP – I totally agree that evidence of a mature faith is needed. However, most Pastor-Search Committees look into family life, expression of faith in the community, etc. very well, but fail to dig into Biblical doctrines. Much of the preaching from today’s pulpit could be preached on Oprah without much editing, which means it is a bunch of pop-psychology without much Biblical doctrine. We need to equip churches to scrutinize the doctrine of their potential pastors.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    “Much of the preaching from today’s pulpit could be preached on Oprah without much editing, which means it is a bunch of pop-psychology without much Biblical doctrine.”

    Would this include much of the preaching from today’s SBC pulpits?

Randy White

Jonathan…yes. Southern Baptist preaching needs an upgrade by getting back to the Bible.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Well, okay. Name for me three SBC churches in your association as examples of pop-psychology preaching please.

      Norm Miller

      I would suspect Dr. White will not do that, Johnathan. If you and he want to dialog privately, then the both of you let me know. Or, you can send email to Dr. White from his blog.

        Johnathan Pritchett

        I was just curious as to who and where this “much of the preaching from today’s pulpit” like that was happening in the SBC, and if there was any close by the Katy FBC.

JimP

Hello Dr. White,

I appreciate the dialog. I also think I appreciate the depth of the topic involved. I feel biblically if doctrine is not working itself out in ‘living’ the end can be result in legalism in spite of having ‘the right doctrine.’

And on that point, one living one’s faith argues ‘right doctrine.’ Paul’s boost was his followers were ‘living epistles’ (2 Cor. 3:2).

Thank you,
Jim Poulos

JimP

Dr. White,

I should also add, I understand you are not ignoring that aspect of living one’s faith and don’t mean to suggest otherwise.

Jim P

Randy White

JimP – I’m not sure that you could say that it was the right doctrine if it resulted in legalism (or antinomianism). I think action is rooted in our belief system, and often the actions speak louder than the words.

Jonathan – I’m happy to dialog with you further. Blog comments probably won’t be the best venue. Call FBC, Katy and we can chat.

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