Like choosing a mate, sometimes churches seem to focus on the “outward appearance” when it comes to selecting a minister. Sometimes it seems that we are preoccupied with finding a minister who like King Saul of Israel will look the part.
Years ago, a church leader called me regarding a reference check of a prospective minister for their congregation. He explained that this person was not one of their “first tier” candidates. (I had not heard that language before in reference to selecting a minister.) He explained that they had hoped to get a minister who was widely known and already had a following. He mentioned several names of people who, at the time, were speaking in a number of workshops, lectureships, and other highly visible events across the country. What was interesting was their rationale for placing these people on their “first tier” list.
Yet, perhaps we would do well to consider what a focus on the heart (I Samuel 16:7) might look like as we consider a prospective minister for a congregation.
A few questions we might reflect on:
1. Does this minister seem to hunger for God? Is this minister’s moral and ethical life congruent with he claims to believe?
2. Does this minister exhibit grace toward the weak? In previous congregations, did this person minister to those on the margins? Does this person exhibit grace toward the socially awkward?
3. Does this minister have the reputation of treating prior congregations with adoration? Or, does this person speak of former congregations in a dismissive manner.
4. Does this minister practice graciousness toward previous congregations? Is this person known for being gracious with former colleagues and elders?
5. Does this minister’s spirit and life make you want to become more God-like? Ok, so this person’s sermons and classes are top rate, but does this person behave in a manner (outside the sermon) that makes others desire to have the same kind of godliness. One particular minister had a reputation for bringing very good people onto the congregation’s staff. Then because of his demands and dominating spirit, these people would burn out and leave after being there only a few years. Again, will this person’s ministry cause others to want to become more God-like?
6. Does this minister practice generosity? This not only speaks of being generous with money but an over all spirit toward life. Is this a person who is generous with time, energy, money, etc. or is there a sense in which this person is stingy with money, praise, time, etc.
7. In previous congregations did this minister seem to be looking out for the interests of the congregation as a whole? Or, does this person’s style of ministry basically seem to revolve around what he wants to see done. Is this a person who is looking out for what is best for the entire congregation or is the focus much smaller?
Again, do we search for a minister focused on a few outward characteristics that may seem to be in place? Or, do we look at that person’s heart and what this might look like in a congregation?