A Mission–Centered Pastor Search

The Right Pastor rather than the Available One.

“What kind of pastor do we want?”

I can think of no more dangerous and self–destructive question that a church can ask. When we base our choice of pastor on what kind of pastor “we want” we invite several kinds of mischief:

  1. Selfishness. Suddenly God’s church is here to give us what we want, not what God wants.
  2. Unrealistic Expectations. No person on earth can be everything we want, especially when what we want is a moving target. My preferences change from day to day and no pastor will ever be able to keep up.
  3. Conflicting Desires. If a pastor cannot keep up with my changing desires, imagine trying to keep up with those of 50, 100, 200 or even more people. I would not want to be that pastor, though some have become him.
  4. Pushmi-Pullyu Mission. In Doctor Dolittle’ mythingcal world the pushmi-pullyu was a lama with heads at both ends facing opposite directions. Many churches resemble that beast with the heads multiplied by the number of members, each with a vision of God’s mission. What pastor can possibly lead a church going 100 different directions?

The answer to these and many other issues of calling a pastor: Find and agree on God’s mission for your congregation and then call a pastor to match the mission.

“But, shouldn’t we wait to see what the Pastor wants to do before we set the mission?”

This simply turns the problem around and points it a different direction. A pastor can no more mold a church to fit his desires than a church can remake a pastor. And that misses the main point. Your church is God’s church. It does not belong to you nor to your future pastor. In this respect only two questions matter:

What has God designed your church to be and do for Him?


What kind of pastor will lead you to be and do this for God?

When we begin the search process by coming to understand God’s mission for your congregation at this time and place, with the gifts, skills and passions of the congregation as it is right now (and not some time in the past) we honor God’s design and inoculate the congregation against future conflict. We also call the pastor the God wants, rather than just who we want or, worse, whoever is available. If we truly believe that God has a particular mission for our congregation, then we also believe that God will supply the right pastor if we ask. (Matthew 7:9–11)

An effective, mission-centered pastor search involves 4 phases:

  1. Seeing God's design in your church’s gifts, abilities, experience and passions
  2. Seeing God's mission, the community where God has placed you, the people and their felt needs
  3. Designing a plan to meet God's mission for your church and begin carrying it out.
  4. Describe and seek the pastor who has the gifts, ability, temperament and experience to lead you in carrying out this mission.